May 4, 2015 by AmyN
Los Angeles has become truly diverse, no longer the “white bread” town it was when I was growing up. Thus, it is now common for one or more parties (and/or counsel) in a mediation to be of cultural or national backgrounds quite different from that of folks raised in the United States. People everywhere have conflict, but how they address it may vary greatly from one culture or nation to the next. Accordingly, counsel must anticipate and prepare themselves and their clients for such differences, to avoid creating significant obstacles to resolution, however unintended.
1. Inform yourself as to different patterns of social interaction, belief systems and basic values of your client and the opposition.
2. Similarly, recognize that nonverbal cues such as eye contact, gestures, smiles, social distance, voice volume and physical contact may vary and convey widely different meanings from culture to culture. An inadvertent misstep in such seemingly insignificant aspects of human interaction, for example, a particular gesture, may at best extend the duration of the mediation while corrective measures are taken, and may at worst create a significant hurdle on the path to resolution.
3. To inform yourself of such matters, begin by asking your client about any possible social tendencies – as to the client as well as the opposing party and counsel. Inquire about tendencies, belief systems, approaches to conflict, social norms and the various factors mentioned above. What is important both to your client and to the opposition in terms of the process of resolving disputes? What sort of seemingly innocuous proposals, comments or gestures might be very disturbing let alone offensive?
4. Discuss such matters with opposing counsel as well, and also with friends or colleagues who may be familiar with the culture or nationality in question. A bit of independent research may also be useful.
I mediate through ARC (in English and French). If you have any questions or if I may offer my services in mediating pending matters, feel free to contact me directly at (310) 442-0052 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact my Case Manager, Ms. Nicole Bethurum, at (310) 284-8224 or email@example.com