Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Celebrity Tug of War in Pet Conflicts

It is without doubt; the best and worst of a person is brought out when an animal is involved in their conflict.  The worst of these dichotomies happens when such a conflict is played out in the media.  Who knows why the media is brought into the discussion.  When it is, in the age of Internet, the conflict goes viral.

Take the Playboy pooch, Charlie. 

Hugh Hefner and Crissy Harris’s new media blitz over their possession of Charlie has gone viral.  These two people know the true reason for the conflict.  Going to court will sensationalize the conflict, another Leona Helmsly-like dog story.  Charlie is famous.  The media is eating it up.  Yet this may be a golden opportunity in which to apply mediation to an animal conflict.

The discussion surrounding the custody of a dog is, in some instances, as emotional as that surrounding the custody of a child.  It may seem like an incredible joke to the media, however to the people involved, I assure you, it is not.

These pet owners are like so many other pet owners going through separation or divorce.  They don’t know what to do in the moment and regret decisions made after the initial breakup.  Charlie has no idea what is going on.  He only knows his owners are tense and stressed. 

Mediation of animal conflicts of this kind, often leads to a resolution not available in court.  The reason for a party’s need to revisit the custody arrangement can be discussed confidentiality with the other party, their attorneys and a neutral mediator present.  The mediator is trained in helping parties discuss their needs and interests. 

In mediation the individual needs and interests of all the parties in conflict are addressed.  Each party is understood and feels heard. Understanding does not mean agreeing, yet it goes a long way toward helping people hear another position.  This is something mediation does which no other venues is set up to effectively support. 

In a mediation setting, with their attorneys present, clients often are able to speak freely in the confidential setting about their wants and desires, interest and needs.  It is sometimes the only time the two parties have spoken to each other on the subject.

In an attorney’s office, the client’s needs and interests are put forward and explored without the benefit of exploring their adversary’s needs and interests.  In court the law is applied to legal arguments and facts, amenable to review in court, are considered. 

Emotions may run high, and that’s ok.  It is through emotion that a parties needs are spoken, heard, reflected and understood.  There is a stark difference between understanding and agreeing.

Once understanding has dawned, respect of position is felt and a new dichotomy emerges.  This allows the parties to discuss their future with a full understanding of what it is they want and how it is they can achieve it.

Rational thinking prevails because the need for irrationality disappears.  The parties feel respected and understood and so can respect and understand the opposing party.

As in all things, all parties are not open to these confidential conversations.  Mediation will not be for them.  If you are willing to sit down and hear out the party you are in conflict with, try mediation first.  The neutral should be there to help you have the discussion that moves you toward your own resolution, not find the resolution for you.  It is more meaningful, and long lasting if you and the other party find the path to resolution for yourselves.

This method of animal conflict resolution is not only used in relationship separation.  It helps parties in conflict over animals in coop/condo/landlord tenant/ neighbor disagreements, as well as groomer, trainer, owner, breeder handler and veterinarian conflict that arise.

Think about working with a neutral in mediation first.  If Hugh and Crissy try mediation they may find it provides them with a more meaningful resolution, after they understand the underpinnings of the others position, suiting both their needs.

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