Mediation:“Open-Mindedness” v. “Militant Open-Mindedness”

By: Donald L. Swanson


I’m scanning a news article earlier this week.
The term “militant open-mindedness” catches my eye. My immediate reaction is excitement:

–“Oh great!  This will provide a lesson and analogy for mediation!”

–After all, “open-mindedness” is “a receptiveness to new ideas” and a belief that “others should be free to express their views.”

–“Open-mindedness” is, obviously, a good quality in mediation; so “militant open-mindedness” must be an even-better mediation quality.  Right?”

I focus-in on that phrase in the article. And here is what I read:

“people here pride themselves on a kind of militant open-mindedness.  It is the kind of place that will severely punish any deviations from accepted schools of thought.”

So . . .


How does this apply to mediation? Would “militant open-mindedness,” as used in this article, be a positive quality in mediation?

–I think not!
–As used above, the “militant” qualifier to “open-mindedness” is, actually, a reversal: it refers to an aggressive intolerance.

So, here is a two-part mediation observation:

–“Open-mindedness” is a most-helpful and beneficial quality in mediation. It’s a quality that every party should attempt to exhibit in a mediation session.

–“Militant open-mindedness,” on the other hand, would be a mediation killer. It’s an impasse-waiting-to-happen and a quality that every party should attempt to avoid in a mediation session.

By the way, I’m still stumped and flummoxed every time I re-read the quotation above. I still can’t get my head around the justaposition of the words “open-mindedness” and “severely punish any deviations.” All I know is that any attempt, in mediation, to “severely punish any deviations” would not be a good thing.

So, the lesson for participating in mediation is this: we should all learn to leave our “militant open-mindedness” at home.

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