Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Magic Pennies & Card Tricks

I was quoted in the Los Angeles Daily Journal today, in a marvelous article about the magic of mediation, by my wonderful friend and fellow mediator Victoria Pynchon.

She relates how she successsfully resolved a complex longstanding litigated dispute between neighbors by using a charmingly whimsical concept: "magic pennies." Her account is too good to encapsulate here, so please click here to read the whole story, or email me and I'll forward you a PDF file. (Meanwhile, be sure to regularly visit her terrific blog.)

Here's the part in her article about me:

My friend and fellow mediator Jerry Lazar actually is a magician -- miraculously settling cases by day and then unsettling audiences with close-up miracles at the Magic Castle by night. I wondered what "magical" solutions he conjured up at the mediation table.

"My only trick," he told me, "is to incentivize the parties by slapping a deck of cards on the table at the start of the session. Then I purposefully start shuffling and cutting them. The parties think you're a mad genius or a crackpot, but either way it gets their attention. Then you authoritatively announce: 'If we reach resolution today, I'll reward you with a card trick... but if we fail to reach resolution, I'll punish you with two card tricks.'

"Whenever the parties are at impasse, I casually toy with the deck. You’d be amazed at how quickly that motivates them to keep pushing forward...' "

On a more somber note, Lazar adds: "When we begin our mediation training and practice, we often hear (and speak) of the magic of mediation. When it works, it truly is wondrous. It's easy to see why a mediator feels like a wizard with supernatural powers, enabling lambs to lie down with lions. Based on my experience in the realms of magic and mediation, here is my hope.

"Once upon a time, if you could take a cup of water, put it in a box, push a button, and make that water boil -- without raising the temperature inside the box -- you'd have a miracle on your hands. Ditto for talking to someone, or even seeing them in real time, on the other side of the planet -- or even in outer space! How magical is that! And yet, thanks to technology, even the youngest child is jaded by these daily experiences.

"My fondest wish is that our social evolution keeps pace with our technological progress, so that the peaceful resolution of disputes will similarly become as commonplace as microwaves and mobile devices. Then it will no longer seem that mystical forces -or card tricks, or magic pennies -- are needed to bring together the bitterest of enemies for a common purpose.”


Professional Women's Network of Southern California said...

thanks jerry! you can find the full article here:

Scott Roeben said...

Interesting melting of two seemingly dissimilar areas. Thanks for letting us know about this one.

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