Letting Go and Moving On

Sometimes, what is really important when you are in conflict is having the grace to let go.  This is an ability that does not come naturally to everyone. Geoff Drucker shares his experience on gaining the emotional control and wisdom needed to move on below:

Flying Solo

Differences arise in every relationship.  When all goes well, we iron them out through honest, respectful dialogue; or, if we need a little help, we call in a mediator to improve communication.   

But sometimes dialogue is pointless or counterproductive, or would be impractical or impossible to arrange.  The techniques required to respond to these situations are just as important, if not more so, than the interpersonal relations skills commonly taught in classes on negotiation, mediation, or conflict resolution.   They don’t get us to “yes,” but they can heal past wounds and avoid future ones.   

Letting Go

As a teenager, I was fascinated by martial arts moves I had seen in films and on television.  At the time studios with beginner classes were few and far between on the East Coast. So upon arriving in California for college I registered for Chinese Kenpo, eager to gain new athletic skills and become proficient in self-defense.    

Day one was hugely disappointing.  The instructor led us through a simple drill in which one person threw a punch in ultra slow motion while the other stepped aside and moved away from the attacker.  My grandmother could have done this.  We repeated this drill over and over and over again.  I thought seriously about leaving in protest.  Bruce Lee never walked away from a fight like a sissy!

He also died really young.  

Enlightenment eventually arrived: The instructor did not want to teach hormone-infested adolescent brains how to punch and kick until they were hard-wired to avoid or minimize a physical confrontation whenever possible.  Kenpo emphasizes self-control and promoting your own well-being and the well-being of others.  Violence is a last resort.

This training has been enormously helpful in addressing both physical and verbal threats to which disengaging was the only sensible response.  The key is learning to shift the field of battle from external “enemies” to inner demons, such as outrage and righteous indignation, that incite bad choices.  Fortunately, like external bullies, if these inner demons don’t get their way they eventually give up.  
Moving On

Post-graduation, I began to see that there was a whole lot more to professional and personal success than the substantive knowledge conveyed in college classes.  A seminar I took to help fill in the gaps took us through a process for becoming “complete” in a relationship–unburdened by past events–even if the other person was unwilling or unable to discuss what transpired.  This training has also been life-altering.  

Current Challenges

In today’s highly polarized environment, learning how to let go and move on is as important as ever.  Differences of opinion can fuel an enriching debate.  But different sets of facts and sharply contrasting ideas about what constitutes truth can easily touch off an explosion.  Until we can speak with each other civilly, we are best off occupying parallel universes in relative peace.     

Teaching and training in conflict resolution should reflect this reality.  We should never stop believing that it is best to seek mutually agreeable solutions through open, honest communication.  But the best should not be the enemy of the better.  We must also prepare students to be as effective as possible in situations where the outcome is destined to be sub-optimal.  

There is a time to come together.  And there is a time to remain apart.  To stay safe and whole, we need to know how to do both well and how to get the timing right.  

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Geoff Drucker is our Secretary on the NVMS Board of Directors. NVMS strives to have a board which represents the community we serve in a variety of demographic and geographic ways.

Geoff Drucker is the Manager of Dispute Resolution Services for the American Health Lawyers Association. He is an adjunct professor at both George Washington University’s School of Law and George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

Geoff is a speaker, trainer, and mediator. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife, Michele Werner, his step-daughter, Hannah Petitti, and his son, Jackson.

Read more about Geoff  and his book, “Resolving 21st Century Disputes – Best Practices for a Fast Paced World” on his website.

Labor Day Hours

The NVMS Office will be closed between 2pm Friday, September 1 and 9am Tuesday, September 5 in observance of Labor Day.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

The NVMS Team

How To Speak So People Will Want to Listen

Watch Julian Treasure’s full TED Talk here.

As we all know, it can be very difficult to attract or hold people’s attention at times in everyday life. In conflict settings, it can be even harder. Sometimes, it is not only what you say, but how you say it. Whether you are a mediator or you are an individual involved in a conflict, the following voice tools highlighted by Julian Treasure in his Ted Talk could help you communicate more effectively and find a resolution more quickly.


A vocal register is a range of tones in the human voice produced vibratory patterns of the vocal folds. These registers include modal voice (or normal voice), vocal fry, falsetto, and the whistle register.  While speaking in falsetto will not get you very far (except maybe in Disney World – a la Mickey Mouse), you can use lower registers as a tool to gain gravitas. According to Treasure, “We vote for politicians with lower voices… because we associate depth with power and with authority. That’s register.”


Timbre is the tone or quality of your voice; how it feels. Research shows that human beings prefer to listen to voices that are smooth and warm.  Treasure says, “Well if that’s not you, that’s not the end of the world, because you can train. Go and get a voice coach. And there are amazing things you can do with breathing, with posture, and with exercises to improve the timbre of your voice.”


In speech, prosody is the patterns of stress and intonation which people use. It is the basis for imparting meaning in conversation. To be an effective speaker, it is important that you are not monotone.  Speaking without variation is very difficult to listen to. Repetitive prosody is also to be avoided. Nowadays, a common speech blunder is to end statements as if they are questions.  This can confuse the listener and impede your ability to communicate through prosody.


Preparing Memoranda and Agreements

Prerequisite: Mediation Skills and Process or an equivalent 20 hour basic mediation training.

One of the last acts in a successful mediation is the drafting of an agreement or memorandum of understanding. No matter how informal the mediation, a written document helps parties develop shared meaning and reality-test the terms of their agreement. This workshop will develop participants’ skills in preparing documents for parties, counsel, and court. It includes practical tips, hands-on practice, and a discussion of ethical and unauthorized practice of law issues.


Learning Objectives

  • Identify best practices in writing Memoranda of Understanding in various venues (workplace, family, court, etc.)
  • Practice writing agreements based on given case scenarios


Course Agenda

  1. Value of written mediated documents
  2. Mediator professionalism
    • Ethics
    • Unauthorized practice of law
    • Agreement types
  3. Eliciting the agreement
  4. Preparing useful documents
  5. Role-play activity
  6. Working with lawyers and preserving the integrity of the process


About the Instructor

Kathey J. Foskett

Ms. Foskett is an internationally recognized mediator, trainer of mediators, coach, facilitator and consultant in conflict management and subjects related to alternative dispute resolution (ADR), Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and other workplace conflict and employee relations.  Ms. Foskett is certified as a mentor mediator by the Virginia Supreme Court with an Advanced Certificate and holds Advanced Practitioner status with the Association for Conflict Resolution.  She is a certified CTI trained Co-Active Coach with ACC certification through the International Coaches Federation. She is a certified user of the Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP), the Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) and DiSC.

Ms. Foskett is a highly experienced professional who serves as a senior trainer for Virginia Supreme Court certified basic and advanced mediation programs.  She also provides mentoring, supervision, and consultation to mediators preparing for initial Supreme Court certification as well as for established mediators.   In addition, Ms. Foskett has provided thousands of hours of training for numerous government and private sector agencies and professionals in the areas of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Mediation, Conflict Prevention, Conflict Management and Resolution, Interest-based Negotiation and Communication Skills for Managers, Supervisors and Non-Supervisors.

Ms. Foskett has more than twenty-five years of experience and has mediated hundreds of EEO and other workplace disputes for federal and state agencies.

Orientation to the Virginia Judicial System

Pre-requisite: Mediation Skills and Process preferred

This course is essential for mediators who practice in Virginia, as it gives an overview of the Virginia judicial system and court-referred mediation programs. Topics include the structure of civil and criminal court systems, the nature of due process, the role of court personnel, and consideration of mediation as an appropriate ADR process. Interactive exercises engage participants and reinforce the material.


Learning Objectives

  • Develop familiarity with Virginia’s court system
  • Develop the ability to pinpoint where the clients are in the litigation process
  • Develop a level of knowledge about the court system, court support personnel, court referral programs and case stages that will give confidence to your clients
  • Develop an awareness of the issue of Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL) and several essential principles of UPL for mediators
  • Develop an understanding of the statutory role mediation plays in the court system scheme for alternative dispute resolution
  • Develop the ability to recognize red flag issues, ask the right questions, and be ready to deal with them


Course Agenda

  1. Overview of Virginia’s Court System
    • Due process
    • The Virginia court structure
    • Criminal and civil court proceedings
    • Role of court personnel
    • Life of a court referred case
  2. Overview of unauthorized practice of law
  3. Mediation and the Virginia court system
  4. Applying your judicial system knowledge


About the Instructor

James Q. Pope, MSW, JD

Jim Pope is an attorney, Supreme Court of Virginia certified mentor mediator, and consultant in conflict management and other subjects related to workplace conflict, employee relations, civil disputes, child support and divorce, and special education. Pope is currently an Adjunct Professor of Mediation and Arbitration at the Catholic University Columbus School of Law and an Adjunct Professor of Mediation at George Mason University School of Law, and has been a guest lecturer at George Washington University School of Law, Georgetown University School of Law, and Howard University School of Law. Pope conducted US Department of State sponsored mediation trainings for the governments of Israel and Palestine and mediated and conducted conflict management, mediation, and negotiation trainings for numerous public and private agencies and organizations, including the U.S. Postal Service, the USDA., the Department of the Navy, NOAA, NASA, NEA, FAA, US Air Force, US Forest Service, the World Bank, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Arkansas Supreme Court, IRS, United States Postal Service, DEA, National Archives, Virginia Supreme Court, Virginia Mediation Network, and Northern Virginia Mediation Service. Pope currently serves as an administrative hearing officer for the Virginia Supreme Court, in which capacity Pope reviews and rules upon state employee grievances related to terminations and disciplinary actions. Pope is a former member of the Executive Board of the District of Columbia chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution (formerly the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution – DC SPIDR). Pope holds a Doctorate of Jurisprudence (JD) from George Washington University Law School, a Master Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a Bachelor of Arts from University of Virginia.