Translating English into English – The Workplace Mediator’s Trade

I was privileged to hear the journalist Thomas Friedman speak last week at an event to launch his latest book, ‘Thank you for being late’. For those of you who don’t know him, he is a three-times Pulitzer Prize winning author, and he writes a weekly column for the New York Times.                   

Friedman shared his views on global affairs and, unsurprisingly, a lot of the questions and commentary focused on the recent inauguration of US President Donald Trump.

But that’s not what I want to write about today…

What I would like to reflect on are some of the ‘phrases’ that Friedman used to describe his work as a journalist and the state of the world today.

The title of this blog was taken from a quote that Friedman uses at the beginning of his new book: “I love being a translator from English into English”. That resonated with me, because I believe that this is one of the primary functions of a workplace mediator. The parties in a mediation may be speaking the same language, but I am doing a lot of translation – picking up on the ‘flinch’ of one party, reflecting back the ‘hurt’ of another, and listening astutely for opportunities to create mutual understanding between the two.

There were other comments from Friedman that rang true in my mediation work, for example that “humiliation is the single most powerful human emotion”, and how “trust is the only legal performance-enhancing drug.” Friedman also quoted the US Surgeon General, who last year said that the greatest public health crisis is not diabetes or heart disease, it is isolation and social disconnection.

Before I left for the lunchtime event, I felt somewhat guilty about taking time off in the middle of a working day, and this was confirmed on arrival as I seemed to be one of the more youthful members of the audience! However, as I returned to work, I felt inspired by this eloquent man. Whilst a journalist and a workplace mediator do very different jobs, it reiterated for me the power of connection in this increasingly crazy world.

ocn imi