Virginia's Judicial System

Creating New Worlds of Possibilities:

Tools for Personal and Professional Growth

One day last May, I, along with several hundred fellow travelers, accompanied Daniel Bowling on what we might call "A Yellow Brick Road" experience. We encountered his granddaddy who shared his vision about the nature of conflict: "Grandma couldn't be mad without you, me, the rocker, the swing, the starry night...." We met one of the most important thinkers of our time, Theodore Zeldin, and heard excerpts from his book, How Talk Can Change Our Lives. We heard thoughts shared by philosophers, Ken Wilber and Rainer Maria Rilke, in their voluminous writings about personal fulfillment, connectedness, and relationships. Finally, at the end of our journey, we were challenged with what I'm choosing to call the "Tale of a Chicken & Two Wings," as related by Daniel Bowling. This tale has little to do with chickens and much to do with us: "One wing," he said, "will keep us grounded in our current reality. The other wing, if we let it, will carry us to places where we can create new worlds."

There is no limit to the number of worlds we can create. There is no limit to the number of trips we can make. Here are some possible itineraries.

On finding inspiration to grow....

"We can see many things that need developing. Nevertheless, unless we are actually working on those things, we are just worrying about them. Worrying means that we do not have the power to develop in that domain at that time...Development is thematic: there is only one thing up for development at any given time." -- from comments made by Daniel Bowling on May 24, 2001.

"Act as if it were impossible to fail." -- from Dorothea Brande's book, Wake Up & Live, 1936. Reprinted in 1976 by Cornerstone Library. [Helps us question our definition of success. Is it helping our clients reach an agreement? Is it facilitating a changed relationship? Is it studying successful business practices so we are equipped "to act as though we cannot fail" when we take the leap of faith to create a mediation practice?]

"For the sake of my health, I will retain the courage of my doubts as well as my convictions,"-- from Healing Words for the Body, Mind, and Spirit: 100 Words to Inspire and Affirm, by Caren Goldman, a Bookspan Club offering. [Even the titles and descriptions in the One Spirit catalog have gems which can be applied without reading any further. For example, on the lighter side, we can follow Don Aslett's advice and Lose 200 Lbs. This Weekend: It's Time to Declutter Your Life! Go to]

On finding a framework for modeling problem-solving behaviors....

"Wouldn't it be great if there were a routine, easy way that problems could almost always be solved? A way that showed you where to start and step-by-step what to do? There is a way. We think it is one of the most helpful things we know and use, in both our work and our personal lives, and we thought it would be a good thing to share." -- from Winnie-the-Pooh on Problem Solving, by father and son team, Roger E. Allen and Stephen D. Allen, 1995. [The ten explanatory chapters end with a "Winnie-the-Pooh's Problem-SOLVE-inch Checklist," which is a condensation of the previous chapters. The questionnaire begins by directing the would-be problem-solver to write down what they want to work on. Then, amusingly, the two choices are "I selected it." "It selected me." Don't we all experience the phenomena in a divorce mediation where one party wants the divorce and the other doesn't?]

On empowering others by truly hearing what they are saying....

"If you listen carefully, they will tell you what is wrong. If you listen very carefully, they will tell you how to fix it." -- from a presentation by Anita Auerbach, Ph.D. to the Monday Night Forum Practitioner's Group, Northern Virginia Mediation Service, March 2000.

On listening to our clients so we can hear what they might not be saying....

The art of questioning employs the skill of listening without translating what you heard. A listener must hear the exact words used because they are the clues. They are the operative words that need to be used in the questions. When formulating questions around the operative words, remember to use: how, what, when, where, is, do, and can instead of why. -- from I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better: Six Practical Principles that Empower Others to Solve Their Own Problems While Enriching Your Relationships, by Gary & Joy Lundberg, Penguin Books, 1995. [Three principles that are especially relevant to the mediation process are: "Leave the Responsibility Where it Belongs," "Develop the Art of Listening," and "Learn the Effective Validating Phrases and Questions." The authors caution us to not overuse reflective listening and they give us specific techniques for working with all groups, including divorced and blended families.]

On validating our clients' ability to find their own solutions....

"Sympathy, while highly valued in our culture, can actually be very disempowering...The sympathetic perspective tends to place you above the other...From an empathetic perspective, you understand what the other is feeling but don't necessarily 'go there' with them. Instead, you view them as capable of working through the issues at hand." -- from an article by Steve Davis, Business and Life Coach, in DC Chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution Newsletter," Autumn, 2001. [See Mr. Davis' Master Facilitator Journal, The Ezine for Facilitators. The Journal presents a collection of tools, tips, and practices based on six skill competency areas. Go to

My dictionary defines serendipity as "making fortunate and unexpected discoveries by chance." Would you believe that on the day I happened to check out a new web site,, I discovered a feature about how different religions minister to divorcing couples along with an interview with Debbie Ford, the author of Spiritual Divorce. May you enjoy the anticipation of finding ideas that inspire or inform you anywhere and everywhere.

[References to Daniel Bowling are adapted from his comments as plenary speaker at the May 24, 2001 conference "The Vision of ADR: A Celebration of the Past Decade and Opportunities for the New Millennium."]

Diane Wiltjer is a certified mediator and mentor in Virginia. She is a former officer on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Mediation Network.She serves as a mediator and mentor for the Northern Virginia Mediation Service and is in private practice. Her background includes education and business.

This page last modified: October 18, 2002