Celebrating one year of business of Singapore
A former lawyer and civil mediator, Dana took her first step into entrepreneurship in an attempt to spread greater awareness of meditation and negotiate as a means to resolve and avoid conflict. As someone who dealt with murder cases, Dana believes in the power of mediation to not only avoid the entanglements of the legal system, but in creating a better society.
“It’s about awaking your own skills. Everyone has communication skills. But due to social influence, norms, etc., we lose that. But by learning how to negotiate and communicate better, you can avoid disputes” she says.
To do that, Dana provides negotiation training and workshops, empowering people with the skills and tools needed to avoid misunderstanding, fights and disputes.
“Then, if you do end up in a dispute because you don’t have 100% control, I will help with mediation. Right?” She adds with a smirk. “Basically, teaching people is shooting myself in the leg, but it’s worth it. By doing that, I’m definitely contributing to a better society, business culture and parenting.”
She adds rhetorically: if people avoided disputes think how much energy, money, time would be saved. Who needs disputes? What’s the point?
On starting up
Singapore, she says, is an easy place to set up a business and from there it’s up to the hopeful entrepreneur how to direct their energy.
“This year was, how do you say in English? …A paradox” she says with a grin. “I found myself doing marketing [chuckles]. It was a positive joke. Look, I know who I am. I’m a trainer and a mediator, and I was doing marketing. And I’m not a marketer, you know what I mean?”
Despite the good humour and lack of experience, Dana created a marketing strategy leveraging her community capital. She arranged meetings with everyone in her network: friends, family, acquaintances to spread awareness about MeD8.
“I had none of that ‘oh I feel uncomfortable’ I just asked. And coming from that place, people found it easier to help.” Dana spoke to them about what she does as a mediator, where she wanted to go, and sought advice and introductions. She confessed to having hundreds of meetings in order to get yield results.
“This year has proven that people are beautiful, positive, really willing to help. All the contacts I have today came from these circles. I’m surrounded by amazing people. Really. It’s not a cliché” she implores.
On avoiding the court system
So what’s a real life scenario of mediation in action? When asked to give a real life example, she says candescently, that she can’t give names because it’s confidential. That’s one of the benefits of mediation.
She will however, recount a scenario between a large construction company and a company who distributed their products – it was real estate issue. The client felt the standard of the contractors work wasn’t what they expected it to be and the contractor said they couldn’t do it due to a problem the client caused. There was a lot of money at stake and no one wanted to lose it.
“The communication wasn’t good. Basically the project manager complained about not having clearance to go into the building. The client didn’t reply for two days and wanted to know why they didn’t do the work.” Dana says, explaining how mediation can get sticky because most disputes are subjective. Who’s right, who’s wrong?
But the role of a mediator isn’t to decide. The definition of mediator, she says, is a professional, neutral party who facilitates the negotiation. No legal advice is given and no sides are taken. So in this scenario, her role was to question and allow them to identify common standards. For example, if a company renovates a house and are accused on not finishing the job properly they may defend it by saying technically they did, but what is the industry standard? Did they fall below the standard?
“Think about it” she says “naturally, when you’re a kid who do you approach? Your parents and teachers, who are supposed to be neutral. Everybody seeks a neutral opinion. You’re not asking for an answer, but someone to facilitate because you’re too emotionally involved. Someone to show you sense; someone who is trustful.”
Mediation takes people through a resolution process – a process which usually involves sharing what happened, looking at it objectivity, analysing it, taking responsibility for your contribution and acting according. Litigation does not offer that process, but rather, dis-empowers by taking the process completely out of the hands of the disputers. In a way, once you enter the legal system, you become a victim of a third party decision, whereas with mediation, the disputers negotiate and go through a proven process to create a win-win.
One of the misconceptions that drives Dana “nuts” is that mediation is about compromise. It not. It’s about realising what happened and what should happen in the future. Some disputes end up where one party gets 100% and the other gets 0%. Sometimes its 80%/20%, sometimes its 50%/50%, but however it’s dissected, it based on the realisations and decision of two consenting adults, assisted by a neutral party.
“The ego is the mother of all mistakes,” Dana concludes. The reality of every conflict is that there are two sides to every story. You cannot ignore the other side and there is always something we can learn by introducing a neutral party to avoid escalation.
So before you think about suing and court cases, think mediation. Or better yet, think negotiation workshop to deal with conflict before it arises.
Dana’s company MeD8 is moving into its second year and has its once-a-year public workshop coming up in February. Meet Dana and book onto the workshop!