Friday, October 22, 2010

Scholarship alert: "Mindfulness, emotions, and mental models: theory that leads to more effective dispute resolution"

This article is by Professor Peter Reilly of Texas Wesleyan School of Law and can be found a 10 Nev. L.J. 433-460 (2010).  From the introduction:

In 1908, Harvard Law School Dean Roscoe Pound suggested that the American legal system should adjust its doctrines, principles, and institutions of justice from a purely mechanical, rule-centered approach to one that considered "the human conditions they are to govern ... putting the human factor in the central place ... ."  Nearly a half century later, in April of 1955, Harvard Law School Dean Erwin Griswold put forth a rhetorical question that unfortunately still rings true today: "Many lawyers never do seem to understand that they are dealing with people and not solely with the impersonal law. How far is law school education responsible for this lack?"

Connecting with others is a skill that can be developed and taught. I can think of few public figures in the history of the United States who were better at connecting with other people than President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Interestingly, biographers of President Roosevelt produce a portrait of a man in his early adult years as fairly carefree - even arrogant and condescending.  Then, at age thirty-nine, FDR was stricken with polio. By most accounts, he transformed himself over the next seven years of his struggle into a leader of empathy, patience, and keen self-awareness.

This Article suggests that law students and lawyers can be introduced to, and even begin to master, some of the same transformational principles, skill sets, and behaviors that poured forth from FDR as a result of his intense physical and personal challenges.  At the core of nearly all great negotiators, mediators, lawyers, and leaders is a person who has learned to connect with other people, that is, to build relationships of trust, cooperation, and collaboration. Additionally, this Article argues that where people first learn a sense of self and others through both theoretical and practical knowledge and understanding of mindfulness and human emotion, connections are more likely to be made and relationships are more likely to be built.  Furthermore, I believe that the body of scholarship that Professor Leonard L. Riskin is producing in the areas of mindfulness and emotions in law serves an important, foundational role in heeding the calls sounded by Deans Pound and Griswold. Consequently, my focus in this Article is to use Professor Riskin's wonderful theoretical foundation to begin thinking about ways in which mindfulness and emotions can be translated into practice and manifested into actual behaviors. My goal, then, is to begin thinking about how one might bring mindfulness and emotions from the "mind level" to what human relations expert Mary Parker Follett eloquently called the "motor level."

Part II of the Article provides some background on emotional intelligence, including the different branches of emotional intelligence. Parts III and IV explore the role of emotions in behaviors, including discussion of various suggestions to teach emotional control and techniques to develop emotional range,  maturity, and sensitivity. Emotional contagion is discussed in Part V, covering how emotions are spread and how this phenomenon can be used to increase cooperation. Next, Part VI reviews suggestions from various experts on how to develop a curriculum to teach students emotional intelligence. Subsequently, a specific mental model, the Ladder of Inference, is discussed in detail in Part VII, including examples and exercises for application. Lastly, Part VIII concludes with some final thoughts.


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