FACES IN THE CROWD
Mediator focuses on underlying interest to resolve ongoing conflict
Barbara Manousso trains people to solve their disputes
By FLORI MEEKS CHRONICLE CORRESPONDENT
Dec. 30, 2010, 11:56AM
Dr. BARBARA Sunderland MANOUSSO
- Community Contribution: Texas Distinguished Credentialed mediator as well as arbitrator, facilitator, negotiator and ombudsman; business owner; mediation instructor.
- Quick Quote: “Mediation is a fairly new profession. We’re all kind of pioneers. I find it very exciting.”
- Fast Fact: Manousso also is a former president of the Association of Conflict Resolution Houston Chapter, a member and frequent presenter for the Texas Association of Mediators and a member of the Texas Mediator Trainers Roundtable serving on its Bylaw Committee.
Barbara Manousso enjoys sharing the story of the orange.
In the story, two brothers want the same orange. If they were to cut the orange down the center, each would only have half of what he wanted.
But if one were to ask the brothers what they wanted, that person would learn one brother wants the juice and the other, the rind.
“By a mediator finding out the underlying interests and getting the parties to discuss them, both gets 100 percent of what they want,” said Manousso, a Texas Distinguished Credentialed mediator as well as an arbitrator, facilitator, negotiator and ombudsman.
Manousso, who lives in the River Oaks/Uptown area, has opened mediation sessions with this tale, also known as the satisfaction story, and she passes it on to students at her business, Manousso Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Her firm not only provides dispute resolution services, it trains others to do the same.
“Barbara is able to show the value of neutrality in conflict,” said Joe Bontke, an instructor with Manousso’s center and an ombudsman and outreach manager with the Houston District Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“If you and I are at odds, a third party may be able to see what we can’t because we’re embroiled in emotion,” Bontke said. “She’s able to pass on to people how to use that skill set. I’ve never met anyone able to teach it as well as she does.”
“I find so much satisfaction in mediating and seeing what happens when people actually talk to each other,” said Manousso, 62.
“Mediation takes place in a safe setting, where participants can have a dialog. They can put a face on the problem instead of going back in forth with, ‘he did this to me, she did this to me.’ ”
Manousso got her first taste of mediation in 1989, when she heard a judge make a presentation on alternative dispute resolution while she was a student at the South Texas College of Law.
“It made a lot of sense,” she said. “Mediation puts the problem and the solution in the hands of the parties involved.”
Intrigued, Manousso learned more about alternative dispute resolution and eventually decided to make it her career.
Her business’ basic mediation course comprises 40 hours of instruction. Specialized training is available as well, including elder care mediation, 20 hours, and advanced family and divorce mediation training, 30 hours.
There is especially great demand today for elder care mediation, she said. Generally, these mediation sessions draw both children and grandchildren, along with spouses, all with an emotional investment in the outcome.
“It’s a conversation a lot of families can’t have on their own,” said Manousso, who serves on the international training standards committee for elder care mediation.
A number of people assume they need a law degree to become a mediator, Manousso said. That isn’t true. The field is open to anyone older than 18 with no felonies.
College degrees aren’t required; common sense is highly recommended, she said.
Manousso Mediation and Arbitration will offer its next mediation workshop Jan. 6-9. Details: www.manousso.us.