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I might alternatively have entitled this blog “to what extent do ASM Plus mediators keep people happy?” I thought that a light hearted end of year piece identifying what a thoughtful, accomplished restauranteur and an ASM Plus mediator have in common would be amusing.  However, the notion of “mediatory happiness” is not unimportant and I have taken the opportunity to explain how ASM Plus addresses this issue.

One particular reason why I regret never having gone to New York is that to date I have missed out on an opportunity of eating at one of David Chang’s restaurants (1).  Much lauded in both the North American and British press, and having propounded a “unified theory of deliciousness”, Chang is described as innovative and ground breaking.  At the same time his restaurants appear to be very accessible to the general public and, unlike some of his culinary compatriots, although he appears to experiment a great deal and is very innovative, he does not come across as living in some sort of precious ivory tower.

Chang has some very interesting philosophical influences which were propounded by one of his college professors, Howard de Long (2), and may be seen as a little outside routine, mainstream thought.  However as is clearly demonstrated in a selection of Chang’s articles that I recently chanced upon in the online periodical Wired, he applies his philosophical influences in a very practical way.

In the context of propounding his deliciousness theory, consider what Chang writes on the subject of salt:

A chef can go crazy figuring out how much salt to add to a dish. But I believe there is an objectively correct amount of salt, and it is rooted in a counterintuitive idea. Normally we think of a balanced dish as being neither too salty nor under salted. I think that’s wrong. When a dish is perfectly seasoned, it will taste simultaneously like it has too much salt and too little salt. It is fully committed to being both at the same time.”

Chang goes on to suggest that readers might like to experiment with different proportions of salt and water and identify their individual preferences and draws analogies with a number of philosophical, artistic and mathematical notions.  These are very interesting and I may refer to them in a subsequent blog.  However, for present purposes I prefer to focus on his salt related theories.

At this point you may well be wondering what all this stuff about salt has got to do with mediation and ASM Plus?  After all, whatever his insights and abilities, and although he does not say as much in his article, Covid-19 permitting Chang is a restauranteur with 16 eating and drinking establishments to fill and he has to appeal to a wide range of customers’ likes and dislikes.

From a mediator’s point of view, the subjective notion of what is too salty for one person or not salty enough for another, and any attendant considerations are analogous with what mediators have to address on a daily basis.  The facts, truths or preferred options/outcomes that party A identifies during a mediation may be very different from those identified by party B.  Equally, the range of issues that parties A and B identified e.g., in the context of a building dispute may be very different from those identified by parties C and D in a different mediation, even in circumstances where there are quite apparent factual similarities.

An ASM Plus mediator does not of course have to address the concept of a customer base in quite the same way that Chang might do and he/she is not simply focused on “keeping people happy”.  Chang’s consideration of the salt and related issues is undoubtedly part of a sequence of other considerations namely to ensure that his customers eat all of the food put in front of them, express satisfaction with the service they receive, enjoy the overall experience etc.  However, although the ASM Plus mediator will instead facilitate, listen, ensure that all parties have participated equally and assist them to find a mutually acceptable resolution, it is apparent from the various completed feedback forms that we have received that clients do ultimately consider whether they were “happy” or not. Things that clients are not happy with or they perceive of not being quite right may “nag” at them.

Accordingly, as well as conducting online mediations in an exemplary manner, ASM Plus mediators always ensure that the complete process, from start to finish is undertaken according to the highest possible professional standards.  We endeavour to explain things clearly during any preliminary discussions, ensure that the modest amount of attendant paperwork is complete, accurate and comprehensible and, in addressing any concerns that may arise, we never take anything for granted.  We trust that our mediations will be satisfactorily and fairly addressed in the periods of time allocated to them but we are not rigorously “on the clock” and always do our utmost to meet parties’ individual needs and requirements.

As a result, our unflinching standards of excellence have ensured that we have not been charged with either being “too salty” or “not salty enough”. We aim to ensure similar high standards in 2021 and with a view to achieving, if not “unified deliciousness”, the mediation equivalent of the Chang phrase “perfectly seasoned”.

(1) David Chang runs the renowned Momofuku, which is one of 13 restaurants, plus a bakery, two bars, and a culinary lab.
(2) Howard DeLong received a B.A. in Mathematics from Williams College (1957), and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Princeton University (1960).  He taught philosophy at Trinity College, Connecticut from 1960 until his retirement in 1999.  His main interests are philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, and political philosophy.  He is the author of A Profile of Mathematical Logic (1970) and In the Cause of Humanity: Creating Juried Democracies to New-Model the American Revolution (2015).

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