Dana Curtis, Mediation as a Way of Rebuilding Relationships


Dana CurtisAnother one of our exceptional Edwards Mediation Academy instructors is Dana Curtis. Dana was among the first attorneys in the U.S. to devote her career exclusively to mediation, and she began her full-time mediation practice in 1991. She has been a teacher of mediation, negotiation and other conflict management programs for over 25 years, including at Stanford and Harvard.

What I especially admire about Dana is her exceptional skill with difficult and highly emotional situations. She is particularly adept at helping individuals involved in a dispute understand how they may be contributing to the conflict so that they can begin to rebuild a positive relationship with one another.

On becoming a mediator

Dana had been a teacher for 13 years and then decided to go to law school. In her second year of law school, she took a course that had mediation as a component.  She immediately knew, “This is what I want to do.” Mediation made sense to Dana because it includes the personal component of a conflict: all of the personalities, all of the emotions. Dana believes it’s been a huge help to her as a mediator to have a teaching background because, many times, what a mediator is doing is helping people learn a different way of thinking – a new way of relating to each other and having conversations that they haven’t had before.

For Dana, every mediation is analytical as well as emotional, and she brings an intense curiosity to each situation. She asks probing questions, and listens deeply with empathy and compassion. Dana believes that the highest potential of mediation is to help people find closure and, where they can, connection.

Addressing the relationship first

One of the techniques Dana employees in highly emotional situations is to address the relationship issues first, before the mediation begins. For example, in a mediation with a brother and sister involving real estate holdings, Dana spoke separately with each of them, before the mediation, about the quality of their relationship. The brother and sister hadn’t really connected since they were young. Dana helped them sort through some of the difficult situations in the past that had left bad feelings. Through her questions, she learned that both would like to have a better relationship going forward. She convened the mediation with their commitment to work toward that goal.

During the mediation, it was all about solving the problem, rather than about how badly they felt and how mad they were. They were able to talk through their issues and really connect on a personal level. The brother and sister ended up being amazingly generous with each other and achieved a level of resolution that was much greater than figuring out who received which apartment.

There was a point where the brother said to his sister, “You know, I’ve grown a lot. Let me tell you what’s going on in my life.” The sister said to Dana at the end of the day, “I have never felt so close to my brother in my whole life.”

Helping people connect

This is what inspires Dana most: she deeply wants to help people connect rather than pursue lawsuits. Dana Curtis believes that if people can truly understand each other and develop a respectful attitude toward each other again, a lot can happen.

Susan Franson Edwards co-founded Edwards Mediation Academy with Bruce Edwards in 2014 in an effort to deliver the highest quality mediation training to a worldwide audience.

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Bruce A. Edwards is an ADR industry pioneer and recent chairman of the board of directors of JAMS, this country’s largest private provider of ADR services. Along with his wife, Susan Franson Edwards, Mr. Edwards cofounded Edwards Mediation Academy, an online education platform dedicated to improving the skills of mediators around the world.

Bruce A. Edwards

Bruce is one of the pioneers in developing mediation to resolve commercial disputes in the United States. He has been a professional mediator since 1986 and has mediated over 8000 disputes. Bruce was a co-founder and former chairman of the board of directors of JAMS. In 2023 he joined Signature Resolution to continue his mediation practice while pursuing his passion for delivering high-quality mediation training through Edwards Mediation AcademyBruce has consistently received recognition for his work as a mediator, most recently being accepted into the inaugural edition of Who’s Who in ADR by ADR Times 2022; once again recognized as a Best Lawyer in the ADR category by Best Lawyers® 2022 and recognized as a Global Elite Thought Leader and Mediator in the US by Who’s Who Legal, 2023.