Sequencing Interviews

Richard Salem

Former CRS Mediator, Chicago Office; Private Mediator; President of Conflict Management Initiatives


[Full Interview]

Who would you talk to first?

Very often we would make entry into a case by a phone call from a person in the minority or church community. While conducting the assessment, we would call the establishment party and tell them we had heard there was this problem. "Oh, where did you hear that?" And you'd invent language, or pet phrases and just talk generally, but you would not reveal who alerted you to the problem. When asked, "Who have you talked to about this?" you might respond, "Well, a number of people." You try not to say who you spoke with or met with if you think it will create a problem. Sometime we would plan an on-site visit to start late in the day when the offices are closed. We would call ahead and tell the city office we would be arriving Tuesday night and would like to meet with them first thing Wednesday morning. Then on Tuesday night you could meet with the community people who may not be available during the day anyway because they're at their jobs. You're up until two in the morning or until midnight working. And then at 8 in the morning when you see the city official you say, I got in last night and had a chance to speak with some of the people in the community who are concerned about the problem. That way, you didn't violate protocol by not seeing him first, especially if it's a mayor. Sometimes it was important to see an official first, but if it wasn't critical, then you try it the other way and you get the community perspective of the problem before you meet with the public official.