Helping People Decide What Happens. Member Spotlight: Nancy Milton

Western judiciary systems too often tend to resort to litigation as the first (and sometimes sole) means of resolving controversies occurring within their societies. Results and processes, however, are not always efficient and empathetic of the human beings involved. Mediation, on the other hand, is built upon active listening, understanding, empowerment and the “magic of making people realize their commonalities” to resolve conflict. Such a conflict-transformative power inspired Nancy Milton, attorney/mediator from Walla Walla, Washington, to commit her whole career to the promotion and practice of mediation, seeking to bring its benefits into sometimes too law-centred systems of conflict resolution in the US. After falling in love with mediation in the early 90s, she had her own mediation firm for more than 12 years, helping couples and families resolve their conflicts. Now, Nancy has retired but remains fully engaged as a volunteer mediator and board member at the Neutral Ground Dispute Resolution Center of Walla Walla and through her volunteer work with Rotary. She joined MBBI only recently, inspired by the desire to support, and learn from, a global community of mediators, peace-lovers and conflict-disruptors.

People need to be brought together.

Nancy would describe herself as a natural mediator, drawing upon her desire to help those in conflict and to promote togetherness rather than division. After working as a paralegal in law firms for 15 years and then getting her bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Davis, she went on to attend law school at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California.  It was during law school that she had a first encounter with mediation, that would change her heart forever, when she worked as an intern at a community mediation center. “Coming from a law background with many years within firms, I absolutely fell in love with mediation” she enthusiastically recounts, the legal system in the US is very adversarial, not efficient and takes longer time for certain issues. People sometimes just need to sit and talk to fix things. Litigation does not work very well in family situations, while mediation does!”.

Inspired by a process in which the parties in conflict are empowered to find a solution to their own problems, through honest communication channels and discovering their commonalities, Nancy gave birth to her own practice, working as an attorney mediator from 2006 to 2018. With Progress Mediation, Nancy brought help to hundreds of families who found a way through their conflict in a more understanding way. “The problem most of the time is a result of the breakdown of the lines of communication, with resentment and anger harboring within” she explains, “in such an uncommunicative environment, conflict thrives”. She also devoted part of her time to work as a volunteer mediator in a Court of Appeal mediation program where cases were directed towards mediation rather than languishing in litigation.

The Power of Listening.  

Listening and heartful understanding find themselves at the center of Nancy’s vision and deeds.

“People need to learn to listen to each other more, not solely getting what others are saying, but deeply hearing what others mean and feel about what they are saying” Nancy acknowledges, “we do not have to have in mind what to respond and be ready to jump in the conversation to fix the problem right away; we need to take the time to really hear what the other person is saying”.

A long-lasting passion for Peace.

When Nancy retired, she moved from California and settled in Walla Walla, Washington, to be closer to her family. However, her passion for mediation, and “peace”, keeps her extremely active within the local community, and beyond. “Along the course of the years, I came to realize that my passion lies deeply in helping people find peace, especially in their relationships” she states, “this allows me to spread the positivity of mediation, which I am currently committed to”. Indeed, Nancy has now more time to work on raising awareness on the power and benefits of mediation, aiming at making it a more frequent and popular option to resolve controversies, instead of a secondary or third choice compared to litigation, or not to be considered at all. “When conflicting parties go through mediation, they usually find a solution on their own and this has a more positive impact in terms of satisfaction and happiness with the overall process, and solutions obtained”, Nancy explains. “With litigation, you may have satisfied people, but not happy. With mediation, you manage to have both”, she concludes. 

With this clear mission in mind, Nancy loves her volunteer work at Neutral Ground, which provides mediation services and educational programs to support peacemaking efforts in Walla Walla County and the surrounding area.  With Rotary, she is a member of the District 5080 Peace Committee and is Peacebuilder Committee Co-Chair at her local club.  Through these positions, she participates in the organization of peace-related activities such as peace forums/symposiums, workshops and trainings bringing peace leaders and advocates together. Moved by a constant thirst for enriching her knowledge on peacebuilding, she also recently became a Peace Ambassador through the Institute for Economics & Peace.

A similar desire in search of knowledge pushed Nancy to join MBBI less than one year ago, when she was struck by the scale and impact of the work the organization does around the world. “I perceived the positive impact of MBBI and its action, which seems to be built upon incredible synergies of peacebuilders and peace-activists from all over the world” she says, “I am looking forward to get immersed and doing my part, both practically and financially”. Nancy is eager to join MBBI’s groups and projects, and she is looking forward to engaging with MBBI’s core activities. Welcome onboard Nancy!

Written by Matteo Piovacari: MBBI Writer