‘A conflict between two people is always happening in a larger system, and we can do great work in that mediation room, but if we don’t address the larger systemic conflict, the agreement won’t be sustainable. I believe we have a responsibility to consider what is happening in the background and ask how the system itself might be feeding this conflict.’

Background and career  

Jean Kling is a practicing mediator, trainer, facilitator, and Granger Network executive leadership coach based in Los Angeles. Although Jean has consulted and worked with many companies, organizations, and individuals over the years as a dispute resolution practitioner, she began her career in non-profit administration. During her time in the nonprofit sector with organizations such as International Medical Corps and Center Theatre Group, Jean worked as a recruiter, administrator, project manager, fundraiser, and teacher. Through these experiences, she discovered that her favorite part of the work was integrating different points of view and various individual interests, and supporting people in working well together as a group.

Jean went on to earn her Masters in Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine University and conduct a range of mediations, from family disputes to victim-offender restitution, while she has continued to especially be interested in working with the dynamics of groups and difference-making organizations. As a parent, Jean has found particular satisfaction in her work with local schools to support the communication and collaboration across administrations, teachers, and the parent body.

In collaboration with Maria Garvey and her husband, Tanner Kling, Jean is co-producing The Window in the Wall, a documentary film currently in production about ordinary people with extraordinary stories of forgiveness, compassion, resiliency and hope. Through the lens of Northern Ireland’s search for peace, The Window in the Wall will explore how to bring down barriers within and between people, one window at a time.

MBBI membership and leadership 

Jean has served on a number of committees within MBBI. After a decade of membership with MBBI, she has been involved in many different ways with the organization and has been an extremely valuable asset to the board and various committees. She chaired the fund development committee, served as Board Secretary, and contributed as a member of the strategic and membership committees, among others. Jean stepped out of her role on the Board of Directors around 3 years ago after her daughter, Maren, was born. As an MBBI member, Jean has been consistently engaged in exploring the different facets of conflict dynamics.

Advice and philosophy about dispute resolution

For people starting out in the field of mediation and dispute resolution, Jean encourages finding mentors and learning from others. She emphasizes being bold and reaching out to people, allowing yourself to be vulnerable when it comes to practicing mediation – the chance to learn from your own work and mistakes, and from the practice of others is inherently valuable.

From her very beginning as a mediator, Jean has noted the values and concepts she has learned from the practice; ‘We can’t mediate without being exposed to – and really get – that there can simultaneously exist two or more profoundly different ways of experiencing the exact same thing. And that how we hold and react to this reality says everything about what happens next. Mediation has taught me a lot about being able to listen knowing that there is always another perspective and an opportunity to see things differently. And that I can do this while still honoring my own perspective, values and life experience.’

Through her experiences of mediation and coaching, Jean has developed a practice when she finds herself in conflict that is based in self-reflection and personal agency: “I always ask myself: How did I contribute? What can I learn here? And what can I do better next time? These questions are intended to orient me around learning and being a partner in creating something new, rather than assigning blame.” This practice has been a cornerstone of Jean’s career, and a cornerstone of her own values and way of living. She believes in embracing life’s various learning experiences, both as a person and a mediator, and in being grateful for them, even when it is difficult.

Jean’s self-care routine consists of journaling, meditation, and being outside; she takes inspiration from seeing new places and listening to new perspectives. She believes in the balance of working, learning, and nourishing the self through restorative practices – even if it is as simple as taking a walk in the sun.

Article by Lizzy Nestor, MBBI Writer