Are you ready for the unexpected?

How do you respond when someone throws a wrench into your day?

Here’s how one classical musician responded, after a Nokia ring tone went off in the middle of his performance (thanks to my local fiddler/composer friend, Paul Gitlitz, for bringing this to my attention).

(If the video not displaying, click here)

I found this video instructive.  Yes, it helps to know how to play the Nokia ring tone! (apparently its a component of a well known classical piece).  Beyond that, I see a number of lessons in the video that we facilitators, mediators… can apply to our contexts.  In a way, we’re performers, too:


  • Be prepared. One of the best ways to deal with uncertainty is to anticipate if “x” happens, then I will do ”y”.  Being prepared is also the paradox of being a good improviser, as all jazz mediators know.
  • Welcome surprise. Surprises get our attention.  They help us focus.  See surprise as an opportunity to connect, educate, reframe
  • Acknowledge your thoughts, then say hello. Be self-aware through self-talk, acknowledge what you are feeling/thinking in the moment, then let go of those thoughts, and become open, say hello, to what’s before you. This is a collaboration mindset.
  • Move on. Like the improvisational theatre technique, yes, and, add to the conversation, don’t take away.  Give momentum to the mediation/performance.  Think fast and slow.
  • Listen. If nothing else, listen.  It’s through active listening, that opportunity presents itself, and good things happen (be they disputes getting resolved or videos going viral!).


When I look at the above list, I know I still have a lots opportunity to better ready myself for the unexpected.  How about you?  What works best for you when someone forgets to turn off their ringtone… drops the unexpected on your lap?

Leave a comment.


  1. What a captivating vignette upon which to make those apt suggestions, really helps them stick in my mind, and I do seem to need these reminders, Ben especially the third one

  2. Thanks Kare. The 3rd one is interesting to me, too. It is one that clicked for me when I was doing some work with people who were from a different cultural background… to be effective, I really did have to say “hello”…

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