Friday, September 28

Sharpening Your Skills: Negotiation

Not a bad resource to refer clients to if you're asked - from Harvard Working Knowledge yesterday - Sharpening Your Negotiation Skills, that includes these links -

Negotiating in Three Dimensions by James Sebenius
Negotiating When the Rules Suddenly Change by Michael Wheeler
Four Strategies for Making Concessions by Deepak Malhotra
Five Steps to Better Family Negotiations by John A. Davis and Deepak Malhotra

International Mediator Certification

ABA Journal Law News - October 2007 - The International Mediation Institute announced it's getting closer to establishing the first global mediator certification.

The word is that a law degree likely won’t be mandatory, but a certain amount of experience in a specific area will be. And there will probably be several certifications rather than just one.

The IMI is based in The Hague and was formed in April 2007 by the American Arbitration Association, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the Netherlands Mediation Institute. See my previous IMI post

Thursday, September 27

Never let the parties book the venue and always get there early

This was the hotel set up that greeted me when I turned up today for a mediation that was to involve 27 people.

Hey man, strap on a pair!

This very brave article in the testosterone soaked world of commercial disputes: The Case for a Paradigm Shift in Civil and Commercial Dispute Resolution - moving from fear to love

"The current system for resolving commercial and civil disputes produces enormous community disharmony and emotional pain. Intense feelings of anger, sadness and fear often arise from the systems and processes designed to resolve disputes. These feelings and emotions may be seriously under estimated and arise from the experiences of the participants – clients, lawyers and judicial officers... Upon examination it emerges that the current system is based on fear – fear of losing, fear of money, fear of failure and fear of lack of control over outcomes. The current system determines disputes in an adversarial often combative fashion but rarely satisfies or heals them. It is argued that efforts to reform will not prove effective until they embrace a paradigm shift away from fear to its opposite – love"
Nicholas James Murfett presented at 3rd International Conference on Therapeutic Jurisprudence, Perth, Western Australia

Hat Tip: Stephanie West Allen over at idealawg

Wednesday, September 26

Practical guides to negotiating in China

Last week on the Conflict Management Division Listserv* Roger C. Mayer, Professor of Management at The University of Akron put the word out for any short, practical guides to negotiating in China and got this nice collection of online articles from Kim Foster (the first one is open access but 2 - 4 require $);

1. Negotiating into China: the impact of individual perception on Chinese negotiation styles Author(s):Zhenzhong MaInternational Journal of Emerging Markets; Volume: 1 Issue: 1; 2006

Business-to-business negotiating in China: the role of morality Author(s):Jamal A. Al-Khatib, Stacy M. Vollmers, Yusin LiuJournal of Business & Industrial Marketing; Volume: 22 Issue: 2; 2007

Negotiating in China: some issues for Western women Author(s):Hong Seng WooWomen in Management Review; Volume: 14 Issue: 4; 1999

Cultural characteristics prevalent in the Chinese negotiation process Author(s):Hong Seng Woo, Celine Prud’hommeEuropean Business Review; Volume: 99 Issue: 5; 1999

Also, take a look at this useful article summary from the Harvard Business Review called Negotiating in China and this very useful website devoted to assisting Westerners to Negotiate in China

*The Conflict Management Division Listserv is an electronic list sponsored by
the Conflict Management Division of the Academy of Management

Monday, September 24

Take a Skill-Pill

So this looks cool...

Skill-Pill is a short burst of bite sized skills delivered by video to your cell phone, blackberry, video iPod or smart phone just before the big event to get you in the zone.

Going into a big negotiation or mediation? Take a 2 minute skill-pill in the taxi on the way.

Demo here

Two new video clips for the Mediation vBlog Project

Take a look at these new videos over at The Mediation vBlog Project:

Mediation on the Isle of Man - a talk by Frank Hanna

Mediation with Milan - a conversation with Los Angeles mediator Vickie Pynchon - an insight into the world of Milan Slama, a community and business mediator

Thursday, September 20

Live Blogging from the LEADR Conference in NZ

Mediator friends and colleagues John Hardie, Pele Walker, Deb Clapshaw, Nina Khouri and new kiwi, David Hoffman

Today is our first full day of one of the most important gatherings on the Australasian mediation calendar.

Yesterday afternoon we heard from David Hoffman on Mediation and the Meaning of Life, after which 10 of us gathered at my home for an early summer BBQ (above). So many top mediators in one room!

Today I spoke to both Mike Lind and Jim Melamed by video from the UK (2am) and the US (4.30pm). Wonderful to have these guys come visit for an hour and share their knowledge.

Then we learnt the state of the play in India from Prathamesh Popat, a Mumbai mediator. Prathamesh is the convener of the Indian Merchants' Chamber's Task Force for Online ADR and also heads the Alternate Dispute Resolution Section of the Technology Law Forum. Prathamesh is also an expert on ODR in India.

And then it was off to see Bill Rainey from Concordia and his session on Marketing and Sales: a mediator's natural skill set.

And look at this!

Over at Mediator Tech Tammy Lenski has posted a podcast Welcome, LEADR Dispute Resolvers! especially for my 40 sites session tomorrow.

And Jim Melamed did the same here! "...from your mates at"

Man, I've got great mates out there.

The conference dinner is set for tonight.
Update: My online friend, mediator and blogger, Chris Annunziata over at CKA Mediation and Arbitration Blog posts Hello to the Participants at the LEADR ADRConference! My thanks Chris.

Wednesday, September 19

More on dispute resolution in Second Life

Continuing the series on DR in Second Life...

The people behind Second Life, Linden Lab, have announced today that from hereon in a dispute resolution known as “binding non-appearance-based arbitration” is available for disputes of less than $10,000.00 between Linden Lab and the Residents in Second Life.

They describe it as "... a legally binding procedure administered by a private organization. This means that the arbitrator’s opinion on liability and damages may be entered as a final, binding judgment in a court of law. The arbitrator will conduct the arbitration by telephone, online, or based on written submissions, and the Resident and Linden Lab will not make any in-person appearance at the arbitration hearing"

That does not, of course, help with the 2,000 reports of some sort of problem between residents that Linden Lab recieves every day.

On that Linden Lab says;

"... Linden Lab received a grand total of 43 Abuse Reports during my first week of work in 2003. Jumping forward to the end of 2006, the number is closer to 2,000 per day.

On a purely clerical level, this kind of volume is not readily sustainable; to give each report five minutes of investigation and attention would add up to more than 160 hours day.

It could be done of course, but the bigger issue lies in the content of the Reports; the vast majority are either: problems Linden Lab cannot resolve (we can’t force anyone to see eye to eye with anyone else), situations Linden Lab should not resolve (neighborly property line disputes or transactional issues), and reports that aren’t Abuse Reports at all – they don’t have anything to do with the Community Standards and belong in other communications channels"

12 Steps for Effective Negotiation

Dennis Ross, Middle East Envoy and Chief Peace Negotiator for both the Clinton and Bush Snr administrations spoke today with about his "12 steps for effective negotiation".

His new book, Statecraft - And How To Restore America's Standing in the World talks of approaches to both negotiation and mediation on the global stage.

Tuesday, September 18

A conversation with two movers and shakers of the DR world - Mike Lind and Jim Melamed #2

As I said in my last post profiling UK's ADR Group MD, Mike Lind, one of my welcome duties at the LEADR conference this week is to conduct a couple of interviews by video link.

In addition to talking with Mike, I am hooking up with Jim Melamed, one of the founders of in fact we have just celebrated's 12th birthday with is almost a teenager.

So, Jim needs no introduction and I suspect if readers of this blog are prepared to travel so far into the bowels of the Internet to get here (this is the 5,770,818th most popular space on the web) then you sure as hell know your way round the #1 piece of mediation cyberspace.

What I will be interested in asking Jim when we talk on Thursday is how a boy from Eugene, Oregon gets to be the mastermind behind the most must read site in our field? And what does the future mediator look like? Do we still have legs? Do we convene flesh mediations anymore?

But in the meantime here are just a few of the glowing birthday testimonials from mediators all around the globe;

"Amidst the flotsam and jetsam that passes through my email inbox, there are a few items that I always read. The Newsletter is one of those items, because it's one of the first places where cutting-edge ideas appear, and the articles are well thought out and well written" David A. Hoffman

"Based upon more than a decade of passionate work, has become to mediators what Google has become to the internet"
Jeffrey Krivis

"When new mediators ask me to name the best resource for news, ideas, and information on dispute resolution, I tell them there's only one name they need to remember: No other publication--either print or digital--brings together so much wisdom from so many experienced practitioners across the world--and all of it just a mouse click away. And unlike other online ADR resources is more than simply a web site. It is simultaneously conversation and community--innovative, dynamic, and vibrant. Bravo,, and congratulations on your 200th edition" Diane J. Levin

" is the GO-TO place for mediators to exchange ideas and make contributions" Gregorio Billikopf Encina

" has surpassed my optimistic predictions for its development. It is a unique and essential part of the field, brilliant innovation" Leonard Riskin

Monday, September 17

A conversation with two movers and shakers of the DR world - Mike Lind and Jim Melamed

One of my welcome duties at the LEADR conference this week is to conduct a couple of interviews.

And I am doing this by a turbo charged video link, as you might expect from the 'Future Tech Stream Convener' (I do hope I get a name badge with that title).

Barring any technical snafus, I am looking forward to conversations with two of the movers and shakers of the DR world - with
Mike Lind, Managing Director of ADR Group, Bristol in the UK and with Jim Melamed of, Eugene, Oregon.

They will be horrified at the prospect, but I want to highlight each of their contributions prior to speaking with them and ask you, dear readers, what questions or comments you have for them.

First, lets put the spotlight on Mike.

I met Mike in LA a few years back when we ended up in one of those awkward situations after unexpectedly being told to break into small groups at an ABA conference session. When we all sat and looked at each other, Mike rescued us and even volunteered for the short straw of 'reporting back' to the group.

The official blurb on Mike is that his;
"... primary function is to raise the profile and spectre of the ADR Group as a leading provider of dispute resolution services. Working closely with over 450 ADR Group mediators, Mike is committed to ensuring the Group provides a first class service to parties in dispute, whether the subject matter is legal, commercial or matrimonial in origin. Mike plays a key communications role working with the Group company directors, senior management and all ADR Net members"

[But I know Mike to be an obsessive rugby fan who supports his native
South African Springboks or the English team, which ever team has their nose in front at the time. And after the weekend it's certainly SA. No, strike that - actually Mike supports anyone playing against the mighty New Zealand All Blacks.

And, as I write this the 3rd largest sporting spectacle in the world, the 2007 Rugby World Cup is underway in France after four long years of waiting and both of us are glued to the TV]

When Mike and I Video Skyped last week to scope our interview I learnt how truly energetic his ADR Group really is.

ADR Group has a three prong mantra:

1.Teach - the broadest programme of dispute resolution training courses in the UK - from mediator accreditation to advanced dispute resolution courses.
2. Talk - consultancy and bespoke solutions for organisations requiring tailored dispute resolution services.
3. Resolve - cost-effective, professional dispute resolution for business, the workplace or the family.

When I asked Mike to focus on online dispute resolution he described how the Group is currently involved in these 3 projects, amongst others;

1. National Mediation Helpline was set up in 2005 by the UK Ministry of Justice in conjunction with the Civil Mediation Council to provide information about mediation and access to mediators. ADR Group, covering all 42 court regions in England and Wales, has played an instrumental role in the success of the Helpline to date. ADR Group has an average settlement rate of 75% compared to a Helpline average of 66%.

2. Online dispute resolution provider - Following a successful first phase, the leading online payment service, PayPal, have now contracted with and The ADR Group to run the second phase adjudication pilot for disputes on eBay transactions including retailer sales

3. Official Trade Visit to South Africa next month by the Lord Mayor of London - a project aimed at raising the level of awareness of commercial mediation in South Africa. Instead of going in through the conventional legal channels, ADR Group is linking in with the Lord Mayor of London's visit to SA which gives the Group access to the business and finance community and will give mediation the credibility it deserves. ADR Group will also be speaking with the SA legal profession - at the same time as the key business decision makers to encourage commercial mediation in SA.

CEDR launches 2007 Mediation Audit

Last Friday, CEDR announced the launch of the 2007 Mediation Audit.

The biannual CEDR Mediation Audit has, it is said, become the go to document for information on the size and shape of the commercial mediation market in the UK.

CEDR is inviting all UK mediators and lawyers to help benchmark the current commercial dispute resolution practice.

The survey is being conducted on an anonymous basis, and can be accessed from the following links:

Click here if you are a lawyer in private practice
Click here if you are an in-house lawyer
Click here if you are a mediator

The publication of the results of the Mediation Audit 2007 will be at at the Third European Mediation Congress at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster on 8 November 2007.

It's been a busy week over at CEDR as they have also given their website a makeover and access rights of members and exchange participants have been extended.

Site registration is free but it seems that does not give full member access - so I'm not sure if it's an improvement for those of us who are not members - may even be less access than before?

Sunday, September 16

Neuroscience and Conflict Resolution - Denver, Portland and Washington DC

I wished I lived in one of these centres.

Denver, Colorado - October 24, 2007

Portland, Oregon - November 15 and 16, 2007
Washington, D.C - March 1, 2008

Here for details of Stephanie West Allen's Brains On Purpose™ Seminar that will cover the latest from the field of neuroscience and tools you can immediately use in the practise of conflict resolution

ADRA Conference 2007

The Australian Dispute Resolution Association Inc held a conference to celebrate making it through its first twenty years of life last June at the Australian Museum, Sydney.

The theme for the day was 'The place of the mediator in an institutionalised world of dispute resolution'.

Here is Judge Kevin O’Connor's paper
Institutionalised Dispute Resolution that has just been posted on the web.

The Judge is President of the Australian Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

Can anyone help Jana?

A request from: DeafJana64

" My attorney and I have a mediation meeting with ENT doctor who refused to provide a qualified interpreter next week. I need your ideas, feedbacks, and perhaps you share your experience what I had been through. This Dr violated ADA law over a year ago during my visit with dr by refusing to provide a certified interpreter. Please forgive me this vlog is about 10 minutes. I dont sign as fast as others. (SMILES)"

Friday, September 14

Skype toolbox for mediators

Many of us use Skype in our work so you may be interested in this Skype Toolbox: 50+ Enhancements for Skype

The other tip I have is; open skpe> tools> do more> get extras and there you will find plenty of free add-ons for mediators to turbo charge Skype, like a TalkandWrite that allows you to share and write on your desktop documents (word docs/emails/pdf's etc) with parties and colleagues like you were side by side!

And then there's a whiteboard for collaborating with the others on the conference call.

Thursday, September 13

The Paradox of Accepting One's Share of Responsibility in Mediation

Just last week I posted Eat toast in bed - go to sleep with crumbs on the tricky matter of the mediator raising party responsibility for the conflict in which that person now sits directly across from the mediator.

So you can imagine my unease when I stumbled across an article a couple of days later in the most recent edition of PON's Negotiation Journal called The Paradox of Accepting One's Share of Responsibility in Mediation by Jean Poitras, Associate Professor of Conflict Management at HEC, Montreal that started with the words "mediators generally avoid the issue of whether parties accept their individual share of responsibility for a conflict".

In a very readable article (abstract only, no full text link) Jean reports on a study he undertook demonstrating the important role that taking responsibility for the conflict can play in encouraging the emergence of cooperation within the mediation process.

Let me try to bring out the main points from a practitioner perspective;

1. If you are going to encourage parties to acknowledge their responsibilities think about two things;

  • first, what type of acceptance are you aiming for? There are varying degrees of acceptance including internal acceptance of how one's own behaviour has contributed through to an outward acknowledgement and/or apology.
  • second, private or public? Should acknowledgements be in separate caucus or in joint meeting? Do it in caucus and you will avoid much risk around unilateral acknowledgement and loss of face, but it's not that simple. Mutual acceptance of responsibility is more likely to bring about cooperation so a joint discussion may be needed...

2. But here's the rub - one of the most interesting findings is paradoxical;

"...that accepting one's share of responsibility is a double-edged sword. When only one party acknowledges his errors, collaboration can actually be impeded. When both parties recognize their errors, it is facilitated. The difficulty that then emerges from this analysis is this: how does the mediator create a climate of mutual acceptance of responsibility? Who begins? Will the other party also recognize his responsibility?"

Jean's article is a tremendous insight into an overlooked aspect of the mediation dynamic and I am sure we will see more on this subject from the good professor.

Subscribe to Negotiation Journal here

Wednesday, September 12

An email exchange with counsel

I don't mean to blog my life, but I thought this email exchange with a repeat user attorney client, who I know and like, maybe holds some learning.

It's in the context of a difficult mediation sometime ago, followed by me chasing up an unpaid invoice... and I think shows the value of always calling the elephant in the room, even if it's just real brief;

"Hi [ ]
On the assumption you will flick my other email re the invoice to your client I thought I would say this separately

I have always been a bit uneasy about this mediation, not only because we didn't get to yes, but I don't think I really connected with your people who I found challenging... all I'm really trying to say is that if there is a problem with the way the mediation went from their perspective, please let me know and we can work something out...

Hope you are well


Thanks for that.

I am still working through issues with my people. For some reason (and in hind sight I suspect we put ourselves under unhelpful time pressure - it was probably a two dayer) the mediation didn't click and it wasn't just you. I was off my game and my client wasn't ready to move on....altogether an unhelpful combination.

I will get back to you but we are still hoping to resolve it. We did go back with a counter offer but the contract issues still needed to be finalised. Those became complex and nailing a position has proved a bit tricky.


Tuesday, September 11

mediator blah... blah... goes retro

Download the free blah... blah... bookmark that I am putting in the LEADR Conference pack next week - and it's all good if you have a colour printer.

You can find the instructions for putting the bookmark together by clicking on comments below. If you really can't do it yourself, and you promise to give a bunch of these out at your next mediator get-together, I might even mail you some of the ones I have had professionally printed and laminated if you leave me a name & postal address in the comments.

Marquette University's Selective Resource Guide

Marquette University's guide to online resources and print material currently available is a useful list.

The guide is broken into the following categories:
Primary Sources
Videos (some new stuff here)
Associations and Organizations
Other Key Online Resources

P.S. I don't mean to brag, but I will since the guide does not list this blog and its a good example of the currency of blogs versus static web pages - you first read about the "recent survey" mentioned in Marquette University's guide (which looks to be dated August '07) months before here in early June '07

Monday, September 10

The Joy Of Groups

This 40 page slide show may be of interest to those working with groups - The Joy of Groups: An introduction to the stages of group development and essentials for conflict resolution

Saturday, September 8

Leadership in Mediation #2

Colm Brannigan of Ontario kindly left a comment on my recent post on Leadership in Mediation mentioning an article called Through the Looking Glass: Mediator Conceptions of Philosophy, Process and Power by Colleen Hanycz at Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto.

It's an academic piece and it's good. Here is the link.

Friday, September 7

Setting up mediation practice in Second Life.

I have posted in the past about setting up a mediation practice in Second Life.

My view?... interesting, but right now all too hard especially when staying afloat in first life seems sometimes... well, a struggle.

But it's happening.

Lawyers are setting up practice in Second Life including Viggo Boserup, a full time mediator with JAMS (Santa Monica), and an active Second Life member.... and where lawyers go mediators are sure to follow.

Eat toast in bed - go to sleep with crumbs

In two mediations recently, I ever so gently broached the subject of responsibility.

The first mediation was a construction defect case, the second - a joint venture dispute.

In private with the claimant party in each case, I wondered out loud what measure of responsibility they might factor in for their part of the dispute they now found themselves consumed by.

I explained this may be important when evaluating any proposal on the table later in the day.

In the construction defect case I enquired what that measure might be - on the basis that they had accepted the cheapest tender by far from an outfit that turned out to have a sorry history in this town - sure from their perspective the builders were cowboys - but they could have found this out had they bothered to enquire prior to contacting.

In the JV case it was more along the lines - what would they factor in for their own decision to partner with someone who was perfectly honest and competent, but just ended up not to be a good fit for them?

The responses were interesting.

The construction people resisted the exercise; the JV people were, it turned out, angry at themselves for a rare lapse in judgement and happy to learn (and pay for) a lesson that would stand them in good stead for the future.

As they said, a little harshly I felt - 'if you lie down with dogs - you get up with fleas'.

... crumbs or fleas. Hey, I get it.

Thursday, September 6

Drafting dispute resolution clauses that work

This guide to writing D/R clauses from my old law firm last week.

Not bad either, especially for NZ readers.


You gotta' be quick in the blogosphere - thinking I was doing so under the radar, I have quietly been preparing my presentation to LEADR's 9th International ADR Conference in a couple of weeks time, online at an orphan page on my website.

My paper - 40 Sites in 40 Minutes is a romp through the ADR cyberspace stopping off at some of my favourite places.

Conference goers will be encouraged to bring their own wireless laptops and come on tour with me by visiting the page on the web and clicking the links. Those without laptops can follow along on the big screen.

But I have been outed over at Vickie Pynchon's IP ADR Blog and Stephanie West Allen's Brains on Purpose and idealawg who posted here, here and here yesterday linking to my draft paper.

My, those girls are QUICK!

Well, now that I'm out, how about telling me what I've have missed?

Remember, my friends, the paper is called 40 Sites... so when you tell me what needs to get on the list, you need to tell me what goes off!

Wednesday, September 5

AAA Unveils Enhanced Mediation Servies & Procedures

Sept. 4, 2007 - The American Arbitration Association has introduced significant changes to its mediation services, including revising its Mediation Procedures to provide a new pricing structure that lets parties file a mediation case with the AAA at no cost... [read more]

Peace and Collaborative Development Networking

Take a look at what appears to be a brand new addition to our online community.

The Peace and Collaborative Development Networking is a free professional networking site to encourage interaction between individuals & organizations worldwide involved in development, human rights, civil society development, conflict resolution, democratization, and related fields.

You can join up and you are encouraged to dialogue and share resources. You can find practitioners from around the world and you can even create your own blog post.

There are also video and forum pages!

Find out more here at the user guide

The brains behind the project is Craig Zelizer, Ph.D. a Visiting Assistant Professor to Georgetown University and Senior Partner of Alliance for Conflict Transformation and he has created this social network on Ning

Tuesday, September 4

Purchasing Habits of Sophisticated Mediation Services Consumers

Just out today, LA mediator Jeff Kichaven's Purchasing Habits of Sophisticated Mediation Services Consumers

PON gives back

In the nicest possible way, I have always been a little underwhelmed when sifting through Harvard's Program on Negotiation online space - given what a towering influence PON is on our field.

There always looked to be a mountain of good stuff there but it was all under lock and key.

But, that was then. This is now.

Take a look at all this outrageously generous, freely available Harvard resource;

1. PON Webcasts (video)

PONcast (have a recent article from the Negotiation newsletter read to you)

An Intern's Life at PON (blog)

Sample article from the September '07 issue of the Negotiation Newsletter

Negotiations Research Network (online working papers)

PON Negotiation Journal (some old articles)

7. Negotiation Pedagogy Online Forum (this doesn't seem to have sparked)

Max Bazerman of PON;

9. Robert Mnookin of PON;

Monday, September 3

Comments on Spirituality in Mediation

My last post on spirituality in mediation attracted 3 great comments from leaders of our mediation community's online discussion deserving their own post.

First read my last post and Colin Rule's post to which I link, then these comments will make more sense. Its the kind of conversation YOU need to participate in;

Michael said...
There are two concepts people confuse, including most game theorists:

1. Coordination, a conflict which require only that some people coordinate their activities, but not that they care about promoting each other's utility.
2. Cooperation, a conflict which requires more than coordination. We have to actively care about each other's utility and promote it.

There are a lot more of the first type of conflicts than the second. Arguably no fuzzy warm feelings are needed to solve the first class of problems.

Dina Lynch, said...
Geoff, it's not just you. I feel it, too.

When I talk about bringing business systems and standards to mediation to drive profit, the reactions I receive range from polite disdain to outright hostility. And, this from folks who swear they are committed to open communication and hearing all perspectives. Is being practical wrong?

We cannot expect mediation to evolve into a viable, sustainable profession for the many unless a few of us begin to cooperate and coordinate our work and practices--riffing on the ideas Colin and Michael started. It seems to me that we squander our time and energy, which can be better spent, when we fight amongst ourselves over how we approach our talents.

Needs more thought...thanks for calling me and others to awareness about it.

Diane Levin said...
Geoff, you've put your finger on one of those denominational differences (if I may use a word in keeping with a discussion on spirituality's role in mediation practice) that divides the mediation community.

As an atheist, I personally have little use for or interest in getting in touch with the so-called spiritual aspect of conflict. In the article you cite, Eileen Barker tries to make the case that spirituality is critical to our effectiveness as practitioners.

She begins by raising an important question:"In commercial mediations, for example, parties frequently achieve settlement of the lawsuit, but leave the mediation with lasting enmity toward the opposing party and often, considerable hostility toward the legal system as well.

Is this the best we can do? Sometimes it is.

However, we owe it to our profession, our clients and ourselves, to be willing at least to grapple with the harder issues and, when possible, provide options for better outcomes." She's absolutely right. We can undoubtedly do better. When key interests are left unresolved and value remains behind on the mediation table, or parties have been bullied by mediators into accepting a resolution that meets no one's best interests--we can most certainly do much, much better.

So far so good. Barker has more to say:"As conflict resolution professionals, we are uniquely required to engage with parties and attorneys on multiple levels, including the intellectual, psychological, and emotional. We often encounter intense states of defensiveness, posturing, denial, confusion, anger, fear, frustration, disappointment and on and on. Our effectiveness depends, in large measure, on our ability to understand and navigate the human psyche, in all of its realms. Along the way, we learn to bring our hearts into our work, not just our heads." Again, she's right here, although I'm not sure I'd say that it's my heart that I'm using. I'd use a different anatomical metaphor--I'd be inclined to say it's my gut instincts as a professional--which I view as very much a part of the workings of my mind--the locus of which is indeed my head.

Personally speaking, I need and my clients want real-world tools for practice that will enable disputants to address core interests and create realistic, workable solutions. The sciences--sociology, psychology, and other fields--hold answers for understanding and explaining human behavior in conflict and negotiation. There's plenty in the earthly toolbox that mediators like me can utilize.

But then Barker says this:"Beyond this, lies the next frontier, the spiritual aspect of conflict and conflict resolution. When we speak of the potential for true resolution of conflict and making peace, we are called upon to move to a level of awareness that transcends the intellect, the psyche, and even the emotions." Now she's lost me--and I my patience. It's at this point that I say, "Says who?" Why does it logically follow that spirituality constitutes the "next frontier"? One could just as easily--and more credibly--make the case that the next frontier in conflict resolution should be cognitive psychology.

This reminds me of the argument that I've heard conservatives make that belief in God is essential to being a moral person. Does the fact that a spiritual element is missing from my own practice make me less effective as a mediator?

Thanks for thinking out loud about this, Geoff. Like Colin I too want to remain open to these conversations, but they leave me feeling isolated within my own community.

Great post.

Saturday, September 1

Spirituality in Mediation

Colin Rule has given us something to think about in his August post Finding the roots of cooperation in game theory.

He argues that there are a whole bunch of drivers motivating people to cooperate when in conflict, including economic and biological.

And whilst it is not his central premise, he bravely takes a swipe at our kissing cousins at the therapeutic end of the scale when he says;

"I think the missing link in conflict resolution is game theory. There are legions of practitioners who will talk about the spiritual side of peacemaking, or how mediation is more art than science, or about the links between mediation and meditation. I try to remain open to those conversations, but I think they alienate more people than they attract to the field..."

And it's this aspect of his post that caught my eye, probably because of my own proclivity.

But is it just me or are others slightly apologetic when, at gatherings of mediators, we are not the softly spoken ones with the 70's vibe and wardrobe to match, instead muttering something about being problem solving mediators earning a living deep inside the canyons of our own local sin city?

Like in this article by David Hoffman Confessions of a Problem Solving Mediator where he makes a gracious attempt to put the case on our behalf.

Or for another view, this recent article by Eileen Barker What The Bleep Does Spirituality Have To Do With Conflict Resolution?

For those of us who practice in the hardnosed world of lawyers, court systems, corporations, government entities, and the like, spirituality might seem like an odd topic. What does spirituality have to do with mediation or conflict resolution?"