As a Dean, I am responsible for occasionally interviewing guests on PPI's weekly teleconferences. My first interviewee will be long-time friend and colleague Gary Friedman. I will be talking with Gary about his newest book Inside Out: How Conflict Professionals Can Use Self-Reflection to Help Their Clients. He will tell us about the important role self-awareness and reflective practices play in working effectively with clients, particularly as a conflict professional. We will also hear from him about a program he's developed to increase professional self-awareness. This program is a major focus of Inside Out, a book I highly recommend. Please join us on August 11, at noon Eastern. If you are not a member of PPI, you may acquire guest access by emailing.
Also in August . . .
Each year, PPI holds its annual Rendezvous, an opportunity to learn and to meet some extraordinary people from around the world. This year the event will be held August 5-7. Here's more information about the Rendezvous. Consider coming to Colorado this summer for a truly unique gathering.
Norman, thanks very much for agreeing to participate in my series of interviews of thinkers and practitioners who have ideas that are valuable for the legal profession. I am grateful that you are taking the time to answer my questions, and know many readers will appreciate your generosity and wisdom, too.
I have been very impressed with the program that you and Gary Friedman have designed for lawyers and other conflict professionals. In addition to specific contemplative practices, your program includes a general focus on self-awareness. How does self-awareness improve a lawyer’s level of client service?
Self awareness is a prerequisite for awareness of others. It eventually leads to it. The more you can see and feel what's going on in you, with some wisdom and equanimity, the more you can see and feel others with accuracy and sympathy. So self awareness makes you more sensitive to people, what they are feeling, needing, wanting. You become much more conscious of relationship, the nuances of human interaction. This is valuable simply for being human, but for lawyers, who work depends on being able to understand others and their motivations and needs, is it even more valuable. No matter what kind of law you do, a cornerstone of lawyering is the relationship with the client. To establish a trusting relationship with a client, one in which the lawyer really understands the clients needs and perameters, emotional intelligence (which means self awareness and awareness of others) really helps. And it helps too in determining how to deal with opponents, judges, negotiation, and more or less everything lawyers do.
Thanks very much for your response, Norman. I am often asked by lawyers if there is a way to achieve mindful self-awareness without meditating. What are your thoughts on that question?
Meditating is not the only way to be self aware of course. In our work with Gary Friedman we designate nine practices. Things like journaling, taking times for conscious reflection, taking three breaths in midst of emotional situations. But meditation supports all these other practices and strengthens them. And, since mindfulness and deep self reflection depend on the capacity ultimately to be able to be "non-judgmental" that is, to step outside your usual story of how things are, meditation is essential, because only it can help to foster that. But there are many ways to meditate. In any case, self reflection practices, without meditation,are still enormously helpful. Especially when you are clearly aware of their limitations (ie, that your self reflection is always limited by your own limited point of view).
New research from Columbia Business School challenges conventional wisdom about making an initial offer during a negotiation. To get the best deal, you may want to consider offering a range of options rather than a single number.
Whether bargaining for catering, a new car, or a starting salary, psychological scientists Daniel Ames and Malia Mason, found that when bargainers offered a modest range (asking for a starting salary of $50,000 to $54,000, for example) they secured better offers than when they suggested a single “point” number (say, $52,000).
Ames and Mason found that certain types of range offers worked better than others. The most successful strategy was using a “bolstering” range offer, where a negotiator starts with their desired price and stretches it in a more ambitious direction. For example, if your ideal salary is $70,000, your best bet is to suggest a bolstering range of $70,000 to $75,000.
The word "Truth" etched in the pieces of this sculpture on Canyon Road in Santa Fe
If we disagree with someone, we typically view the other person as more influenced by bias than are we. That perception of bias can be a monumental obstacle to conflict resolution. But what to do about perception bias? In their chapter "Bias Perception and the Spiral of Conflict," in Ideology, Psychology, and Law, Kathleen Kennedy and Emily Pronin suggest three methods of increasing success in conflict resolution and lessening the influence of this conflict spiral. All three are briefly summarized in this blog post at Law and Mind.
Of course, the one that most caught my attention was that related to self-awareness, a common theme around this blog and Brains on Purpose.
2. Introspective education – This strategy works to induce individuals to see themselves as less objective. By recognizing their own capacity for bias, individuals might be better equipped to resolve their conflicts peacefully once they realize that the other side, while biased, is no more biased than oneself and, therefore, likely has some rational reasons for believing what they believe. A mediator can implement this strategy by educating individuals on the psychology of implicit biases and providing them with concrete demonstrations of their own implicit attitudes (by administering the IAT [different link], for example).
The Implicit Association Test IAT has come under a lot of criticism (see, e.g., this article) and I would not recommend it as a method of increasing awareness of bias. However, increasing the self-awareness of parties to a dispute can be very helpful. The role of the mediator in educating parties about concepts such as bias perception and other components of self-awareness (i.e., how their brains and minds operate in conflict) is not agreed upon among mediators. Many think that kind of education is outside the purview of the conflict professional. What do you think?
Drama, trauma, greed, and crisis at end of life present angst and opportunity. In fact, these are the elements of a Greek tragedy in which power, control, sibling rivalry, patriarchal privilege, and other thorny issues threaten to tear families apart. The inheritance battles escalate as the older adult loses mental capacity. Growing a thriving collaborative trusts & estates practice in service to these conflicted families is a way to make a profound and lasting impact at a critical time. Transforming regret, repression, and depression into full self-expression – especially when it is messy -- is cause for celebration. During this training, Estate Planning Lawyer and Mediator of Estate Battles John O’Grady equips you to begin to navigate the epic conflicts about death, taxes, and inheritance so those you serve can address the underlying conflicts, salvage important relationships, and welcome a measure of inner peace, love, and understanding.
“In most cases, the conflict is not about who inherits the dining room table. It’s about the issues under the table that are just now seeing the light of day.”
A colleague and close friend of mine is in San Diego this weekend attending a Remo Drums HealthRHYTHMS course, being taught by Christine Stevens (videos of Stevens). I am looking forward to hearing all about what she learned when she returns to Colorado because for many years I have been interested in the use of music for conflict resolution (see my past posts on that topic here). The use of music with and for aging seniors has also been a long-time interest.
Music is an important component of the human experience. The use of music in culture has been a documented feature of the history of civilizations. Types of music have been uniquely associated with distinct feelings, experiences, and social interactions. Cultures have incorporated music into the educational process, religious and tribal rituals, and patriotic expressions. Music conveys features of culture both with lyrics and melody. Vocal music has been used both as a contemporary vehicle and an archival mechanism to transmit important cultural, moral, spiritual, and historical events and values. Music has been used to calm, to enable feelings of safety, and to reduce the social distance between people.
Music can be a very potent and effective tool. The drum, one of the most basic instruments, provides a way any of us, no matter how musically unskilled, can use the tool of music actively, playfully, and easily.
HealthRHYTHMS Basic Training teaches a fun, evidence-based whole person strategy which promotes socialization and ensures a healthy non-strenuous workout. On a deeper level it builds bridges while fostering nurturing, support, camaraderie, self-respect and respect for others. It is not really about drumming, but uses the drum as a tool for communication and personal expression. This system can be integrated as a therapeutic strategy in group counseling sessions, support groups, rehabilitation centers, schools, hospitals, aging facilities and more.
I can think of a few law firms that could benefit from a drum corps in the hallways.
What background do you need to succeed as a mediator? Any advantages to being a lawyer? Challenges and rewards in this field? These are some of the questions answered by mediation old-timers in "Who Wants To Be A Mediator?" (Dispute Resolution Magazine), an article written back in 2010.
All of us who have been active mediators for any significant time are asked time and again, “How can I get into the field? Is mediation as enjoyable as it appears to be? What will it take for me to become a successful mediator?” We asked these questions of 31 mediators who began mediating in the 1970s and 1980s and who have remained active in the field to this day. These mediators have experience in the areas in which mediation has been most widely used: business and commercial, construction, product liability, employment, divorce, labor management, neighborhood, environmental, community, and public policy matters.
Despite the variety of their areas of practice, the views of these mediators were remarkably consistent. They found mediation to be immensely satisfying work. They noted the value of patience, persistence, and legal experience in becoming successful in the mediation marketplace. They also commented on the importance of mediation training, mentoring, practice, and marketing. Finally, they commented on the challenges—and advantages—of turning to mediation as a second career.
Gary Friedman also told us that he thinks some of the original promise of mediation has been compromised.“For me mediation was really about flipping the basic professional assumption that we knew better than people in a dispute about what they should do with their lives,” he explained.“The people that came to mediation in the beginning really got that. . . . [O]ver time that changed because lawyers got involved, and said, ‘Well, this is a settlement conference, we know how to do this.’”
A number of mediators expressed concern that the field has become too specialized and routinized. Christopher Moore said that “because of the specialization dynamic, people get locked into one area of practice. One of the most wonderful things about my practice has been the cross- fertilization of ideas. You can take an insight from doing a family case . . . or any interpersonal case, and apply it to big public or international conflicts. . . . I worry that the specialization may prevent some of the great cross-pollination of ideas.”
Leonard Riskin described visiting a mediation firm whose members had “created a template, in which mediations began with a joint session and then stayed in caucuses for the remainder of the day. That was just the way it was. And I think that that format is more and more common. It bothers me to see this degree of inattention to what’s going on in an individual case.”
Summary The author reviews a workshop led by Gary Friedman for the Mediation Panel of the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. Friedman’s presentation emphasized the benefits of working with the parties in joint session – without caucusing.
I silently thanked Mr. Friedman this week while mediating an interpleader action involving individuals with competing claims to life insurance proceeds. After reading the court file and meeting with the parties, I “knew” how the funds should be allocated. But, thinking of Friedman’s model, I did not separate the parties in order to suggest “my” number in caucus.
Instead, I kept the parties together and had them share their stories about the deceased, their relationship to him, and how they viewed the life insurance policy. After two hours of discussion, some of which was emotional and uncomfortable, one party blurted out the allocation that she considered fair – and, as it so happened, it was “my” number. The other party nodded her head in agreement; the case settled. By taking the time to work through the conflict with each other, the parties reached the allocation in a manner that gave them more certainty, more satisfaction, and an opportunity to reconcile with one another. The mediation took extra time, but it was worth it.
If you believe as I do that a mindful mediator is a more effective mediator—both because of his or her adept ability to utilize conflict resolution skills but more importantly because of the direct effect he or she has on the parties' affect (i.e., mood)—then I have a suggested program for you below.
No surprise to any of you who read my blogs: I think the reflectiveness, the mindfulness, of the mediator is significant, sometimes paramount, in the resolving of disputes. That mindfulness state is what in my opinion moves a dispute professional from adequate to excellent, to one who serves clients in a manner that is outstanding.
Because I think both play and self-knowledge can enhance our mindfulness, I am recommending a workshop to you. It's being taught September 18-21, by Doctors Bonnie Badenoch and Theresa Kestly in the artist and farmland community of Corrales, New Mexico, near the Rio Grande River. Click for all the details and to register. I have taken two seminars from Bonnie in the past, read two of her books which I recommend frequently, and believe she is gifted at working with clients. Even though I have not yet taken a class from Theresa, I know much about her approach and philosophy because I have read and appreciated several chapters of her forthcoming book The Interpersonal Neurobiology of Play. Both she and Bonnie are well-grounded in the science that underlies what they practice and teach.
So if you want to enhance your ability to resolve disputes while having fun in a beautiful setting learning from two mindful experts, sign up here.
Note: To learn more benefits of play, go to some of my past posts: here, here, and here.