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.
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.”
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.
In this interview (Caucus on Mediation) of long-time mediator Gary Friedman, he answers that question and several others. And in the interview he mentions his forthcoming book Inside Out which will go into the topics of this interview and many more in great depth. I'm looking forward to reading it!
Click on over to the interview to see what Friedman says about how a mediator can prepare to be an effective conflict professional.
The most important thing as a mediator is to understand yourself and to be able to access what’s happening inside you when you’re in the presence of people who are in conflict, and to be able to use that to draw the pathway for the others. What happens, as mediators, is that we often sit together with people and we say to ourselves “Oh, that person is right, that person is wrong, we like that person, we don’t like that person”, and then we say “On, no, I’m neutral”. I pay attention to the feelings that I have inside. The central quality for the mediator is to be able to take the internal reactions we have to people and to be able to use them to understand what they are about, understand ourselves – this is the last part of the “understanding” in our model of mediation – and to be able to turn that in a way where we find ourselves closer to the people we don’t like. Usually, when we have a bad feeling, we don’t like someone, we are angry with someone or we’re upset by him or her, then we lose patience and want to push them away. They feel it. We can’t pretend it’s not there. But we can work with that feeling to understand what it was that generated the negative reaction when we met that person. It’s turning anger and bad feelings into curiosity. We can take the differences we have with other people, which
People involved in civil lawsuits prefer mediation to nonbinding arbitration and like judge trials better than jury trials, a new study by a University of California Davis law professor concludes.
Overall, litigants like mediation, trials before judges and negotiations that include participants along with their attorneys more than all other forms of alternative dispute resolution, the study by Donna Shestowsky shows.
Pioneer of conflict resolution and long-time mediator Gary Friedman has chosen an apt title for his forthcoming book: Inside Out: Working Through Conflict. Because I too believe mediation is partly an inside job—that the self-awareness of the mediator is a critical component of effective conflict resolution—I am very much looking forward to this book. I also have much respect for Gary's skill and wisdom so have no doubt the book will be a valuable contribution to the field.
Below is an excerpt from the book; the excerpt was included in the Center for Understanding in Conflict newsletter. (Sign up for the online newsletter at Friedman's Web site.)
All this talk of feelings: Is this therapy?
Because the self-awareness work we do in our programs is so challenging, people resist it in many ways. Participants in some of our programs ask if we’ve crossed some kind of professional line in including the emotional dimension in our awareness of ourselves and our clients in our work. Does that put us in waters too deep for people who have not been trained as therapists?
That question interests me, because it is now clear in recent studies of decision-making and conflict that emotions are a central factor when parties make decisions and professionals try to understand what is happening with their clients. If we decide to avoid the challenge of understanding our clients’ feelings, we miss information that is essential to doing our jobs well.
Using emotions to inform conflict work is still not universally accepted, but my experience over decades has shown us the power of doing so—and the perils of remaining blind to the way our