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The Scottish Referendum: Torture for a Mediator

Saltire and union flag

Five days from now Scotland may be on its way to becoming the world’s newest country. Or it may not. Just over four million of us will vote on September 18th to determine future political arrangements on the British Isles (affecting some sixty million others). Depending on your point of view, you might say with Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

The best of times: there is a tremendous energy about the place; the world’s media (even England’s) has descended; people are debating in families, pubs, cafes and street corners; there is a surge in national pride; poets, singers and artists are dreaming dreams of a better world.

The worst of times: there is h [...]

The Scottish Referendum: Torture for a Mediator

Saltire and union flag

Five days from now Scotland may be on its way to becoming the world’s newest country. Or it may not. Just over four million of us will vote on September 18th to determine future political arrangements on the British Isles (affecting some sixty million others). Depending on your point of view, you might say with Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

The best of times: there is a tremendous energy about the place; the world’s media (even England’s) has descended; people are debating in families, pubs, cafes and street corners; there is a surge in national pride; poets, singers and artists are dreaming dreams of a better world.

The worst of times: ther [...]

Getting to Yes…or No?!

On Thursday 4 September, Collaborative Scotland hosts a Day of Dialogue which will focus on respect and reconciliation in the lead up to, and after, the independence referendum in Scotland on 18 September. It is not about Yes and No but how we will live and work together regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

Conversationalists include David Melding, the deputy presiding officer of the Welsh Assembly, Conservative politician, and author of Reforming the Union: Britain as a Federation, who will address the wider constitutional issues in the British Isles with Conor Murphy, a Sinn Fein MP and influential figure in Northern Ireland politics. At lunchtime, Douglas Alexander, MP, shadow fo [...]

The Physical Dimension of Mediation: lessons from Africa

Different_kinds_of_bows_in_eo

I have written before on this blog about ‘mediating from the neck up’: my conviction that I was taught (and teach) a rationalistic, even cerebral, process that privileges thought over emotion and language over movement (see http://kluwermediationblog.com/2013/12/13/mediating-from-the-neck-up/ ).
As I acknowledged at the time, having this insight and doing something about it are two quite different propositions. How in practice do we mediate with the whole person?

Last week I witnessed a startling illustration of the power of the physical realm in our work. Strathclyde Law School (Glasgow, Scotland) runs an annual mediation summer school with John Marshall Law School (Chicago, Illinois) [...]

It only takes a few moments……

It was just a few moments. “You can’t play on our course without proper golf shoes.” “But we played here two days ago in these shoes.” “My colleague must have made a mistake”. “But it was you who let us play…”. “It’s in our rules.” “Where?” “Here.” “No it’s not. There is nothing about soft spikes. Only shirts with collars…”

Those few moments remain seared on my brain. Out of the window went respect and courtesy. The trigger had been triggered. After a futile exchange, we grudgingly accepted the starter’s offer of golf shoes to wear, free of charge. And then there was the “you must have a bag each” rule. On a hotel 9-hole course? Forgive me but [...]

“To See Ourselves as Others See Us”: the surprising potential of Online Dispute Resolution

Many of us have been hearing about Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) for years but haven’t quite got round to using it. It sounds like a nice idea when face-to-face mediation isn’t an option through distance and/or cost. And yet I suspect that for most mediators the ‘gold standard’ is being in the same room as our clients. We can see people, hear them, feel the emotional temperature; we can also speak, use our eyes, use our hands; even jump to our feet when things get stuck. A small screen, by contrast, seems flat, miniature and limited.

However, if precedent is anything to go by, it would be foolish to bet against the forward march of technology. The first PCs were large, expensi [...]

The Rise and Fall of Tension

Tension Raising Behaviours;

100% statements

Labelling

Put downs and excitable statements

Threats

Interpreting/analysing/patronising/matronising

Collecting allies

Non-verbal behaviours

Preparing an attack

Sarcasm

Defensiveness/self justifying

Over detailing

Tension Reducing Behaviours;

Acknowledging probable legitimate concerns

Put in perspective

Be specific

Own the interpretation

Own the personal response

Invite feedback

Invite response

[...]
Lessons in Life for Mediators?

I am interested in convergence – of ideas, of behaviour, of trends, of different disciplines. The more I read, the more common themes I discern in the arts, science, spirituality, leadership and in what we do as mediators. A reflection of this is found in the African concept of ubuntu, “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others.” These are the words of Nelson Mandela. Ironically, one of the finest books I have come across recently which encourages this idea of convergence is Mandela’s Way: Lessons in Life, by Mandela’s biographer, Richard Stengel.

In fifteen short chapters, Stengel captures the essence of what made Mandela special – and each one of [...]

The Settlement Drift

According to commentator Rachel Maddow in her book “Drift,” the way the United States goes to war has gradually become more secretive and less democratic. She observes that in the last half century, the decision to go to war has become too easy. This is contrary to what the Founders of our nation had in mind. Hence, we have “drifted” away from our founding principles about war.

The drift in our ability to go to war is similar to what has become of modern mediation in the litigation arena. Initially a product of the desire for more efficient and cost effective settlements, the mediation session was seen as the final play in the drama. The moment the curtain would close and the audien [...]

Our best negotiators are humble people …

Talking to Dr Gilbert Wong
Senior Superintendent, Commanding Officer, Police Negotiation Cadre, Hong Kong

Walking into Gilbert Wong’s office is like stumbling into Aladdin’s Cave – a treasure trove of memories and stories of his 21 years in the Hong Kong Police Force. Amongst his library of books on crisis negotiation, psychology, counselling, psychotherapy and other relevant fields, there are mementos, certificates, awards and honours representing this negotiator’s passion for people and his commitment to developing the field of crisis negotiation. A certified hypnotherapist, and a graduate of universities in Australia and the United States, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) N [...]