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“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 [...]

Czech Innovation

Hradec Kralove

Czech Innovation: “Mediation Assistants”

Fascinating visit to the Czech Republic recently. I was asked to provide the training for a group of ‘mediation assistants’. Never having heard the term before I was intrigued. I flew to Prague (stag-night capital of Europe) and after a reasonably terrifying drive through a rainstorm arrived in in Hradec Králové, the country’s 8th largest city. Away from Prague’s metropolitan tourism the area is largely agricultural with a fair amount of unemployment. Against this backdrop my hosts had made their bold proposal to the EU to provide employment opportunities by training people as ‘mediation assistants’.

So who is a mediation assist [...]

Contrasting mediations….richness awaits…..

I write here about two contrasting experiences which have, for me, underscored the richness of the mediation process.

In one mediation, involving business partners with an ongoing management issue, one of the protagonists (A) suggested bringing in another partner (D) who was not perceived to be a part of the present problem, simply to observe, be a resource to the participants and help balance numbers as A, a more junior partner, felt outnumbered by B and C who held senior positions.

D made clear at the outset that he did not wish to say much and that he did not wish to become embroiled. However, a private meeting with him elicited much information that seemed helpful going forward. Rather [...]

Mind the Gap: Mediation and Justice

Justice Scales

Intellectual life is beset by ‘gap’ problems. Philosophers wrestle with the ‘mind-body problem’: the gap between material and non-material aspects of human existence. All science can be construed as an attempt to bridge the gap between what is and what we can imagine: an inductive corrective to deductive supposition. Roger Cotterrell describes law’s gap problem in these terms: “What is the relationship between law and social reality?” (Roger Cotterrell, Living Law: Studies in Legal and Social Theory. Farnham: Ashgate, 2008, p.21)

The field of conflict resolution has its own gap problem: the alleged gap between mediation and justice.
“[Mediation] does not contribute to su [...]

Kaizen and Cellos – How To Become A Better Mediator

300px-Pablocasals

The legendary cellist Pablo Casals was once asked why he continued to practice at the age of 90. “Because” he replied, “I think I’m making progress”.

It is an extraordinary acknowledgement from a man widely regarded as one of the greatest ever cellists. Let’s be clear – Casals was a colossus in his world. Fritz Kreisler (himself a brilliant violinist) called him “the greatest musician ever to draw bow”. He played for English Queen Victoria at 22 and the American president John F. Kennedy in his eighties. And yet we find him, in his nineties, still committed to making progress.

The same question confronts all of us, in any field, who aspire to do something well. We mediator [...]

Falling Upward?

I have been reflecting recently on the individual and collective professional journeys we all undertake – and on the different stages we reach. My reading has taken me to a thought-provoking book by theologian Richard Rohr, entitled Falling Upward.

Rohr’s thesis, put very simply, is that there are two stages to life. The first, necessary, stage involves building up a career with an identity, fulfilling ambition, acquiring material things, seeking security and achieving status. The second stage, which not everyone reaches, incorporates and transcends the first as we achieve a certain peace, appreciate the important things, accept things as they are and subordinate the ego. It involves unlea [...]