Archive for December, 2012

December 6, 2012

10 Great Books for Mediators

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” –  Sir Richard Steele

In the spirit of year end “Best of” lists and gift ideas, I’ve decided to pull together a list of 10 great books for mediators.  This is not a list of books from this year only, nor really a “best of” list – 10 is way too small a number for that!  It’s a subjective list of books that I’ve read for the first time – or have returned to – this year, and that I’d recommend to other mediators to jolt their mediation practice.  The holidays offer the perfect time to read a book you might not normally have time for and consider some new ideas for your mediation practice.  Many of these books are available through CoRe’s  aStore: purchases made through the aStore have the added advantage of supporting CoRe Clinic.

In no particular order, then, 10 Great Books for Mediators:

Mediators Handbook1. The Mediator’s Handbook, 4th edition – Jennifer E. Beer and Caroline C. Packard with Eileen Stief

The revised and expanded fourth edition of this mediation primer was released this fall and it’s well worth a look.  This text is practical, readable, and a great tool for new and experienced mediators.  If you have an older copy, the update is worth the price.

Dancing2. Dancing with a Ghost: Exploring Aboriginal Reality – Rupert Ross

Crown Attorney Rupert Ross discusses his own attempts to understand and learn from traditional Native teachings.  Particularly in conjunction with his second book – Returning to the Teachings – this work offers an accessible and mind-opening perspective on the relationship between indigenous people and the Canadian justice system.  Read this book as a jolt to dominant culture worldview.

250px-Clickclackmoo3. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type – Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin

Yes, it’s a children’s book, but I always liked it more than my children did.  It’s a labour mediation between the cows and Farmer Brown, with Duck in the role of mediator!  A great introduction to negotiating for children, and a fun read for adults.  There’s a reason that it was a Caldecott Honor Book.

eao-cover4. Everything’s an Offer: How to do more with less – Robert Poynton, illustrated by Gary Hirsch

This is one of the best books I’ve ever found on applied improvisation.  While the book is written with application to business, its cross-over value for mediators and conflict resolution professionals is obvious when you see that the bulk of the book is made up of “Let Go, Notice More, Use Everything – A Fundamental Grammar of Relationships and Communication”, “Shaping Stories”, and “Improvisation and the Joy of Uncertainty”.  I recommend it highly as an introduction to applied improvisation and a jolt to remind us not to “block” possibilities in negotiation through sheer habit and inattention.

post-its5. Rapid Problem-Solving with Post-it® Notes – David Straker

Definitely not a new book (published in 1997), but one I stumbled upon a few years ago and have found useful for commercial mediation work, in particular, simply because the techniques described have been adopted much more by the business world for strategic planning, brainstorming, etc. and are therefore familiar. The tools work well in large class settings for consensus building regarding selection of special topics for study, and can be applied to many training settings.  If you would like to add some easy visual and/or kinesthetic tools to your toolkit, check out this handy little book for inspiration.

cmc-cover-model-sm6.  Conflict Management Coaching: The Cinergy™ Model – Cinnie Noble

This one is a fairly new book, but one that many in the community have been enthusing over since its release.  Cinnie’s book is rightly touted as “thought-provoking”, “concise, comprehensive and informative” and an “outstanding contribution to the field of conflict management.”  Cinnie focuses here on coaching people on a one-on-one basis to improve their skills for engaging in interpersonal disputes, and the applicability to many mediation settings is obvious throughout.  I find the “synergy” amongst Cinnie’s reflective observations on coaching in workplace dispute, the more and more nuanced approaches being brought to bear in collaborative family practice by divorce coaches, and the increasing use of negotiation coaches/strategists in international business contexts inspiring.

DifinitiveCreativeImpasset-web7. Definitive Creative Impasse-Breaking Techniques in Mediation – ed. Molly Klapper, J.D., Ph.D.

While I would dispute the use of “creative” in the title of this New York State Bar Association 2011 publication, this is a handy reference for the new mediator learning and practicing impasse-breaking skills.  The primary focus is on a very specific style of court-based or “legal” mediation, and emphasizes the mediator’s role in assisting parties to evaluate their case as part of a primarily distributive bargaining process.  Within that sphere, the book offers a useful summary of such commonly discussed topics as using the lawyer as impasse breaker, helping parties to value a case, how to respond to “insulting” first offers, and dealing with the predictable pitfalls of positional bargaining.

Cover-burgundy8. Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up – Patricia Ryan Madson

Yes, it’s another improv book, but it’s also a particularly inspired and inspiring book on mindfulness and presence.  So broadly applicable is the message that the book was a recommendation of Wiser Now: The Alzheimers Disease Caregiver Tips newsletter.  As the author of that review writes, “Improv wisdom is about taking what life has given us and delighting in it to the fullest by connecting with the people who share our space on earth.”  That tells you just why I think this is a wonderful gift book: it offers the lifelong gift of delight.

5100021_big9. Psychology for Lawyers: Understanding the Human Factors in Negotiation, Litigation, and Decision Making – Jennifer K. Robbennolt and Jean R. Sternlight

Another new book for the list, Psychology for Lawyers turned out to offer one of the best readings on legal ethics I found for my Ethics and Professional Responsibility class this term – a chapter on Ethics that makes psychological sense of the question of how one finds oneself in an ethical problem in the first place and why we all tend to dig ourselves in deeper.  The book provides a great overview of current research into perceiving, memory, emotion, judgment shortcuts, decision-making, persuasion and interpersonal communication and has a full chapter applying these studies to negotiation and mediation.  If you are looking for a great resource on psychology, I’d suggest checking it out.

book_collab_thumb10. The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together – Twyla Tharp

You may have come across Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit?  The Collaborative Habit is billed as its sequel, but works well as a stand alone book on the power of collaboration. Drawing on stories from the world of dance, the author offers examples of the process of collaboration, its strengths and challenges.  Full of insights, the fact that the book is grounded in a different world (dance rather than mediation) is one of the reasons it connects so effectively: the resonances of shared experiences despite the difference in setting inspires self-reflection without the oft didactic feel of books that are about our own world.

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December 5, 2012

Impasse Breaking Gifts for Mediators

With gift lists for everyone from teachers and coaches to family pet and the newspaper delivery person filling the blogosphere this month, I am joining the crowd and focusing this post (and the next) on the question: What’s a great gift for a mediator?

The possibilities for great mediator gifts are endless, so I’ve narrowed my focus for this week to a top 10 list comprised of items that can serve the purpose of impasse breakers.  Next week, I’ll share my top 10 list of books for conflict resolution professionals and the following week, I’ll write about best impasse breaking apps for mediators.  And please add your own ideas!  My family will thank you.  (I’ve been using the Calvin risk analysis approach to Santa Claus for as long as I can remember.)

Top 10 Gifts for Mediators

10.  Mediator t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers

It’s been some time since I last searched for mediator paraphernalia – t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, etc. with catchy mediator logos – so I was pleasantly surprised to discover the growth of this area over the past few years.  I recall a time when I was lucky to be able to find “Mediators do it ’til everyone’s satisfied” bumper stickers to use as prizes in training courses.  While I can imagine some limited circumstances in which such a slogan could be appropriate in a real mediation to encourage folks to consider options rather than bunker down to spend hours more at the process (e.g. in a commercial mediation with experienced participants and no worrisome power imbalance), it’s inspiring to see so many more options out there now.

I hope that someone in my family considers the “Half Mediator, Half Ninja” button as a stocking stuffer.  It’s clearly designed to encourage settlement discussions!  And check out the rest of the options at zazzle.ca.  Aside from the ninja mediator slogan, I am confident that quite a few of the possibilities could trigger a good “pattern interrupt” in a mediation session.  “Trust me, I’m a mediator”, “Peace, Love, Mediation”, or “During the day, I dress up like a mediator” all offer a chance to lighten the mood and refocus.

9. Mediator socks for pattern interruption

Picking up from my thoughts on bright socks as pattern interruptions back in January 2011, I can’t resist suggesting great mediator socks as the ideal stocking stuffer.  The brightly coloured peace socks at left can be purchased online at Panda Sock Store. Other terrific sock options are available at Sock it to Me.  I’ll resist the ninja socks to go with my ninja pin, but consider the calfinated socks (at a great sale price!) as a statement about your endurance as a mediator.  Or the Super Pig socks as a retort to the inevitable “when pigs fly” stalemates. Or perhaps “SuperMediator” socks?  And do make sure that if you simply want to have tacky sweater socks as a seasonal conversation item that you order quickly.  This is the first year I’ve succeeded in getting my order in before they ran out!

Fantasy Island (David’s Tea)

8. Mediator teas

Tea has an incredibly long history – across numerous cultures – as a drink associated with ritual, social gatherings, work parties, etc.  The simple act of making and drinking tea together, then, can offer a break in a heated discussion and signify a positive commitment to resolving conflict.  Beyond its potential symbolic or ritual messaging, modern research supports the common perception of tea’s soothing quality.  Such herbal teas as lavender, chamomile, and passionflower have been recommended for years by herbalists for their calming qualities.  Ashwaghanda tea (traditionally used in ayurvedic medicine) has been shown to inhibit neural activity and to produce effects in rats comparable to those of the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam.  So, culturally and possibly even medicinally, tea makes sense as an item in the mediator’s toolbox.  I’d like to suggest a few forms of tea that might also contribute potential for interrupting an impasse.

More than a decade ago I stumbled upon a loose leaf tea blend called “Creativity” and stocked by Nikaido in Steveston.  Naturally, I had to bring home a bag, and I have served it in many a mediation since then – often in the afternoon of a day-long session when it’s helpful to be able to encourage/stimulate a bit more creativity.  Since then, I’ve watched for other teas that might serve the same sort of purpose and would suggest checking out some of the following:

7. Aromatherapy for the mediator’s mindset

Knowing that many people have serious sensitivities to scent, I would not suggest the use of aromatherapy in mediation – at least without confirming ahead of time that participants are comfortable with scent.  This does not, of course, include the common aromatherapy practice of situating mediations in environments where fresh baking is available and the scent induces a sense of comfort and provokes an appetite.  As many mediators have observed, people who break bread together are more inclined to engage in productive discussion. (See for example, Paula Young’s article.)

That said, the mediator’s mindset is an important factor in the process, and research suggests that essential oils may well contribute to a sense of calm that may carry over from the mediator to the parties.  With that in mind, perhaps the mediator who has everything would benefit from a Calm Essential Oil Blend of frankincense and orange?  Or Lavender bath salts?  Self-care is really part of the job, after all!

6. A personalized mediator playlist

Remember the romance of the mixtape?  Well, it may not involve all the work of making the perfect cassette, but the fact that the personalized playlist is easier to create has just led to its broader application: it’s so easy to create a digital playlist of highly specialized mixes (e.g. a mediation mix, or a mediator’s mood setting mix, or a topical mix about workplace disputes) that it’s not just the lovesick teenager who has time to create one.  What does your mediator like to listen to before a mediation?  Are there songs s/he might play in a mediation?

Here’s a few resources to kickstart your creativity:

And while this is by no means a mediator specific suggestion, consider giving Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time by Rob Sheffield as a complimentary, and tangible, item.  A wonderful and deeply touching book that underlines the potential power of music to connect people.

5. Dice sets

Every so often in mediation a final sticking point arises over a relatively small issue, such as the filing fee in Small Claims Court after the entire $25,000 claim has been negotiated.  Often presenting as “a matter of principle” or a point where face saving becomes a primary motivation, these late impasses are more likely than most to be resolvable on the basis of a coin toss or dice throw: it’s not so much about who wins, but compromise is unacceptable.  In these situations, chance decision-making offers the necessary face saving opportunity.  And, of course, offering the parties dice to throw to settle the dispute over the last $100 is itself an impasse breaking technique – it requires parties to consider what exactly is at stake in this final impasse, and may well lead to an offer to split the final monetary roadblock in some fashion.  As a result, some form of dice are a handy addition to the mediator’s regular toolkit, and here are a few possibilities for good stocking stuffer varieties:

  • Decision Dice (an elaborate dice set with an accompanying book of readings)
  • Decision Dice Stress Balls (a fun possibility – customize a dice stress ball to reflect your mediator’s personal practice)
  • Gamers’ die  (Just as Sheldon uses D&D dice to reach conclusions on all unimportant matters in the clip below, gamers’ dice offer options for resolving just about any dispute.  Widely available and widely varied, they’re a fun option that also allow for the possibility of rolling for “ability scores” – e.g. player who rolls the highest “persuasion” or “charisma” points convinces the other).

And you can accessorize your gamers’ dice with a great chain mail dice pouch!

4. Mediation apps

A gift certificate to purchase smartphone apps will be well received as a mediator gift if you also provide a list of suggestions of “apps for mediators”.  I will publish a list of my favourite mediator apps in two weeks’ time (subscribe to this blog to receive an email when it comes out), but in the meantime, try a google search for negotiation apps or search negotiation, mediation, deal making, creativity, etc. in your App store and build your own list of suggestions.

3. Referee/Umpire equipment

I’ve spoken in other contexts about my inadvertent discovery that the use of “cards” in a mediation can be remarkably effective, and it is based upon that experience that I recommend referee equipment of many sorts as mediator gifts.  In my case, I had just completed my coursework for field hockey umpire certification the night before a Small Claims mediation and happened to arrive at the mediation with the green, yellow and red penalty cards used in that sport still in my backpack.  Since I was mentoring two law students that day, I joked with them about using the cards in the mediation during our pre-mediation preparation session and left them out on a table behind us as the mediation itself started.  No doubt purely because they were visible, I couldn’t resist trying them out when the parties got into a unproductive, blaming discussion about past behaviour.  I brought them to the table and suggested that we should use them for ground rule infractions.  I had to explain the green card (which at the time was purely a warning to all players about a specific type of infraction that was happening too often rather than a penalty to one player), but the group was definitely sports-minded and intrigued by the idea.  So we identified the behaviours we would consider to be infractions and started up our discussion again.  Almost immediately, I committed a foul (intentionally, I admit) and the parties gleefully insisted that my fellow mediators card me.  From that point on, the parties were incredibly responsive to green cards being shown for such infractions of our mediation rules as rehashing past facts for the purpose of assigning blame, interrupting, etc. and they frequently carded themselves.  Such a response is not going to be universal, but …  if you referee a sport, are mediating in a sports-related context, and know that your parties (and counsel) are interested in sports (which is often obvious when you are first grouping and the entire room is discussing a game from the evening before), penalty cards are a viable tool to add to your toolbox.

I’d also suggest striped umpire jerseys (probably to wear at home, but you never know) and referee whistles (as more of a conversation starter on the role of the mediator than to blow loudly mid-mediation).  And personally, I need some pyjamas – and a quick internet search shows me I’m not the only one asking “where can I get referee pyjamas?”

2. A different kind of Professional Development

These gifts are not stocking stuffers – they tend towards the truly extravagant in price – but the potential for a truly practice altering experience is greatly increased by engagement in an experiential “jolt”.  Consider one of these options for a radical change of pace that still has clear linkages to the practice of mediation:

  • Buffoonery Workshops  Buffoonery workshops are about “getting out of your head and away from that inner critic”.  Not just for actors, buffoonery workshops address wellness, spontaneity, and team-building.  Give yourself or a mediator you know a real “jolt” and sign up for a buffoonery workshop for 2013.
  •  Theatre for Living workshops We are fortunate to have a wonderful local theatre company (Headlines Theatre) offering annual training in a theatre form derived from Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed.  Learn about this process for community dialogue and the tools of the “joker” whose role in many ways mirrors the mediator’s own.
  • Or get away for a week to really immerse yourself in a different form of dialogue and consider the Theatre of the Oppressed Training at the Mandala Centre in Port Townsend, WA.
  • I’m hoping to find a workshop on Metta Bhavana to build on the introduction to “the conscious projection of goodwill” as a tool in mediation that I gained from Martin Golder last year.  A quick search shows numerous local possibilities and I welcome recommendations!

On the less expensive side of things (and reflecting the fundamental purpose of this blog), don’t forget that a $50 membership in CoRe Conflict Resolution Society entitles a member to attend all 8 CoRe Clinic Speaker Series events for 2013.  You can purchase a membership or gift membership online at http://faculty.law.ubc.ca/coreclinic/Membership.html.  If you’re purchasing a gift membership, be sure to include the member’s name and email information in the notes section once you have entered Paypal.  Or email coreclinic1@gmail.com to confirm the membership information.

1. Mediator Bots

If you read my last post, you will be entirely unsurprised to discover that my #1 mediator gift this year is a Bot.  I love my Bots and may just be giving them to everyone I know this year – mediators, family members, random strangers!  Check out Gary Hirsch’s wonderful and flexible Bots at his Etsy shop and consider giving your favourite mediator a whole set of mediation Bots: Listening, Brave, Inspiration, Decision, Zen, Time and the all important Yes Bot.

December 3, 2012

Mediation “Bots”

“This Listening Bot has been programmed to listen unconditionally.”

My Listening Bot in the Surrey Provincial Court Mediation Room

If you happened to attend the mediators’ session at Mediate BC’s Child Protection Mediation Conference “Moving Toward Meaningful Engagement” last February, you already know that I discovered my new favourite mediation tool a little over a year ago.  My co-presenters, Julie Daum and Joyce Bradley, QC were characteristically patient and understanding about my growing excitement over Mediation “Bots” and my desire to proselytize their use in any and all mediation contexts.  Of course, the audience was limited to child protection mediators at that session and so there is still a world of mediators who may not have been introduced to Gary Hirsch’s wonderful “Bots” as handy tools for mediation.

Let’s start with what a “Bot” is: Gary’s Bots are tiny, handpainted robots – pieces of art painted on dominoes.  Each one is an individual, but there are categories of Bots that address different needs and “help” with specific functions.  For example, the Joy Bot “has been programmed to Create Instant Joy”.  Each Bot is accompanied by instructions.  In the case of the Joy Bot, the operating instructions advise:

  1. Allow your robot to get to know you by letting him watch you at your desk, kitchen, cubicle, or wherever you spend the most amount of time.
  2. Wait till he notices something great about you (it won’t take long) and then listen while he showers you with compliments and accolades.
  3. Share him with your family/friends and create a domino effect: slowly raising the world’s self esteem.

IMG_0054My first Bots arrived during the summer of 2011 when I was taking a short leave from mediation.  As a result, I first tested my Brave Bot on a week-long driving trip with my 16-year old daughter.  My daughter was preparing for her “N” test, but was experiencing considerable doubt and fear.  One of her earliest driving experiences involved black ice, a steep hill and lots of oncoming traffic, and she had not been able to re-capture a sense of confidence despite many hours of safe driving since then.  I proposed a driving trip through whatever parts of BC she wanted to see in the course of a week and we set off on a mission to gain confidence through marathon driving sessions on scary mountain highways.  What helped her to kickstart this trip was a Brave Bot.  The Brave Bot sat on the dashboard throughout the trip, and accompanied us everywhere.  The trip was a success, and I was sold on the Brave Bot.

While our Bots are still used within the family for lots of personal reasons – like the Get Started Bot I’m using to get going on this blog post! – I now think of Bots primarily as part of my mediator’s tool kit.

Jolts for Mediation

I’m sure you can imagine lots of uses for Bots as jolts for mediators, so I’ll concentrate on the use of Bots with parties to a mediation.  In all circumstances, I’ve found that parties are remarkably receptive to Bots.  While it may seem most obvious to provide Brave Bots to children meeting with the mediator to work out ways to bring their voice to a mediation table – and they can definitely be great for that – adults, commercial parties, lawyers, and others have all been willing to play along with my Bots as I introduce them to shift a difficult atmosphere or create a space to try a different approach to communicating.

The following 8 Bots are my favourites for mediation and form a permanent part of my “Mediator’s Toolbox”, but I encourage you to explore others as well. We could all use a Bot for something.

Listening Bots Listening Bot

The Listening Bot’s instructions tell you that the Bot has been programmed to listen to you without interruption, but for mediations I don’t share these instructions with participants.  The Listening Bot box says enough – this Bot is for Listening, and for my purposes is programmed to model listening and to help parties listen carefully and without interrupting.  This is the one Bot that I own multiples of since there’s usually more than one person who needs to be listening, although I expect that it would be quite possible to utilize a single Listening Bot as the opposite of a talking stick (or perhaps in conjunction with one?).

Zen Bot

The Zen Bot is a wonderful mood setter.  When everyone needs a break to regroup, the Zen Bot takes up its position in the centre of the table.  Alternatively, the Zen Bot can certainly be shared with a single participant in a caucus to help find enough calm to rejoin a difficult conversation.

Yes Bot

The Yes Bot is a tricky creature to use in a mediation, but opens the door to discussions of the improviser’s understanding of “Yes, and…” as it applies to listening in conflict.  The Yes Bot is programmed to offer unconditional permission, which does not necessarily translate directly when working with parties in conflict.  The idea of accepting an offer in the improvisational sense, however, can be an interesting discussion in mediation that may lead to greater willingness to engage in problem solving.  If we “accept” what the other person is saying, and that they believe it – even when we have an entirely opposed view of the situation –  we create the potential for future-focused discussion and can move away from our tendency to listen only to rebut.

Given that a discussion of “Yes, and…” deserves a great deal more development than is possible within this post, I’ll simply flag the incredible usefulness of the Yes Bot, and promise a full blog post on Accepting Offers in the new year.

Brave Bot

The Brave Bot certainly offers the learning mediator support in being brave enough to ask difficult questions.  Mediating itself feels remarkably risky when you are gaining experience, and, of course, one’s growth as a mediator depends on one’s willingness to risk learning new skills and using them.  Within a mediation in which the Bots had been introduced, I’ve used the Brave Bot to tell a participant that I am finding it difficult to raise a challenging subject matter with them, but feel that we need to discuss it before we can continue.  The use of the Brave Bot in that instance was simply a means of being as transparent as possible about the difficult nature of the topic.  Brave Bots can certainly be provided to parties as well – likely in caucus – to encourage discussion or support participation in a difficult setting.  And Brave Bots can be a means to encourage and solicit the voice of the child in a mediation.

Time Bot

The Time Bot has helpfully been programmed to “Stop Time” which allows you to “erase the evidence of [a] mistake or repeat an amazing moment over and over again”.  I like the idea of a “do over” or “mulligan” that the Time Bot permits for mediators and parties alike.  I’ve often shared with learning mediators Tom Northcott‘s wonderful advice when he was mentoring in the Court Mediation Program that “there are no mistakes in mediation, just great recoveries”: the Time Bot offers a wonderful tool for this recovery!  “Let’s just wind that back and start again…”  Similarly, the chance to repeat great moments fits well with the mediator’s efforts to underline points of agreement when possible.

Decision Bot

The Decision Bot has been programmed to help one decide.  While not everyone will want or appreciate a point of focus for decision-making, once a few of the other Bots are out in a mediation, this one may just appeal to a person trying to balance possibilities.

Inspiration Bot

An impasse-breaking tool if there ever was one, the Inspiration Bot can facilitate brainstorming, inspire the generation of lots of ideas, and act as a pattern interrupt as the mediator asks parties to transition from a storytelling, past-focused discussion of what happened to a future-focused discussion of what can be done now.

Caffeine Bot

The Caffeine Bot offers everyone a boost when needed, and can act like an Inspiration Bot for tired folks who need to perk up!

 

 

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