Archive for May, 2009

Saturday News Round Up

May 29, 2009

Mediation Bites… Really!

PORTSMOUTH — After a session of marital mediation in the district court’s family division, Elizabeth Loveday threatened to kill her estranged mate, then hit and bit the mediator, police allege.
Full article [here]

Coyotes Enter Mediation
Nope, not another ‘sensational headline grabber’ by me. I am referring the to Phoenix Coyotes- the hockey team and how they are now in mediation with the National Hockey League.

“On Tuesday, a U.S. Bankruptcy judge put on hold who controls the team and whether it can be moved to Canada.
The delay in those key issues gave the NHL encouragement that the Coyotes will at least play the 2009-10 season in the desert.”
Full article [here]

$25,000!
This is the amount a mediator is charging for a two day mediation.
“…The mediation is scheduled for today and Wednesday in Berkeley. The county and the contractor split the roughly $25,000 cost of fees for mediator Randy Wulff.”
Credit to Geoff Sharpe from Mediator Blah Blah for finding this story.
Full article [here]

Mediation- A Most Civil Job
It was five years of watching fierce arguments – often unresolved – as a Lexington School board member that made Robin DiGiammarino look into mediation as a form of conflict resolution. One of the basic principles she quickly learned wasn’t surprising: the source of most conflicts is a lack of communication…
Full article [here]

Housing Authority Calls For Mediation
Tempers seem to have cooled over the recent large, related fights on the southeast area of town, and local officials say they want to help keep it that way. Thirteen people face charges from two brawls on the 2300 block of Hollywood Boulevard and another at City High School last week. Up to 60 people, mostly juveniles but some adults, were involved in the fights, which attracted a lot of media attention….
Officials don’t plan to stop there. The Housing Authority is scheduling mediation with the families to try to resolve the dispute.
Full article [here]

Entrapment

May 27, 2009

Entrapment, means something much different in the world of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The legal term is basically setting someone up to commit a crime. The best example I can think of is the undercover female cop dresses up as a prostitute and makes the initial contact to potential ‘Johns’ and offering them services.

Entrapment in the ADR world is when a party, as an individual or group, feels they must continue down a certain path because they already have invested so much in this particular choice. Examples of the investment could be in the form of time, resources, or money.

Entrapment could be present in the early stages of a negotiation and also many times is a contributing factor to the escalation of a dispute or conflict. In the book Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis defines entrapment as,”a decision making process whereby individuals escalate their commitment to a previously chosen, though failing, course of action in order to justify or ‘make good on’ prior investments.”

Another way I like to explain the ADR version of entrapment is the party being guilty of having tunnel vision. All the party sees is one ‘route’ for them to take, which is the currently destructive one they are on. The best example is the person involved in litigation, and wanting to continue despite the costs rising, time lost preparing instead of being dedicating to other projects, and the decimating of what was once possibly a professional, multi-beneficial relationship with the other party.


Remember the kids show GI Joe, and the end of each episode they would give safety tips for children and end with “Knowing is half the battle.” I will not go into the whole issue of how our culture always seems to reference war, fighting and battles; that’s for a future blog post. The reference to the quote is great, now we know what entrapment is, now what? How do we help parties avoid it, and if they are unfortunately already imersed in it, move away from it?

Some quick tips are to assist the party to view the conflict not through the win-lose viewpoint or even the everyone loses stance. As I mentioned [here], zero-sum thinking is similar to the entrapment mindset in many ways. One, is emotions are heavily present and another is seeing things only on the level of positions. It is much easier to have that tunnel vision I mentioned when you think you have no other options.

This leads me to options. Expanding the choice of win-lose, lose-win, or lose-lose helps the party see there is a way out of what they see as the only choice. Brainstorming to create options involving both parties also helps breakdown the idea of battling against an adversary.

Before you even get to options, make sure everyone gets a chance to talk and tell their side of the story. Like I mentioned above, breaking down the idea of one option, talking together and listening together opens one’s mind to other choices and the potential consequences.

Entrapment in Escalating Conflicts: A Social Psychological Analysis By Brockner & Rubin available [here] and I am sure many other places

Beyond Intractabilty reviewed the above book [here]

Golden Nuggets

May 25, 2009

I decided to post some of the quick but important tips under the title ‘golden nuggets’. Why, firstly because it’s my blog and I do what i want! Secondly, and a bit more seriously, that is what I feel they are; short postings containing valuable information.

Today’s edition is if you pressed for time to give out your most valuable tips on communication, what would it be?

Tip one: I would say listen to what others are saying, don’t just ‘hear them’. Listening to them gives you valuable information and when you want more, ask an open ended question. Listen more than you speak.

Tip two would be when you do speak, chose your words and how you say them very carefully.

Tip three would be do not let emotions get the best of you. Stay calm, be the peace you want to see in others! Letting emotions get the best of you prevents you from fully being present to listen effectively and even worse, you will most say things you did not want to say.

What would you say?

The Ombuds Office at the University of Hawaii (talk about a dream job!) gives out these three tips (from here):

What you say and how you say it
*Use neutral language. Describe what you saw or heard. What sights and sounds would a video cam have recorded? “Edit out” any judgment, criticism or interpretation of what was seen or heard. * Own the message. I feel, I wish, I hope, I would like to ask. Let the conversation be about your needs or values, not what is (perceived to be) wrong with the other person, or what that person did or did not do.


What you hear and how you hear it
*Try to empathize with what the other person is feeling. By offering empathy you are simply creating a connection with the person – not stating that you agree with what was done or said.
*Acknowledge and make sure you understand the information being given to you. It’s often helpful to repeat what you heard to make sure you got it right.


What you do with the information
*Seek to understand the interests (needs, values, wants) of the other person. Ask for help in understanding why they are important to him or her.
*Search for common ground and a better future. Focus on what is desirable and possible now – you can’t negotiate the past.


Check out their great site [here]

Perception

May 24, 2009

For the 3rd and final post highlighting the Office of Quality Improvement & Office of Human Development (OHRD) at the University Wisconsin I want to first list their definition of conflict:

a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns.

When considering perception and how it becomes part of conflict, it is could benefit you looking at ‘perceptual filters’ which can influence our actions in a conflict. OHRD lists five factors that can shape these filters:
Culture, race, and ethnicity: Our varying cultural backgrounds influence us to hold certain beliefs about the social structure of our world, as well as the role of conflict in that experience. We may have learned to value substantive, procedural and psychological needs differently as a result, thus influencing our willingness to engage in various modes of negotiation and efforts to manage the conflict
Gender and sexuality: Men and women often perceive situations somewhat differently, based on both their experiences in the world (which relates to power and privilege, as do race and ethnicity) and socialization patterns that reinforce the importance of relationships vs. task, substance vs. process, immediacy vs. long-term outcomes. As a result, men and women will often approach conflictive situations with differing mindsets about the desired outcomes from the situation, as well as the set of possible solutions that may exist.
Knowledge (general and situational): Parties respond to given conflicts on the basis of the knowledge they may have about the issue at hand. This includes situation-specific knowledge (i.e., “Do I understand what is going on here?”) and general knowledge (i.e., “Have I experienced this type of situation before?” or “Have I studied about similar situations before?”). Such information can influence the person’s willingness to engage in efforts to manage the conflict, either reinforcing confidence to deal with the dilemma or undermining one’s willingness to flexibly consider alternatives.
Impressions of the Messenger: If the person sharing the message – the messenger – is perceived to be a threat (powerful, scary, unknown, etc.), this can influence our responses to the overall situation being experienced. For example, if a big scary-looking guy is approaching me rapidly, yelling “Get out of the way!” I may respond differently than if a diminutive, calm person would express the same message to me. As well, if I knew either one of them previously, I might respond differently based upon that prior sense of their credibility: I am more inclined to listen with respect to someone I view as credible than if the message comes from someone who lacks credibility and integrity in my mind.

Previous experiences: Some of us have had profound, significant life experiences that continue to influence our perceptions of current situations. These experiences may have left us fearful, lacking trust, and reluctant to take risks. On the other hand, previous experiences may have left us confident, willing to take chances and experience the unknown. Either way, we must acknowledge the role of previous experiences as elements of our perceptual filter in the current dilemma.

You can learn more about this and other topics on conflict from the OHRD site [here].

Sweets, Sex &…. Mediation!

May 21, 2009

Being a ‘People Person’ May Be All in Your Head

According to that title, I am sure I was a tabloid headline writer in a previous life. There is a connection to the three, really!

This headline has been making the rounds all over the Internet, including the homepage of Yahoo!

The opening paragraph to the US News & World Report (website link here) is the following:

TUESDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) — Regions of the brain that process pleasurable experiences such as sweet tastes and sexual stimuli are the same ones that determine whether an individual is a “people person,” say European researchers.

The Full article can be read [here], but for some of you, the above might be enough to start some great conversations.

By the way, if you have no idea who that is in the picture:

1) You are probably not laughing.

2) Please rent the movie Office Space at your earliest convenience.

Enjoy!

ADR News

May 20, 2009

Nukes & Mediation- A Role For Japan?
…It is appropriate that Japan, a non-nuclear nation and a major peaceful user of nuclear power, is serving as a mediator to eliminate distrust between nuclear-capable nations and non-nuclear states and restore trust in the NPT system.What do you think? Read the full article [here]

$68.2 Million Claim Heads to Mediation
The hope is that mediation will help build consensus and avoid further litigation that could be costly and take up more time, said Rachel C. Strickland, a New York attorney representing LandAmerica.
“I think this case is just screaming out for this kind of mediation,” Huennekens said.
In mediation, a bankruptcy judge of Huennekens’ choosing will first take on a claim that the Henrico-based LandAmerica filed against the exchange company.
The parent company gave a total of $65 million in loans to help the exchange company cover operating costs when investments in auction-rate securities became illiquid.

Full article [here]

Mediator Enters College & Union Talks
Contract negotiations between College of the Canyons and the union representing 450 part-time faculty members resume today, this time with the help of a mediator to work through issues involving pay and seniority rights.”Hopefully the mediation works out where the district sees the fairness of both issues,” said Beverly Cope, president of Part-Time Faculty United.
Full article [here]

Tamil Tigers Call For Mediation
Somewhat breaking news, the Tamil Tigers have recently admitted defeat to the Sri Lanka government and I came across this article (posted in complete due to the shortness of it):
OSLO: Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels are willing to surrender their arms to a third party, after having conceded defeat in a 25-year civil war, former peace mediator Norway said on Sunday. “I have been in touch with the Tamil Tigers many times today,” Norway’s Development Aid Minister Erik Solheim said. “They have made it clear to us that they are ready to give up arms to the international community,” he said. reuters
From [here]

The Use of Mediation in Construction Disputes
Geoff Sharp over at Mediator Blah Blah found this 40 page, 2009 report on the above title, have a look [here]

Chad Opts For UN Mediation With Sudan
Chadian President Idriss Deby has opted for the mediation of the UN, instead of the African Union (AU), to resolve the crisis between the country and Sudan.The President announced the decision while addressing thousands of his compatriots, who were protesting last week’s rebel attack against Chad. Chad believes the rebels were sponsored by Sudan Both countries have traded accusations over alleged support for their insurgents.
Full story [here]

Culture of War

May 19, 2009

War, Fight Continues, Battle Rages On, Fight to the Finish, “A” & “B” Continue Attacks

Sure, I could be talking about actual war between two armies but all too often these headlines refer to anything but actual armed conflict. It’s between politicians, feuding corporations, neighborhood organizations, civic groups and businesses. And it’s not just the papers, but the people themselves use the same language.

Why is it so? Is it a part of our culture to refer many of our interactions as some sort of violent confrontation? Do we always need an enemy?

Keeping all of this in mind is important when preparing clients for mediation. It is also important if you are the mediator as you might have two parties entering the mediation thinking it is another ‘battle’ to be fought.

In preparation, it is key to let the parties know that this is not a battle, but in fact the only way for the mediation to be successful is if both are willing to work together. Butting heads, and win at all costs is for another time and place, not in the mediation room!

I must also realize just because I know this, the other parties might not be able to handle, or absorb all of this at once. Plus, certain situations like community mediation and court based mediation there is no time for you to prepare the parties. A mediator does not find out about the case until the moment the parties are walking towards you. You basically have your brief introduction to explain the joys of collaboration and that is if they are even listening to you.

This is why it is important to include certain statements in your opening remarks. Hopefully, your opening statement will help set the tone of the next couple of hours, so make sure it is fine tuned.

We have no control of the ominpresent references of war in the media, but what we do have control over doing is our best to prepare the parties to work together, and then making sure we promote that concept in the negotiation or mediation.

8 Steps For Conflict Resolution

May 18, 2009

The second post (see the first here) highlighting OHRD (of Wisconsin University) and their tips on ADR will focus on what they call the “8 Steps For Conflict Resolution”, which is a process they recommend for effectively managing conflict- be it in the workplace, at home, and relationships among others.

They are as follows (from this link here):

1. “Know Thyself” and Take Care of Self
Understand your “perceptual filters,” biases, triggers
Create a personally affirming environment (eat, sleep, exercise)

2. Clarify Personal Needs Threatened by the Dispute
Substantive, Procedural, and Psychological Needs
Look at BATNA, WATNA, and MLATNA
Identify “Desired Outcomes” from a Negotiated Process

3. Identify a Safe Place for Negotiation
Appropriate Space for Discussion/ Private and Neutral
Mutual Consent to Negotiate/ Appropriate Time
Role of Support People (Facilitators, Mediators, Advocates), as needed
Agreement to Ground rules


4.
Take a Listening Stance into the Interaction
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (Covey)
Use Active Listening skills

5. Assert Your Needs Clearly and Specifically
Use “I-messages” as tools for clarification
Build from what you have heard – continue to listen well

6. Approach Problem-Solving with Flexibility
Identify Issues Clearly and Concisely
Generate Options (Brainstorm), While Deferring Judgment
Be open to “tangents” and other problem definitions
Clarify Criteria for Decision-Making

7. Manage Impasse with Calm, Patience, and Respect
Clarify Feelings
Focus on Underlying Needs, Interests, and Concerns
Take a structured break, as needed

8. Build an Agreement that Works
“Hallmarks” of a Good Agreement
Implement and Evaluate – Live and Learn


Note: you can click each title, as it will give a more in depth description. For the main OHRD site, click [here].

Glossery of ADR Terms

May 16, 2009

The next few posts will all be highlighting a website I recently came across: Office of Quality Improvement & Office of Human Resource Development at Wisconsin University.

The list of common ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) terms will definitely help the ‘newbie’ to the ADR field. However, all you old veterans of the game, giving it a glance over will do no harm either.
And before someone says it, I will say it first- yes, I know some terms are not there. See the first sentence of the previous paragraph, no where did I say it is a complete list!
If you are thinking of terms that are not there, then this list is providing you another service- it is getting you creative mind working!

At the very least, it will help remind you to consider certain traits, topics, and procedures that hopefully prepare you for your next mediation or negotiation.

Below you will find a brief list of the terms. For a complete list, click [here] or the link at the bottom.

Emotional responses: Feelings curing a conflict, such as anger, fear, confusion, or elation; often contribute to behavioral and physical responses.

Empathy: The ability to put oneself in another person’s position and understand that point of view.

Ground rules: the rules of conduct that govern the interactions of group members; expectations regarding interpersonal behavior.

“I”-message: A technique for expressing one’s feelings assertively, without evaluating or blaming others; “I”-messages connect a feeling statement with the specific behaviors of another person and the consequences of those feelings and behaviors.

Impasse: A point at which conflicting parties feel “stuck” and no longer able to find effective solutions; often a normal phase of the conflict resolution process.

Procedural concerns: Issues that relate to the process by which a problem is addressed; one of three sets of concerns (along with substantive and psychological concerns) in conflict.

Psychological concerns: Issues that relate to the emotional well being of group members, such as safety, trust, integrity concerns; one of three sets of concerns (along with substantive and procedural concerns) in conflict.

Referent power: The power that one accrues from earning respect from others, generally associated with integrity and competence.

From the OHRD site [here]

ADR News

May 14, 2009

Fiji Mediation Success Rate
SINCE the inception of the Mediation Service over 84 per cent disputes have been resolved through mediation.It was initially launched by the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment and based on the above figure Fiji’s settlement rate better than some foreign countries.“Compared to other countries like Singapore, their mediation centre settlement rate is 75 percent and other countries are about 80 percent,” Taito Waqa, the ministries Permanent Secretary said in a statement yesterday.
Full story [here]

Six years of dispute resolution for Victorian commission
The Victorian Small Business Commissioner’s office is celebrating six years of dispute resolution and has just handled its 5500th case. The office has established an alternative dispute resolution service which has involved not just local small business but national franchises.
Full story [here]

Mediation Pedagogy Coneference at Harvard Law School
If this is the first time you are hearing about this, it is safe to say you will not be attending the conference which is a shame. Don’t worry though, I won’t be there either but I do have some collegues attending which hopefully will be giving me a full report upon return.

What is the conference all about? from the site:
The conference will bring together academics and professional trainers of mediation to discuss teaching the skills and concepts of mediation to a variety of professional and disciplinary audiences. Our goal is to question pedagogical assumptions, share our experiences, and learn from each other. While the conference is open to the public, it will be geared primarily toward those who teach mediation.
The PON has assembled a fantastic list of presenters including Lela Love, Steven J. Brams, Ran Kuttner, Bruce Patton, and Leonard L. Riskin among many others.
Read more [here]

Labor Party Wants Court Mediation To Handle Native Title Claims
The federal coalition won’t say if it will support changes to the native title system in the upper house, after Liberal senators raised concerns about giving the Federal Court more power.
A draft law passed the lower house on Thursday which would give the court a more central role in adjudicating native title claims, of which there is a backlog of about 500.
Labor wants the court to manage mediation with the aim of encouraging negotiated settlements rather than costly litigation.

Full Story [here]

Mediation Continues Over Weatherman’s Sacking
Mediation between sacked climate scientist Jim Salinger and the state science company which employed him failed to reach an agreement today, his lawyer said.
Dr Salinger was sacked from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) last month after more than 20 years service.
The high-profile scientist, whose work contributed to a Nobel prize, was reported to have been axed for ignoring a new Niwa policy against speaking publicly without prior approval…

…After the two sides met at a closed mediation session in Auckland today, Dr Salinger’s lawyer Alex Hope said that no agreement had been reached but negotiations would continue.
Full story [here]