Archive for September, 2009

Facilitator Tips

September 30, 2009

I recently came across Penn State’s website and when searching “conflict resolution”, I found this gem of a page.

It gives various tips and questions to consider when issues arise within a working group/team. The tips listed are easily transferable for a facilitator who is planning to bring a group together.

The set up is broken down into seven sections:

I Conflict Happens
II Clarify Expectations
III Types of Conflicts
IV Identify Team Needs
V Depersonalize Conflict
VI Structuring Discussion
VII Key Questions

A brief look into each section gives shows there is valuable information for all conflict resolvers:

I Conflict Happens
Most members of a team have to learn two fundamentals:
1. Having different opinions is one of the essential benefits of teamwork.
2. Team members have strong feelings and emotions. A team cannot achieve its full potential if all that is allowed is logic or information.

II Clarify Expectations
Stating expectations clearly will give the team a common ground to begin any discussion. Some ways to clarifying expectations include:
1. Developing a clear statement of team mission or purpose
Ground rules governing participation, sharing of responsibilities
3. Agreement to
depersonalize conflicts

III Types of Conflicts
Internal conflict – An individual or team member is experiencing a personal conflict that may or may not be related to the team, but which is interfering with the person’s ability to perform.
Individual conflict with one other team member – One team member is in conflict with another
Individual conflict with the entire team – One team member is experiencing conflict with the entire team

IV Identify Team Needs
Define the team’s problem as a shared need. As a group:
1. Identify the causes.
2. Determine the criteria for a solution.Generate options.

V Depersonalize Conflict
During the problem-solving phase focus on issues not personalities. Use these guidelines to help depersonalize conflicts.
1. Encourage each side to objectively explain his or her bottom line requirements. When the team is determining a solution, each person’s criteria should be evaluated.
2. Remind the team of ground rules while generating options such as “no criticizing statements by other people until all ideas are posted.”

VI Structuring Discussion
Here is a structured way to handle conflicts:
1. Let each person state his or her view briefly.
2. Have neutral team members reflect on areas of agreement or disagreement.
3. Explore areas of disagreement for specific issues.

VII Key Questions
Questions that can help teams work through conflict:
1. What are we supposed to accomplish as a team?
2. What are each of our roles and responsibilities in accomplishing that goal?
3. Who and when do each of us need to get information from?

Again, the list above is not complete- it is just a short version. It you find it useful, click this [link] to read them all. If you are asking why not put the full list? The answer is basic web etiquette- not cutting and pasting someone else’s entire work but rather displaying only a portion and linking to the original source.

[part II] Come Join Me… In Australia!

September 29, 2009

I have another speaking engagement in Australia next Tuesday. Special thanks to Bee Chen for including me.

When: Tuesday, October 6th
Where: Library Meeting Room, Robina Community Center
Time: 2-4pm
Community Peace Program
“Communities desire peace and happiness. It is important to learn about understanding each other and managing conflicts, in order to improve neighbourly relations.

In this Program, Professor Bee Chen Goh, Professor of Law of the School of Law & Justice and Co-Director of the Centre for Peace and Social Justice at Southern Cross University and Adjunct Professor of Law at Bond University, leads a dialogue on cross-cultural peace building.

Special guests of this Program are Acting Senior Sergeant Holly James, Regional Crime Prevention Coordinator/Cultural Liaison Officer, Queensland Police Service and Jeff Thompson, Community Affairs Bureau Detective from the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

Spread the word and bring a few friends to help spread peace. All are welcome. Free admission.

This Program is funded by the Legal Practitioner Interest on Trust Accounts Fund (LPITAF) Grants Fund, administered by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General of Queensland.

For enquiries, please contact Benedict Coyne,email: mob: 0434915713

Top Blog Posts

September 28, 2009

Cool As A Cumcumber7 Elements Of Negotiation

Selective Perception Treat All Negotiators As Your Equal

Guest Blogger: D.A. Graham, Princeton Ombudsman

September 23, 2009

Please enjoy the following submission as the first installment of the 2009 Guest Blogger series. D.A. Graham is the ombudsman from Princeton University and you can read more about him [here].


Human Needs Theory meets Conflict Resolution Theory

“Conflict avoidance is not conflict resolution.”- John Burton
Human Needs Theory (HNT) was developed in the 1970s and 1980s as a generic or holistic theory of human behavior. It is based on the hypothesis that humans have basic needs that have to be met in order to maintain stable institutions (societies, organizations, etc). As John Burton describes:
“We believe that the human participants in conflict situations are compulsively struggling in their respective institutional environments at all social levels to satisfy primordial and universal needs – needs such as security, identity, recognition, and development. They strive increasingly to gain the control of their environment that is necessary to ensure the satisfaction of these needs. This struggle cannot be curbed; it is primordial.”[1]

Now we know that there are fundamental universal values or human needs that must be met if institutions are to be stable. That this is so thereby provides a non-ideological basis for the establishment of policies. Unless identity needs are met, unless in every social system there is distributive justice, a sense of control and prospects for the pursuit of all other human societal developmental needs, instability and conflict are inevitable.

If the hypotheses of this theory are correct, if there are certain human needs that are required for human development and social stability, than the solution to conflict must be the ability to create an environment in which these needs can be met. This is where Human Needs theory meets Burton’s Conflict Resolution Theory (CRT).
Professor Burton distinguishes between conflict resolution, management and settlement. Management is ‘by alternative dispute resolution skills’ and can confine or limit conflict; settlement is ‘by authoritative and legal processes’ and can be imposed by elites.[2]. Burton suggests by contrast:

“. . . conflict resolution means terminating conflict by methods that are analytical and that get to the root of the problem. Conflict resolution, as opposed to mere management or ‘settlement’, points to an outcome that, in the view of the parties involved, is a permanent solution to a problem.” [3]
By accepting the assumptions and hypotheses of the Human Needs Theory, Burton suggests that there is a need for a paradigm shift away from power politics and towards the ‘reality of individual power’. In other words, individuals, as members of their identity groups, will strive for their needs within their environment. If they are prevented from this pursuit by other identity groups, institutions and other forms of authority, there will inevitably be conflict. The only solution is for the groups to work out their problems in an analytical way, supported by third parties who act as facilitators and not authorities. This is particularly relevant when the conflict is over needs which cannot be bargained and not material interests, which can be negotiated and compromised.

If the participants in the conflict can begin to recognize their conflict as a breakdown of relationships, and that there are fundamental similarities between the antagonists, then the process of abstraction will enhance their objectivity.

The purpose of this process is to enable the participants to come to the understanding that all the participants have legitimate needs that must be satisfied in order to resolve the conflict. The other key here is to develop an analytical process to facilitate the changes required to create a system in which these needs can be met. Burton notes:

“Conflict resolution is, in the long term, a process of change (…). It is an analytical and problem solving process that takes into account such individual and group needs as identity and recognition, as well as institutional changes that are required to satisfy these needs.”[4]
John Burton, ‘Political Realities’ in Volkan, 1991, p. 20.


[1] John Burton, ‘Conflict Resolution as a Political System’ in Vamik Volkan, et al (eds.), The Psychodynamics of International Relationships: Volume II: Unofficial Diplomacy at Work. Lexington, MA, Lexington Books, 1991, p. 82-3.
[2] John Burton, ‘Conflict Resolution as a Political System’, in Volkan, 1991, op. cit., p. 81
[3] Ibid., p. 73.
[4] John Burton, ‘Political Realities’ in Volkan, 1991, p. 20.

Join Me… In Australia!

September 18, 2009
For those readers in Australia, come join me (see below).

When: September 28th, 2009
Where: Harvard Room 1, Southern Cross University, Tweed Heads, NSW
Time: 1-2 pm
“I Love Mediating in NY”
Come join us to hear Jeff Thompson- NYPD Detective, Mediator & Conflict Resolver- talk about how he is using communication to promote understanding & peace in New York.

NYC-DR Roundtable Recap, September 2009

September 16, 2009

For those who miss the monthly NYC-DR Roundtable Breakfast meetings sponsored by ACRGNY and John Jay College due to schedules (yes, we are all very busy conflict resolvers) or due to locations (I guess everyone can not be in New York City), I plan to write a recap of each gathering I attend.

You can join the listserv by clicking [here].

Note 1: this is not an official recap nor is it intended to be one but rather it is just a posting of my notes and recollection from the day.

Note #2: For this month I credit Maria Volpe for contributing to this recap as well as editing it…


I hope you enjoy and feedback is always welcome!

Scott Gassman, 9/11 survivor of World Trade Center Tower One, spoke at the September 3rd monthly NYC-DR Round table. From the bio sent with the announcement about the Roundtable, we learned this about Scott:

Scott Gassman coaches, trains, facilitates, and manages projects for individual, team, and enterprise-wide initiatives. Scott’s consulting firm, IdeaJuice focuses on strengthening executive and team effectiveness, improving productivity and service, designing change or transition initiatives, engaging the whole workforce, maximizing meeting value, and building learning strategies.

IdeaJuice client roster includes Amalgamated Life Insurance, America Speaks, Philip Morris, G2, Ninth House Network, US Fund for UNICEF, Homeland Security, Eastern Management Development Center and NHCG. Scott facilitated at: California Speaks, the National Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Preparedness Initiative with the EMS Operational Chiefs from America’s fifty largest cities; at the first Governor sponsored Louisiana Recovery and Rebuilding Conference and at Seaport Speaks, to plan the NYC Seaport’s next 100 years.

Scott Gassman is an Adjunct Faculty member at Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy. His current research focuses on workplace engagement strategies, disaster facilitation and large group methodologies. Scott reviews business development manuscripts for Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. and is the Co-Book Review Editor of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) Journal. Formerly he launched on-line learning, blended training and virtual global collaboration as AVP of Organization Development and Interactive Media at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield. He also produced the digital documentary From Recovery to Resilience, Empire’s 9/11 Story.

– Scott spoke about 9/11 and its immediate effect on the company he was working for, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which was located at 89-03 World Trade Center Tower #1.

– He asked us (the audience) to write our thoughts and feelings from 9/11 on small post-its, then asked us to stick them on the walls.

– We had a moment of silence for, as Scott stated, “Not just for those who were lost, but also for those who survived.”

– Scott passed around numerous artifacts from 9/11, including a piece of steel from one of the towers that was given to his wife. She is a teacher and a FDNY fireman spoke to her students. After she told him about Scott being there, the fireman gave her the small piece of steel (about the size of a golf ball) and told her to give it to Scott.

– Also passed around was a glass desk type sculpture given to Scott by Blue Cross stating, “We Salute Your Courage, Honor Your Strength and Appreciate Your Dedication, from the “Board of Directors” dated 9-11-01.

-We watched an 18 minute film titled, “From Recovery to Resilience” on how the company continued to operate in the days after 9/11 because of planning, preparation and determination of the employees.

The film uniquely showed a different aspect of post 9/11- one where a company, as a whole, responded. The film showed, via first person narratives, all the different levels of response ranging from the roll over of computer servers, setting up temporary offices in Albany, rerouting the call center, the memorial service and the creation of “care” (not case) managers to assist the families.

– He introduced Maria to speak about how the NYC-DRC Breakfast group was formed since this month we celebrate the 8th anniversary of the meeting.

Maria shared how the Breakfast and listserv got started:

– The group first met on 9/20/01. Maria noted that she sent out emails to two national listservs to announce the breakfast. One of the most important needs discussed at the first Breakfast was the necessity to find a means of communicating with each other in the NYC area.

– The NYC-DR listserv was created on 9/27/01.

– There are currently over 1,570 people on the listserv.

– NYC-DR initiatives: Make Talk Work (24 book marks), International Make Talk Work Video contests (see here), and promotional giveaways ranging from tote bags to shirts. I did not check eBay for the shirts but I am sure they are the newest collectors items shattering auction records!

– I was not able to stick around for all the comments as I had to leave for a meeting.

Quote of the month:
“Connection before content.”
Scott said this was a principle he discussed with his company Idea Juice.

You can join the listserv by click [here].

Foreclosure Mediation Round-up

September 14, 2009

As foreclosure mediation become more and more prominent, I thought I would dedicate today’s post to various, current, new articles.

Firstly, I would like to mention that tentatively an article of mine titled, Introduction to Foreclosure Mediation & Tips For The Mediator is set to be published in the California State Bar Association’s magazine Trial Style. The article, as the title states, will be a brief introduction to the process and key terms a mediator should know and understand before venturing into this new field. Terms include: Reinstatement, Forbearance, Loan Modification, Reverse Mortgage and Short Sale among others.

The article includes tips on how to properly organize yourself as well as questions you might want to ask yourself when considering participating in a court connect foreclosure mediation program.

Onto the recent news:
When foreclosure looms, mediation offers lifeline
But court can’t help consumers who don’t seek the option.

Mediation could be a borrower’s last lifeline — negotiating revised loan terms and a household budget that could keep a family in its home. Another outcome could be to allow a borrower to walk away without ruined credit.

Jim Drubert, Montgomery County Court General Division administrator, said that despite dwindling resources and the recent retirement of the court’s only full-time mediator, an additional 50 foreclosure mediation cases could be handled.

Hall’s records show 62 cases directed to mediation by a judge. But of those, 40 home owners did not respond. Of the rest, 13 are pending mediation or in process, seven were settled with the lender prior to mediation or went to mediation, and two referrals were canceled.
Read the Full article [here]

Task Force Urges Foreclosure Mediation
MANATEE — Florida should require mediation between mortgage lenders and borrowers to help courts better manage the crush of foreclosure cases and improve borrowers’ chances of keeping their homes, a judicial task force is recommending.

…The task force did not say how much mediation would cost, but said lenders should foot the entire bill — a recommendation that exposed a division on the panel.

In a dissenting report, Haworth — joined by a circuit judge, a lawyer and a banker — argued that lenders won’t be able to afford to pay for tens of thousands of mediations and that non-indigent borrowers should pay half the cost as a matter of fairness.

Full article [here]

State (Nevada) closer to launching foreclosure mediation program
CARSON CITY – A mediation program to help stop the large number of foreclosures on Nevada homeowners should begin soon, a state official says.
Originally it was announced it would start in August but has been delayed to train the mediators. So far more than 450 requests for mediation from homeowners have been filed.

Full article [here]

Homeowners Avoiding State Foreclosure Mediation Program
The state’s hallmark foreclosure mediation program continues to have a high success rate for homeowners, but still relatively few people have chosen to participate in the program.
Statewide, 2,932 foreclosure mediation cases have been completed as of May 31, and of those 60 percent, or 1,771 cases, have reached a settlement that allows individuals and families to stay in their homes. Of those who stayed in their homes, 41 percent or 1,224 homeowners, received a loan modification from their lender, according to data from the state’s judicial department.
Full article [here]

Providence mayor signs rules to slow foreclosures
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Providence Mayor David Cicilline has signed two city ordinances designed to protect tenants whose rental homes are foreclosed upon, and to banks to enter mediation before foreclosing upon homeowners.

Florida Court Wants Mandatory Mediation on Foreclosures
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Supreme Court’s residential foreclosure task force recommended Monday that all cases involving primary homes should be mediated and that judges should expedite cases dealing with vacant and abandoned properties.
The recommendations will go to the justices, who are looking for ways to help the court system cope with a flood of foreclosure cases caused by the national recession and Florida’s housing bust. Florida has one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates. It was third at 3.4% behind Arizona and California in June.

Full article [here]

Always Remembering

September 11, 2009

Interview & ‘Blog of the Month’

September 7, 2009

Los Angeles based mediator Steve Mehta, of the famous Mediation Matters Blog and the book 112 Ways to Succeed in Any Negotiation or Mediation, interviewed me while he was visiting New York City back in July. He somehow found the time to edit the interview (very brilliantly) and posted it on his blog to which I am gratefully appreciative of him for doing that. Have a look and I hope you enjoy it.

From his blog [here]:

“Many of you may know Jeff Thompson from his fame on Newsweek recently. However, I knew him before he was interviewed on Newsweek. Luckily, I can say that I have gotten the first exclusive interview with Jeff while I was in New York last month. Jeff is a fascinating and charismatic individual and I thought you might like the interview. “

Today’s second news item is I happened to come across and noticed at this link [here] that my blog is listed as their “Blog of The Month”!

Also, ever want to go on a cruise while learning mediation skills?

Don’t we all?

Well, MTI has it all taken care with their 7th Annual Mediation At Sea program this November. Read more [here].


NYPD Commissioner Kelly Encourages Mediation

September 4, 2009

Please read (and enjoy!) the following press release from the NYPD:

Police Officers Encouraged to use Mediation for Resolving Civilian Complaints
NYPD Supports Voluntary Mediation Efforts Between Civilians and Officers

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today urged uniformed members of the service to avail themselves of the Civilian Complaint Review Board mediation process as a non-disciplinary way to resolve complaints against them. Mediated complaints do not become part of an officer’s record.

“Since reinvigorating the program at CCRB’s request last year, the NYPD has encouraged more and more officers to resolve complaints against them by sitting down with their accusers. Both sides listen to each other, and more often than not the dispute is resolved with a handshake,” Commissioner Kelly said.

Last year 112 complaints were successfully resolved through mediation. Another 81 were similarly resolved so far this year.

All 36,000 uniformed members of the service received today with their pay stubs a brochure explaining the mediation process.

Many different types of complaints are appropriate for mediation. In general, any complaint that does not involve a pending criminal matter (including violations), physical injury, or property damage can be mediated.

Mediation consists of the officer, civilian and a trained mediator meeting to discuss the incident that led to the complaint.

The mediation is a confidential process. Everyone participating in the mediation, including the mediator, must sign a confidentiality agreement. An officer can bring an attorney or union representative to the CCRB office, but they are not permitted in the mediation session. The officer can, however stop the mediation at anytime to consult a representative or attorney.

Once the mediation is over, the case is closed and cannot be sent back for an investigation. The civilian complainant does have the right, during the mediation, to ask to end the mediation and have the complaint investigated, but this rarely happens as 98% of cases are resolved.

Mediations usually take about one hour, but the mediation will continue as long as the officer and complainant are making progress. The department does not consider mediated complaints when reviewing an officer’s employment history.

Below is an example of a mediation:

At 11:00 PM on a Monday in January last year, three musicians who had finished performing at a rock concert were driving their van slowly through Lower Manhattan while trying to find the Holland Tunnel. A marked police car containing three uniformed officers from the local Transit District stopped the van by cutting it off, and one of the officers issued the van’s driver a ticket for failing to use a turn signal properly when changing lanes.

According to the driver of the van, who later filed a complaint with the CCRB, the officers berated the three with rude statements throughout the stop, such as, “Are you a f—–g idiot?” When the driver apologized and asked what he had done wrong, an officer allegedly replied, “Don’t apologize, you’re so f—–g stupid.”

The driver stated that he felt threatened by the officers’ behavior and believed that the officers had singled them out because they were musicians with long hair. He also did not believe that he had changed lanes without using his turn signal.

After learning about both CCRB options — investigation and mediation — the driver of the van chose to resolve his CCRB complaint through mediation, explaining that he would pay his summons, but that he wanted to address what he saw as the officers’ inappropriate conduct.

Shortly thereafter, the driver of the van met all three officers for a mediation session at the CCRB’s offices with two trained mediators present. During the mediation session, the officers explained that they had stopped the van because it was driving erratically as the band members tried to find their way to the tunnel – starting and stopping, changing lanes without signaling and driving unusually slow.

The officers explained that they had not targeted the bandmates based upon their long hair – in fact, because it was dark they had not been able to see inside the van before they stopped it. One of the officers explained that when he signed up for the Police Academy, it was hard to cut off his own long hair. The officers also explained to the driver that, when they had tried to pull him over, he had nearly caused a collision between the two cars based upon his unpredictable

Although the driver had not been aware that he had been driving unsafely, he conceded that he may have done so due to his confusion. At the driver’s request, the officers then explained the safest ways to pull over if being stopped by the police.

In response to the driver’s statement that he felt threatened, the officers discussed the fact that car stops are one of the most dangerous situations for police officers. The officers asserted that they had treated the three sternly during the stop in order to maintain control over the situation. However, when the driver raised the issue of the officers’ insulting statements, the officers acknowledged that they had lost their tempers due to his driving, and recognized that many of their comments were inappropriate, and, in fact, unnecessary to maintain control of the situation.

The officers then apologized for their insulting statements. The musician accepted the officers’ explanation for their behavior and apology, and in turn apologized for his driving. The mediation session ended with a round of handshakes.

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