Archive for October, 2009

Today- Join Us For A Web 2.0 Discussion!

October 30, 2009

Web 2.0: Going from OH? To KNOW!
Friday October 30th2:30pm – 3:30pm est. (it will be archived too!)

Spots limited, see below.Join
Jeff Thompson ( & Centre For Peace & Social Justice)
and an all-star lineup of featured bloggers:
Diane Levin (
Victoria Pynchon (
Tammy Lenski (
John Ford (editor,

They will be discussing blogging, writing articles, Twitter, Skype, ooVoo, LinkedIn and other web technology!

Can’t make it, send in questions prior to

Jeff Thompson’s Biography

October 28, 2009

Jeff Thompson is a Conflict Specialist from New York City and is primarily employed as Detective in the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Community Affairs Bureau. Among his tasks include mediation and communication training and development both within the department and as a way to engage the public.
Jeff has designed programs embracing the diverse cultures within city as well as interfaith programs. His programs have received international attention and have been featured on NBC Nightly News, the BBC, and the covers of The New York Times and The Sydney Morning Herald among others.

Outside of his police role, Jeff mediates, consults, negotiates and gives public talks in regards to conflict and communication skills.
Jeff has spoken for various audiences in the United States and Australia. Jeff has been published in various publications in print and online. He is also a member of various conflict resolution associations including as a certified mediator with the International Mediation Institute (IMI).

Jeff can be contacted at mediator.jeff[at]


Don’t Be Scared- Embrace F.E.A.R.S.!

October 28, 2009

Bryan Hanson, Assistant Director at the Werner Institute of Creighton University a couple of months gave a presentation on, “An Introduction to Active Listening Skills” in which he provided the audience with the acronym F.E.A.R.S.

F.E.A.R.S. provides a quick reference to techniques that can help you when are faced with varying types of conflict. The following is based on notes I took and a hand out that was distributed*:

Focus– Active listening requires your full attention. If you’re thinking about:

  • The groceries you need to pick up at the store,
  • The next point you’re going to make or
  • Trying to figure out why the speaker is wrong in their understanding, you’re not really listening.

When focused on the conversation and truly present you provide a highly conducive environment for the conflict resolution process to be successful.

Empathize– Empathizing is the ability to put yourself in an other’s situation and understand HOW THEY FEEL. Empathy focuses on the emotions of the speaker. Not only are you identifying the emotions, but you are also gauging the intensity of the emotions.

For example, there is a difference between someone being “upset” and “extremely distraught” or between being “slightly annoyed” and “really bothered”. part of your success and credibility when you empathize will turn on your ability to make distinctions in the gradation of the emotion. By doing so, you let the speaker know you really understand them.

Often, people are scared to empathize during a conflict because they think it means that they are agreeing with the speaker. It is crucial to understand that your ability to empathize successfully does not mean you agree with the speaker’s emotions, it simply means that you are able to identify and understand how the speaker feels.

Ask open-ended questions– An open-ended question gives the speaker an opportunity an opportunity to answer the question in narrative form, instead of just saying “yes/no”. it provides the listener with more information than a close-ended one. During conflict resolution, part of the goal is to gather information. by framing your questions in a way that is more likely to elicit information, you are improving your chances of understanding what lies underneath the surface of the conflict.

Reframe– Reframing provides an opportunity to demonstrate empathy to the speaker’s emotions allowing the conversation to move forward. Reframing entails quick sentences that acknowledge the emotions that you are feeling without attributing any judgment to the stated emotions. An effective reframe redirects the conversation in a constructive direction, opens up possibilities, deescalates the tension in the room and illustrates that you are present and engaged in the dialogue.

Summarize– one way to let the speaker know that you have heard them and understood them is to summarize (paraphrase) what the speaker has said. You are not simply mimicking their words- you are internalizing the essence of what’s been said and giving it back to them in your own words.

* Note: During the talk and it was stated on the handout it was partially adapted from material produced by EBCM in 2003.

ODR CYBER WEEK 09: Web 2.0 Discussion

October 25, 2009

ODR WEEK 2009 Web 2.0: Going from OH? To KNOW!

Friday October 30th

2:30pm – 3:30pm est. (it will be archived too!)

Spots limited, see below.

Join Jeff Thompson ( & Centre For Peace & Social Justice) and an all-star lineup of featured bloggers:

Diane Levin (
Victoria Pynchon (
Tammy Lenski (
John Ford (editor,

They will be discussing blogging, writing articles, Twitter, Skype, ooVoo, LinkedIn and other web technology!

Find out how and why they do it (successfully!), the benefits and how it is has helped them. Learn tips and skills that can help your practice too!

***FREE*** But spots are limited: sign up by emailing Jeff @

If you are interested in submitting a question prior to the event for the panel, email me at the address above or simply post a comment in this post.

Go to for more info on this event and for more info on ODR Week, go to

This event is presented by EnjoyMediation & the Centre for Peace and Social Justice, Southern Cross University, Australia.

Guest Blogger 09- Noam Ebner

October 21, 2009

Please enjoy the following submission as the third installment of the 2009 Guest Blogger series.

Today’s guest blogger is Noam Ebner, Assistant Professor and Online Program Chair, Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution, Creighton University School of Law. You can read more about him [here].

It’s not every day that you get to see a discipline in motion. Changes in the way that academics and professional practitioners grasp themselves and what they do are usually minor and incremental; by the time major change has evolved, many of the original instigators are no longer around to enjoy it.

Watching a field collectively consider itself and begin to move, therefore, is like observing a rare natural occurrence, Or, perhaps, like being on a glacier as it shifts. You feel very fortunate to have been there to see it, and you wonder where you are now and how you make your way home.

These were some of the thoughts I had while attending the Second Generation Negotiation conference which took place on October 14-17, 2009 in Istanbul. To understand just what this special conference was about, one needs to put it in the context of the project surrounding it.

While negotiation theory is being constantly developed, one gets the opposite feeling regarding negotiation teaching, particularly at the level of negotiation training. Take any 1-2 day training conducted all over the world, by US or non-US teachers, in corporate settings, open enrollment programs or community contexts, and you will find a great deal of similarity – not only in the content delivered, but in the teaching methods used and the actual exercises that students partake in.

The living spirits behind the 2nd Generation Negotiation Project, Chris Honeyman, Jim Coben and Giuseppe DePalo, set out to explore and address this issue by bringing a large a group of negotiation pedagogy experts to bear on it. Supported by Hamline University’s Dispute Resolution Institute, the JAMS Foundation and ADR Center in Rome, they envisioned and set up a three year project with two primary products: 3 negotiation pedagogy conferences, held in Istanbul, Rome, and Beijing, and 3 books, or editions of a book, one to come out of each conference in an attempt to capture and develop the insights gained at each of them.

At the project’s first conference in Rome, participants observed a standard, run of-the-mill, negotiation training course being given to lawyers and businessman. As a participant, I was presented with a relatively simple question: ‘Here is a ‘first generation’ training, which you have all conducted many times. Given everything you know about negotiation and about teaching – is this what we should all be doing? Are we giving students what we should? Are we giving them all we can? And, if not – what do we need to change, in content and in pedagogy?’

The group – which was comprised of some of the top negotiation and ADR professors in the North American and Europe (with a handful of other countries also in the mix – Israel, China, and Australia come to mind) as well as of some of the most prolific negotiation trainers in the game – responded to these questions with a tidal wave of enthusiasm, as if they had been waiting for years to be asked just that. The beauty of the conference was the realization that we had all been looking for ways to evolve – individually and as a field – and that here was an opportunity for doing so. The output of that conference was a book, Rethinking Negotiation Teaching: Innovations for Context and Culture, which is replete with new ideas as well as with cross-national and cross-culture collaborations that would never have been possible without this program. More about this unique book, and the questions it seeks to raise and address, can be learned by reading the first chapter. Another output was a special volume of Negotiation Journal, dedicated to the same theme as the conference and comprised of articles written by conference participants.

A year and a half later – last week – we got together for the second phase of the project, the Istanbul conference. One thing that immediately stood out was that the group had expanded and diversified, with representatives from more countries participating. The second was that participants already knew the drill – and came to Istanbul with ideas for collaboration and writing that they had been stocking up on in the months that had passed since the previous book came out.

However, not wanting to let us get stuck in a rut, and practicing quite a bit of what we had all been preaching, the organizers threw participants a curve (well, we actually knew about it ahead of time, and were looking forward to it) by providing a new framework and methodology for the conference. This time, in addition to a training course for Turkish businesspeople and lawyers conducted by Ken Fox and Manon Schonewille, which incorporated some of the new ideas developed in Rome (referred to as Negotiation 2.0 ideas or elements), the conference itself went on the road, spending relatively little time inside the conference hall. Different methods, generally dubbed ‘adventure learning’, were used as new tools to learn about negotiation: The first was accompanying, interviewing and observing local businesspeople in action, exposing ourselves to their context of commerce and relationships as they shared their views on business, ethics and negotiation with us.

The second was a direct real-life negotiation exercise, in which we spent hours wandering Istanbul’s famous bazaars and bargaining with the people who do it day in, day out their entire lives. The third was a more oblique and indirect method, in which participants made their way around the city in small groups, with certain missions or goals, with the meta-goal of examining their negotiation and decision-making processes.
These types of ‘adventure learning’ seemed to have strong effect, in shaking participants out of our regular classroom-oriented constraints. Of course, doing it in Istanbul is one thing, doing it back home with students familiar with (and perhaps not as excited by) their hometowns is quite another.
Another question to be explored is whether this type of real-life learning can only be done in an academic framework (given issues of time, motivation, perceived relevance, etc.) or if it might be done somehow in the context of an executive training course as well.

Another important part of the conference were short teaching units, in which participants presented ‘new’ teaching units developed as a result of, or through the perspective of, Negotiation 2.0 as it was conceptualized in the Rome conference and in Rethinking Negotiation Teaching. The participants taking part in each learning unit first simulated being ‘students’, learning the new content, and then transformed back to being teachers – providing feedback, critique and suggestions on content and methods.

For example, in response to the role of gender being spotlighted as a central theme emerging in Negotiation 2.0, Sandra Cheldelin and Andrea Schneider gave a unit on Gender Bias and Stereotyping. Mario Patera gave a unit expanding negotiators’ Emotional Vocabulary. Perhaps directing us eastwards towards the next conference venue, Andrew Lee and Vivian Feng Ying Yu introduced the role of cultural symbols by showing how the words or symbols used in a given culture for depicting negotiation terms affect the way negotiation is grasped and practiced within that culture. I joined these brave presenters (I say brave, as before the conference I had a mental picture of all of these people putting bulls-eyes on their chests and walking into the room to invite all of their peers to throw pedagogical darts at them. In practice, of course, it was a wonderful, enlightening experience!) in discussing E-mail Negotiation – what students need to know about it, and how we might teach it.

Towards the end of this wonderfully orchestrated mixture of novel experiential learning and classroom exposure to the first intentionally crafted elements of Negotiation 2.0, we got down to business. Themes for writing were explored, and as people discovered shared research interests with each other, partnerships were formed. Given the nature of the conference, many of these partnerships are multi-national and multi-disciplinary – promising some fascinating new perspectives.

If I thought I may have overcommitted by promising Jeff I’d blog on the conference, that can’t hold a candle to the writing commitments many of the participants took on themselves! This unique coming-together of people and ideas and opportunities was just too good to pass up.

In addition to theoretical pieces, the organizers are hoping that participants will also suggest and provide what might be called ‘operationalizing pieces’ – class activities, teachers’ guides, simulation-games, etc. – which will help make these ideas accessible to trainers looking to implement Negotiation 2.0 in the classroom. Yael Efron and I developed, field-tested and wrote up one of these pieces on the way home (it’s amazing how much you can accomplish, when your flight gets delayed and you’re stuck in the airport lounge…): A guide for trainers on how they can use the road to the training venue – whether down the block or on the other side of the world – as an adventure learning environment in which they can conduct exercises aimed at getting themselves in the right frame of mind before entering the training room.

Hopefully we’ll be seeing some of the outputs of this conference in the next few months (I’ve only scratched the surface in describing what some of these outputs may be!) and the new volume/edition in about a year. I think that when it comes out – negotiation teaching will begin to change in a very fundamental way.

I think this blog has gone on long enough – I don’t want it to run on into my trip to the final activity of this project – the May 2011 conference in Beijing. Thanks for having me, Jeff and everyone, and I’ll keep you posted!

New Program Promotes Peace

October 19, 2009

A new program aimed at bringing more peace to the world is off to a strong start with representatives from Queensland Police Service, New York City Police Department (NYPD) and members of the public gathering last week at Robina Community Centre on the Gold Coast to discuss how to best promote community relations and tackle conflict in the community.

The seminar included a presentation by Jeff Thompson, Community Affairs Bureau detective from the NYPD on the innovative ways in which the organisation has used sport to bring the community together, and explored strategies that could be used here in Australia to promote peace.

It was the first in a range of activities to be held as part of the Community Peace Program – a new research project funded by the Legal Practitioners’ Interest in Trust Account Fund Grant Funding, administered by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General of Queensland and spearheaded by Professor Bee Chen Goh, from the School of Law and Justice and co-director, Centre of Peace and Social Justice at Southern Cross University which will include a series of community events and cross-cultural training designed to promote positive community relations, embrace cultural diversity and enhance social inclusiveness.

Acting senior sergeant Holly James, regional crime prevention coordinator and cultural liaison officer, Queensland Police Service said she was pleased to be involved with the program.“Although New York is a long way from the Gold Coast, we are all fundamentally the same and face the same challenges, so this seminar was a good opportunity to exchange ideas,” said sergeant James.

“The community members are our eyes and ears, so we also always welcome the chance to engage with them and hear their feedback.” Professor Goh said she was pleased with the success of the first seminar.“Before we tackle big issues like terrorism we must look at how we resolve conflicts in our own daily life,” said Professor Goh.

“The Community Peace Program focuses on understanding each other and managing conflicts in order to improve neighbourly relations.“If we can, in our own daily lives, learn to be peace keepers in a conflict-ridden world, we are making a contribution to world peace – and the Community Peace Program aims to support people to do just that.”

The Community Peace Program will continue with an interfaith forum in December, including presentations by Rabbi Nir Gurevitch of the Gold Coast Hebrew Congregation, Gold Coast Sikh priest, Mr Bhajan Singh Bains, and Dr Mohamad Abdalla, director of the Queensland branch of the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies, Griffith University.It will be held on Sunday December 13, from 2pm-3.30pm (Queensland time) in the Library Meeting Room at Robina Community Centre on the Gold Coast.

To attend contact Benedict Coyne on Professor Bee Chen Goh with Community Peace Program guest Jeff Thompson, Community Affairs Bureau detective from the NYPD (high resolution image available on request)

From [here].

(pictured above: Jeff Thompson and Bee Chen Goh)

Media contact: Zuleika Henderson, media officer, Southern Cross University Gold Coast and Tweed Heads: 07 5506 9385 or 0408 644533

News Round Up

October 16, 2009

I am back home in the U-S-of-A! and now back to our regular Friday news…

Mediation Option in New Anti-Racism Code

The ICC has included a mediation process in its new anti-racism code to help cricketers settle such conflicts amicably between themselves. This mediation process, which will be the first step towards any resolution if agreed upon within 48 hours of the incident being reported, could lead to voluntary suspensions and a public apology.

Full article [here]

Arms-length agencies can become monsters wreaking havoc on government: ombudsman
TORONTO — Ontario’s ombudsman says the lack of accountability at government agencies underscores a systemic failure that cannot be ignored.

Andre Marin says Ontario’s recent troubles show that arms-length agencies can become monsters wreaking untold havoc on their creators.

He says the government must learn from previous mistakes at agencies like eHealth Ontario and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. to avoid further costs to taxpayers and erosion of service.
Read more [

New Zealand Austism Group Heads to Mediation
Autism New Zealand is set to enter mediation after disestablishing its Auckland branch committee, unhappy with communication, abuse of power and running of programmes “not endorsed” by the parent body.

The two parties met in late August to try to reach a compromise after the Christchurch head office learned of Auckland’s plans to move to new premises in Albany, and demanded to know more details.

Autism NZ is a support group for sufferers of autism, Asperger syndrome and associated disorders. It has 15 branches nationwide, and a membership of more than 4000.

Read more [here]

Community Mediation to Get 6 Month Check Up

It’s time for the city’s community mediation program to have its six-month checkup.
Police officials were expected to attend this week’s City Council meeting to give a department report on the effectiveness of the program since it was implemented in April.

Bickering neighbors who call the police, people who’ve contacted code enforcement and those who’ve completed a form on the city’s website are referred to the community mediation program to help work out their disagreements, according to Sgt. Don Aguilar of the T.O. police.
“The program has been very successful so far,” Aguilar said.

In the past, addressing property line or landscape disputesloud music and other problems was time-consuming for police officers, who repeatedly had to return to the same address to resolve the issue, Aguilar said.

Read more [here]

‘Bad Faith’ Mediation in Nevada Foreclosure Mediations?

The Nevada Supreme Court passed tougher rules to force lenders to work with homeowners in foreclosure, but some lenders are worried that they may be unfairly sanctioned.Mediators working with homeowners have the power to find that a lender acted “in bad faith” during a mediation and to halt a foreclosure. The state high court passed its new rules on Sept. 28, in response to a request by state Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley.

Full article [here]

New Jersey Foreclosure Mediation Update

More than 2,600 New Jersey homeowners have received counseling assistance through the State’s Foreclosure Mediation Program, Governor Jon S. Corzine said today. Of the 2,500 mediation cases that have been scheduled, 1,450 cases have been completed, with more than 50 percent of families able to remain in their homes.

More [here]

This is why I like Ombuds: “My bias is to deal with systemic change. That is much more cost-effective and results in individuals not repeatedly complaining about the same thing,” she said.”

Read it all [here].

Mediator + Money?

October 12, 2009

Tammy, over at Mediator Tech, posted another brilliant piece on “How to develop a financially successful mediation practice: a review“.

Ever wonder how many phases there were to the process? Ever wonder if there were even phases involved?

Yes, I know you did and here they are:

Phase 1: Become a trained mediator – the foundation for everything else on the pyramid

Phase 2: Practice through volunteering – building your skills and your credibility

Phase 3: Part-time practice – you’re getting paid, but not able to support yourself yet

Phase 4: Part-time practice – starting to get case momentum, realize it’s time to decide whether or not to commit to making mediation your day job

Phase 5: Full-time practice – able to make a reasonable living as a mediator

Phase 6: A premier practice – booked months out, people will wait to get on your schedule, you can be selective about the cases you will accept

If interested, read more on it [here].

Guest Blogger: Jessica Carter, Kiwi Mediator Extraordinaire

October 7, 2009

Please enjoy the following submission as the second installment of the 2009 Guest Blogger series.
Today’s guest blogger is Jessica Carter, Senior Advisor Mediation Practice at the Department of Building and Housing in New Zealandand you can read more about her [here].

Commands, Hints and What Lies Between

I spotted Malcolm Gladwell’s recent bestseller, ‘Outliers’ at a bookstore at JFK just after April’s ABA Conference in New York and I suspect I’ve joined a group of travellers that have happened upon it in the same way. It grabbed my attention as I browsed, on the lookout for a good read on a long journey, and it promised to tell ‘The Story of Success’.

I recommend it. It’s the kind of book that has a chapter or two, or a subject or two, that grab you and stay with you – ask anyone who’s read it “what part spoke to you the most?” For me, it was two aspects which related to mediation practice.

First, Gladwell suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something, therefore a champion chess player, a concert pianist, will have dedicated 10,000 plus hours to reach their level of expertise, and most likely an Olympic athlete and an expert mediator will have done the same. That’s a lot of practice, mediators! And it resonates with the view that mediators should think of themselves as having the “beginner’s mindset” and being in a “permanent state of learning”.

Second, Gladwell’s examples of mitigated language and miscommunications on the flight deck and how this featured as a contributor to airline disasters in the 1980s and 1990s was compelling reading for a mediator. He described 6 levels of responses that people utilise in communication and ordered them from zero-mitigation (the command) to the most mitigated statement of all (the hint). In brief, they are:

1. Command (a direct and implicit instruction is given)

2. Obligation (a view or an opinion about an action is expressed)
3. Suggestion (the speaker suggests that others join in the action, leaving room to disagree)
4. Query (the question is asked and the listener can decide the action)
5. Preference (the speaker lets the audience know what they would like, without making it clear that they have to follow through)
6. Hint (the most mitigated communication of all – you can understand it if you can decode it!)

When I read this, I thought of those situations in mediation when one party uses the polite and culturally-comfortable preference or hint and another is immediately frustrated because their personal mode of communication is ‘command and control’. The commanding party expects the listener to receive the communication as it’s stated and act on it. The hinting party expects the receiver of the information to decode the meaning (possibly a longer process) and then act on what they perceive the meaning to be. A polite way of expressing your needs? Well, yes… if the parties in the room understand your intention!

I unintentionally communicated this at home for 3 years and realised I could have used Malcolm Gladwell’s book some time ago, and been more successful. I badly wanted a bass guitar for Christmas and as Christmas rolled by twice with nothing under the tree in a long case I wondered why my family had ignored my requests. I let them know my wish to learn the bass (5 – preference) and mused that it would be great to learn the bass sometime (6 – hint) until last Christmas when my son, armed with a shiny red guitar said: “Mum, you have to stop hinting and just come straight out with it! Say what you mean!” Oops, he was looking for the mode of communication that he responds to, no.1 – the command, and was frustrated by my indirect approach.

Understanding the cultural barriers which prevent (or promote) certain types of communication has implications for people who work in teams too. Outliers lives up to the expectations on its cover, and sets out a series of stories and case studies about why and how people have achieved expertise and success.

You can Learn more about the book Outliers from Gladwell’s site [here].