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Q & A With Steve Mehta

by Jeff Thompson
July 2009

From Jeff Thompson's Enjoy Mediation Blog

Jeff Thompson

I recently corresponded via email with Steve Mehta, mediator and blogger, and asked him some questions about his upcoming book, 112 Ways to Succeed In Any Negotiation Or Mediation as well as some other questions on current ADR topics. Below you will find the unedited answers, enjoy!

Q: Steve, tell me, why 112, seriously, how did you come up with that amount?

It’s a good question. I knew that over the years of teaching seminars and mediation I had a lot of tips and points that could help people negotiate better. As such, there were two things that created the 112 ways. First, I didn’t want it to be the cliché 101 ways. Many writers have done101 ways to do something. So I wanted it to be more. But I also thought about how college classes are taught. Negotiations 101 usually signifies a basic course on the subject. My book simplifies the material, but is providing more advanced material than 101.

As such, for those two reasons. I came up with 112. Also, as a side note, I had over 400 negotiating points in starting the book. But I thought that would make the book huge and unmanageable. Maybe that will be in the next book.

Q: who is the intended audience for your book- the i-might-be-interested in ADR gal, the rookie ADR guy, the mid career mediator, or the grumpy veteran?

Quite frankly, everyone is the target. Obviously anyone interested in ADR would be interested in this book from the new person to the seasoned veteran like yourself. But the book isn’t just about ADR. It is targeted to help everyone – From the real estate agent to the soccer mom. Everyone negotiates. Everyone can benefit from learning how to negotiate.

The book provides real world examples that are not formal “negotiations” as a tool to show the reader that every situation is a negotiation. As an example, I got delayed on a flight home from vacation recently and was placed on standby. I used many of the book’s techniques to make sure that my family and I were allowed to get on to the next plane home, despite the fact that it was overbooked by 20 people, and my family was not on the top of the standby list.

Q: why read your book compared to the many other ADR books out there?

I asked myself the same question when I wrote it. How would I make it different than the other negotiating or ADR books. My book fills a void in the literature. Most books are very theoretical and take 40 pages to illustrate one part of the complex idea relating to negotiating. This is not to say that the theoretical book isn’t good. Those books make you think about the concept in general.

My book does two things: One, it puts it right in your lap in a few pages or less. You can learn something about negotiating in a few minutes. You don’t have to read the whole book to get something out of it. Second, though, the book also makes you think. You will say to yourself – that was easy. But as you think about it more, you see the multiple possibilities. It is like the art that uses small pictures of items to make a larger picture of something else.

When you look at the smaller picture, you can see exactly what it is quickly. When you step back and look at the picture in the context of the whole, you see a much larger and completely different picture that is made up of the many small pictures. As the reader thinks more about the point or reads on further, more pieces of the puzzle get put together. At any time, that one picture can be viewed in the context of the whole.

Q: please tell us about your experience as a mediator (what areas)?

I have been mediating since 1999. Since about 2002, I have been exclusively working as a full time mediator. I have mediated all types of civil litigation cases including employment, real estate, personal injury, business and elder abuse. I have also done many community mediations.

Q: OK, now that you told us your mediator experience, does that necessarily translate to being a successful author?

You never know what appeals to consumers to buy a book. I think that the experience I have is shown in the book by giving a teaching point and then an illustration from my experience about that point. I believe that life’s experiences make for interesting stories.
So I guess I hope that others will find the stories and issues interesting.

Q: What other ADR books do you recommend?

There are so many. Getting to Yes is a great starter. Getting Past No is another. Bargaining for Advantage is another. That’s just a few.

Q: How do you feel about the term "certified mediator"?

There are several issues involved. First, if you are a mediator and are successful in being able to resolve disputes or have a practice, then certification means nothing. However, to help a person get some type of credentialing it is beneficial.

A problem with certification also relates to who enforces it. If we are going to say that a mediator must be certified to practice, then will we have a regulatory organization – will it be statewide, or national. Do you need a license? If it is something for a person to put up on the wall – great. But if it is mandatory, that may create many problems.

Q: I have to ask one non-open ended question, who will win this year's Ashes Series (I know you will have to look up what the Ashes Series is as will 95% of my readers but I am really looking forward to it!)?

First. You are right, I did have to look it up, but I had a pretty good idea of what you were asking about without looking it. My answer, after that is absolutely clear. I am a loyal subject of the United Kingdom, having been born in England, and I would have to say that England will and should win the Ashes Series in cricket.

Q: Why do you blog?

Information. To be honest blogging makes me a better mediator. I constantly have deadlines to get new content out on the blog. My view is always that you never stop learning. So writing a blog forces me to continue to be up to date and fresh. Plus, it lets me communicate in different ways with many people. I was, just like yourself, a communications major in college. I love to communicate.

Q: Any suggestions for would-be bloggers?

Do it. Find what you love and write about it.

Q: What other, if any, blogs do you follow?

Your’s, of Course and all the blogs that are on mediate.com’s blog roll. I love Tammy Lenski’s blog on technology. I also like Diane Levin’s blog and finally Victoria Pynchon’s. I also like Geoff Sharp’s. But in addition, I like to read blogs on all types of topics. I get a lot of information from blogs in psychology, social psychology, philosophy, technology, and gadgets.

Q: Are you ever evaluative while mediating?

Yes. I think an effective mediator has to play different roles at different times. You should never say never. Well maybe there are exceptions, but I can’t think of it. As a mediator you should be able to use all the tools in your toolbox. That is one of the themes of the book. So being evaluative has its place.

Bonus Question:

Q: finally, tell us when your book comes out, and how can we purchase it?

The book launches officially on a widespread release on August 1. It has been in limited release earlier and is now in all major booksellers and online booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also go to the book’s website, www.112ways.com.

I wanted to also take the time to thank you for your interest in the book and in asking me these questions. It has been a pleasure.

Biography


Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School having researched the impact nonverbal communication has in conflict situations with respect to developing rapport, building trust, and displaying professionalism.

Dr. Thompson has presented and trained on the topic of conflict, mediation, (crisis and hostage) negotiation, communication and nonverbal communication internationally for a variety of audiences including police personnel, government officials, judges, attorneys, physicians, sales people, business professionals, and both graduate and undergraduate students. He has also been published in numerous professional and academic publications.

He is the co-chair of ACR's national Crisis Negotiation Section, and he is an ad-hoc reviewer for multiple academic journals. He received his MS in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution from the Werner Institute, Creighton University School of Law.

(All posts by Jeff Thompson represent his personal reflections and opinions and not that of any organization.)



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