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Want To Communicate Well In Mediation? Here Are A Couple Of Tips For You

by Stephanie West Allen
July 2009

From Stephanie West Allen's blog on Neuroscience and conflict resolution.

Stephanie West Allen

Irish_Eyes_103_1163a One of my favorite books about the brain and how we take in information is by cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham. The book has a memorable title: Why Don't Students Like School. (In April, I blogged about the book before reading it and linked to a review in the Wall Street Journal.)

What does learning, the focus of the book, have to do with conflict resolution? The two are inextricably bound together. As I said in a post about a year and one-half ago:

Resolving conflict typically requires our learning much, including the parties' positions, interests, and stories. Growing as a conflict professional requires that we be learning about ourselves, too, both in the room and away from sessions. We are not the only ones who need to be learning: When parties are able to move towards resolution, they too have learned. Learning causes changes of both brain and mind. ...

Today I see a interview of Willingham about Why Don't Students Like School in USA Today. It holds a couple of tips that can be helpful to us here. First, for those still thinking we need to communicate, teach, and persuade by using the visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles:

Q: Ninety percent of people think they're either a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner. What does that mean? And why do you say that they are wrong?

A: The idea is that people have different ways of learning the same material, or learning styles. A visual learner understands and remembers better by seeing, an auditory learner by hearing, and a kinesthetic learner by touching and manipulating. This idea has been tested repeatedly in the last 50 years and it doesn't work. People differ in their abilities and in their interests, but there is no evidence for differences in learning styles.


Second, here's advice on one excellent way to get information understood: Use stories! We already knew that (some posts at idealawg) but here's a reaffirmation by Willingham:

Stories draw us in (and are easy to remember) because they constantly pose small, solvable mental problems that invite us to interpret the action and predict what will happen next: Why is Scarlett marrying Charles when she doesn't love him? How will E.T. get home?


A bonus of storytelling: Stories hook our curiosity and thus have the potential to calm us down. Click to read about the relationship between curiosity and anxiety. (That's one of the reasons I include curiosity as the "C" in my CARVE Disputes Model™.)

Have you told a story today?

Biography


Stephanie West Allen, JD, practiced law in California for several years, held offices in local bar associations, and wrote chapters for California Continuing Education of the Bar. While in CA, Stephanie completed several five-day mediation training programs with the Center for Mediation in Law, as well as a two-year intensive with Center co-founder Gary Friedman. She has been a mediator for over two and one-half decades.

She is the author of Triversity Fantasy — Seven Keys To Unlock Prejudice, Creating Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service: A Workbook and many articles on workplace and professional issues for such publications as Lawyer Hiring and Training Report, Colorado Nurse, The Complete Lawyer, National Law Journal, Of Counsel, Law Practice and Denver Business Journal.



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Website: www.westallen.typepad.com/idealawg/

Additional articles by Stephanie West Allen

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