Comments: The Joy Of Impasse: The Neuroscience Of ‘Insight’ And Creative Problem Solving

Go to article

paul  rajkowski, Knoxville TN     02/14/09
Bravo, you are discovering that science and medicine can combine to create a better mediator. It's difficult that mediators have to discover how to deal with impasse during the process and over time. My wife, Jean Munroe, has been teaching mediation for some time and believes NLP(Neuro-Linguistic Programing) has a place in the mediator's mind. The questions the mediator learns to ask can go a long way to preventing the ugly spectre of impasse. "Perspective shifting," a skill taught, opens one party to the need and interest of the other. In fact more discussion about needs is essential in breaking impasse. Unfortunately, the mediator heads for reason and logic to change a parties thinking. A poor paradigm followed by many practitioners. Thank for seeing the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

Suzzane , Kentfield CA     02/13/09
The Joy of Impasse
Kudos for a good article, and one that echoes my own approach to conflict resolution and prevention education rooted in mindfulness-based practices and self-directed neuroplasticity. As I came into my own practice via decades of exploring a myriad of disciplines intended to shape and nurture ever-evolving human consciousness, the delicate yet exhilarating act of finding the most appropriate balance of the interplay of logic and intuition became undeniably valuable to me. Being able to sense when to do and when to just be within a conflict situation is an art, and frees us up to better serve our clients, and ourselves, both professionally and personally. I have found the more rigid the practitioner is in his or her approach, and the less able they are to bring a wide array of tools (including imagination, improv, and humor) to every unique situation, the easier it is to hit an impasse - and totally choke. You are so right: impasses can be doorways, portals to exceptional insights and growth for everyone, as long as they are not forced. It is a dance. As is often said, "Check your ego at the door" and be willing to put aside everything you think you know if need be. The more habituated and ingrained our own thought processes are, the more often they can keep us stuck in the maze, not knowing how to get out. In my humble opinion, if we get so hung up on solely being an "objective, neutral, logical, rational third party" we can become wooden and lose our shared sense of humanity, which prevents us from accessing the whole brain/mind. I am thrilled that science and medicine are validating what people like myself knew and practiced before such quantification was possible, and I am excited to see what will happen in our field of human service as more conflict resolution professionals merge "crazy" wisdom systems like mindfulness (in its secular form) and advances in neuroscience with "Western techno-rational culture."

Cinnie Noble, Toronto     02/12/09
I join the others and their very positive remarks about your articulate, practical and interesting article! Something else I have learned from literature on neuroscience principles and coaching that I find applicable when addressing impasses, is to ask something like, " How would you decribe the cross roads (or block or impasse) where you are at, right now?" Or, "Where are you on a scale of 1 to 10, ten being 'just about over' this impasse?"

Louisa Williams, West Tisbury MA   02/12/09
Many thanks for this article, which in elegant prose and poetry helps me think in new ways about what I've always considered the mysterious open space in mediation, those times when parties have/take/get/are given a chance to process all that's been said and figure out what it really means for them. In my work, this opportunity often presents itself at what seems like impasse, but I've also found that short breaks during a session or a week between meetings can allow for the crucial transfer from left- to right-brain thinking. Timing, as you say, is everything, and some of the greatest damage I've witnessed in a session has come when I let it go too long, when the parties and I were tired and worn down. More and more I find that If I can help clarify interests, options, etc and then just get the hell out of the (parties' and my own) way, magic can happen.

A    02/12/09
> Terrific article! I have been a mediator (very part-time) and have experienced this very thing. I just didn't know how to articulate it. You articulated this beautifully and have given me more confidence in my mediation work. Thank you.

Susan , Denver CO     02/12/09
Thanks Robert - As you might remember, I am prone to techno rational thinking and needed to be reminded, ever so gently, that more of the same thinking that produced the impasse is likely not to break the impasse! So simple a concept, yet so easy to forget! I enjoyed the article immensely, and am forwarding to others.

Merri  , 38.000000 VA   02/12/09
Practical Steps
I appreciate the way that Robert suggests practical steps that mediators can take when faced with impasse in light of what we now know about how the brain is functioning in that context. Thanks

Nina Meierding, Bainbridge Island Wa     02/11/09
I love how Robert takes the Lehrer article and applies it to our field. I always tell my clients that I wish I had a bumper sticker that says "Impasse happens" because it is such a normal (and potentially the most creative) part of the process. It should never be feared - it is where we can do our best work. Robert's article also points out why waiting to try to settle a case "on the courthouse steps" isn't such a great idea as it does not give our minds the chance to take a break and "ramble" in the shower (so to speak). Good job, Robert!