Diane J. Levin

Diane J. Levin

Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property issues, and serves on numerous mediation panels, including the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Training and coaching are an enduring passion -- she has taught thousands of people to resolve conflict, negotiate better, or become mediators -- from Croatian judges to Fortune 500 executives.

 

A geek at heart, Levin consults on web design and social media to professionals.  She blogs about ADR at the intersection of law, science, and popular culture at the award-winning MediationChannel.com, regarded as one of the world's top ADR blogs.  She also tracks and catalogues ADR blogs world-wide at ADRblogs.com, where she has created a community for bloggers writing about constructive ways to resolve disputes.

 

web site: http://dianelevin.com




Contact Diane J. Levin

Website: www.dianelevin.com

Articles and Video:

By Trial and Mostly Error: Mistakes Can Be the Best Teacher (08/27/12)
As a mediator and trainer of mediators, I see lasting value in discussing with people entering the profession the gamut of mistakes that can be made – from a clumsily phrased question to an ethical breach. I agree with Charlie that of real practical help are the stories of error and the lessons to be drawn from them – what happened, what to do different next time, and how to avoid it in future.

Beyond the Numbers: the Client, the Court, and Dispute Resolution (04/30/12)
He was a widower and a grandfather. He arrived at the mediation with his attorney and one of his adult daughters for moral support.

A Dog's Tale: A Mediation Story for the Holidays (12/27/11)
This year brings an overlap of winter holidays from two different traditions and calendars: Hanukkah and Christmas. Each of these holidays is a story of miracles – wondrous events occurring in times of conflict.

Thinking for Ourselves: Better Decision-Making at the Dispute Resolution Table (11/28/11)
How good are the decisions you make? Are they free from error? From unconscious bias? Are they consistently the product of careful reasoning?

The Road Less Traveled: A Review Of J. Kim Wright’s Lawyers As Peacemakers: Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law (07/12/10)
The idealism that drew many of us to law school endures, evident in the work of lawyers who have reclaimed their role as compassionate defender of justice, skilled negotiator brokering peace, or principled leader wielding influence. These lawyers have their champions and spokespersons, notable among them J. Kim Wright, publisher and editor of CuttingEdgeLaw.com, an online community and magazine for lawyers. Wright today coaches and inspires lawyers who seek to bring an ethos of care, mutual respect, and humanity to the way they practice law.

What Did We Know And When Did We Know It? The Mutability Of Facts (07/12/10)
Facts may indeed be stubborn things, but they are also subject to the vicissitudes of time and nature’s forces. Our thinking about those facts, and their significance to us, is often refracted through the lenses of culture, cognition, and bias. As our understanding of our physical world alters; as records are broken or measurements exceeded; as times, laws, borders, and customs change; our encyclopedias and other reference books, along with our memories, demand constant updating.

Resources Online And Beyond For The Aspiring Mediator (05/17/10)
Greetings to regular readers, new visitors, and to the members of the Mediation Works Executive Mediation Training, with whom I have the pleasure of working this week. To stimulate your curiosity and to encourage further exploration, I’ve pulled together a list of essential resources for aspiring mediators:

The Sound Of Silence: Listening Between The Lines (05/10/10)
Some cases you remember vividly; the impressions they leave are lasting.

Mediation And Law, Strange Bedfellows: Time For Us To Start Seeing Other People? (05/10/10)
In his recent Mediate.com essay, “Killing Mediation: The Specialized, Professionalized And Neutralized Mediator”, ADR personality Robert Benjamin pronounced mediation dead, naming the usual suspects responsible

Buying The Cow: Mediators, Money, And Value (04/26/10)
Just because we place a premium on collaboration does not mean that we must refrain from placing a premium on our services or the content we create as business owners. As usual, the toughest negotiation is always with ourselves.

New On The Mediation Web: Return Of The King, Launch Of Werner Institute ADRHub (04/26/10)
At its annual spring meeting, the American Bar Association Section on Dispute Resolution honored premier ADR and negotiation web site Mediate.com as the institutional recipient of the prestigious Lawyer as Problem Solver Award.

Play It Smart And Safe: Web-Savvy Tips For The ADR Professional (04/05/10)
The following is adapted from an article I wrote for the Spring 2010 issue of the newsletter of the Association for Conflict Resolution’s New England Chapter. My colleague Tammy Lenski and I were invited to offer our best advice to ADR professionals seeking to make the most of the web.

Mediator Certification Focus Of Latest Episode Of Cafe Mediate Podcast Series (04/05/10)
In the latest episode of this monthly podcast series professional mediator and author Tammy Lenski, international business mediator Amanda Bucklow, commercial mediator Victoria Pynchon, and I begin a two-part discussion of a subject of particular interest to mediators: certification and credentialing for mediators in private practice. Joining us is pioneer and field leader Susanne Terry, an internationally respected dispute resolution practitioner, scholar, and ACR board member who is directly involved in shaping a national conversation on the issue of certification.

The Side I See: Challenging Assumptions, Changing Minds (03/15/10)
Seeing the house from all sides allows us to test or transcend our assumptions. Stepping away to gain a different view doesn’t mean giving up what you believe or need. With accurate and complete information, our conclusions can rest on surer ground. And it might even change our minds along with our vantage points.

Gender Bias in ADR (03/08/10)
This is the list of blog postings compiled by Diane Levine and Victoria Pynchon on Gender Bias in ADR which have been posted in celebration of International Women's Day and Women's History Month.

Doing It Backwards And In Heels: A Prescription For Remedying Implicit Bias In ADR (03/08/10)
Yesterday I pointed readers to an electrifying series by commercial mediator and arbitrator, Victoria Pynchon, which rips the lid off the ADR profession’s secret and unacknowledged shame: the absence of women and minorities from the prestigious ADR panels:

Diversity, Bias, Gender, And Race In ADR: A Hard Fight To Level The Playing Field (03/08/10)
As I was getting ready for the start of the mediation training I was teaching, one of the participants, just arrived, approached me to tell me to get him a cup of coffee. Despite my power suit and the flip chart markers in my hand, he had mistaken the lead trainer for a member of the support staff.

Are You A Cognitive Miser? Test Yourself To Find Out (03/08/10)
I’ve been active on social networking site Twitter for about a year now. It’s proven to be a good resource for useful links. Last week one of the folks I follow, workshop facilitator Joe Gerstandt, pointed his readers to an article that appeared last November in the Globe and Mail, “Why smart people do dumb things“.

Fallacious Argument Of The Month (03/01/10)
In my ongoing one-woman effort to contribute to the improvement of public discourse, each month I discuss an example of a Fallacious Argument. In December I chose a particular favorite of mine, the ad hominem. This month I revisit it. Why? Because accusing someone of committing a fallacy of the argumentum ad hominem can itself be a fallacy. Let us consider it.

Listening In At The Mediation Table: Books That Teach Readers How To Talk Like A Mediator (02/15/10)
Ready to trade up from the role play simulations they participated in during their basic mediation training, new mediators look forward to the chance to observe actual mediations, where they can watch experienced professionals mediating real-world disputes.

Rethinking Social Media: The Worth Of Trust In Online Business Networking (02/08/10)
In the February 2010 issue of Harper’s Magazine is an essay entitled “The Serfdom of Crowds”, excerpted from You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, the latest book by computer scientist, web guru, and author Jaron Lanier. You Are Not a Gadget serves as a bracing rebuttal to the loud hallelujah chorus of praise for all things internet-related.

Right Before Your Eyes: On Cognitive Fluency, Graphical Literacy, And Illusion (02/01/10)
Optical illusions make ideal teaching tools in negotiation and conflict resolution training. They serve as humbling reminders of the unreliability of our senses and the conclusions we draw from the data we perceive.

Fallacious Argument Of The Month: The Appeal To Authority (01/25/10)
Each month, in pursuit of better arguments and improved public discourse, I highlight a different logical fallacy. This month I invite you to consider the irrelevant appeal to authority.

What Color Is A Banana? Perception, Bias, And Identity (12/21/09)
A quote attributed to author Anais Nin declares, “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” The truth of these words is apparent in the following anecdotes, which I invite you to consider.

Remembering The Human Factor In The Practice Of Law (12/14/09)
A century ago, Dean Roscoe Pound famously exhorted the legal profession to transform its institutions of justice and adjust its principles “to the human conditions they are to govern”, “putting the human factor in the central place”.

Playing Around: Game Theory In Popular Culture (12/14/09)
There is something irresistible about game theory. A branch of mathematics devoted to understanding social interaction and decision making, it holds relevance – and fascination – for students and practitioners of negotiation and dispute resolution.

Fallacious Argument Of The Month (12/07/09)
Welcome to December’s installment of my ongoing series, Fallacious Argument of the Month.

Mapping The Borders Of Conflict: How Google Depicts Disputed Regions (12/07/09)
Maps enable us to picture the world we inhabit. They depict physical spaces, marking the borders between nations or nature’s own boundaries between plain and mountain, shore and coastline. To those who can read them, they tell stories of crops, climate, culture, and economies. Maps also speak of war and violence, of divided nations, of claims for territory, and of peoples locked in conflict, where even the names that places bear are in dispute. In depicting geopolitically sensitive locations, what can the mapmakers do in the face of competing claims of naming rights or ownership?

For Mediators, Negotiators: Recommended Social And Brain Sciences Blogs (11/23/09)
Each month I dedicate a post to the discussion of a different fallacious argument. It’s part of my ongoing effort to help the world bicker better. Here, friends, is this month’s installment.

Fallacious Argument Of The Month: In Pursuit Of The Red Herring (11/23/09)
Each month I dedicate a post to the discussion of a different fallacious argument. It’s part of my ongoing effort to help the world bicker better. Here, friends, is this month’s installment.

Ethics And Best Practices For Mediation Provider Organizations: 7 Years After Georgetown (11/17/09)
As readers of this blog know, the private practice of mediation in the United States remains unregulated by government. Arguably, this absence of formal regulation, licensing, and credentialing does not diminish mediation’s standing as a profession. It does, however, place weighty responsibility on the shoulders of U.S. mediators, collectively and individually, to protect the reputation of the profession and to build public confidence in mediation services.

The Why’s Have It: Teaching Curiosity For Effective Negotiation And Mediation (11/16/09)
What makes Deepak Malhotra’s and Max H. Bazerman’s 2007 Negotiation Genius: How to Overcome Obstacles and Achieve Brilliant Results at the Bargaining Table and Beyond so highly readable are the memorable anecdotes of real-world negotiations it contains. Among my favorites is one that concerns a colleague of the authors, a “negotiation genius” identified by his first name only, “Chris”.

Do You Tell Your Mediation Clients About Neuroscience? A Poll At Brains On Purpose (11/16/09)
What is neuroscience transparency? It’s what conflict resolution professionals tell their clients about neuroscience. You can contribute by taking her survey at her site, Brains on Purpose, a blog which explores the role that brain science can play in the resolution of disputes.

The Future Of Conflict Resolution: Preaching To The Choir Or Negotiating With Tea Partiers? (11/09/09)
I often find myself wishing I lived in California, if only to be able to regularly attend the magnificent events the Southern California Mediation Association plans and presents each year. These programs showcase the talents and intellectual achievements of some of the greatest thinkers and leaders that the field of conflict resolution can boast.

In Search Of A Better Argument (11/02/09)
Conflict. There’s certainly plenty of it to go around. Daily life is made up of discord, debate and disagreement. I for one would hate to see conflict vanish. Not only would it put me and all the other mediators out of work, but life would be far less interesting. No doubt quality of life would suffer, since conflict after all famously provokes improvements. (Besides, in a world without argument imagine how erotic love might suffer without make-up sex to spark things up.)

Justice For All: Battling Bias In The Courts (11/02/09)
Bias does its greatest damage undetected, operating beneath the radar of our awareness or even contrary to our conscious intentions.

Public Licensing And Regulation Of Mediators: The Arguments For And Against (10/19/09)
One of the issues hotly debated in the ADR field is whether it’s time for state licensing and regulation of the practice of mediation. The following are summaries of the arguments that each side to the debate has marshaled.

Fallacious Argument Of The Month: The Confusion Of Cause And Effect (10/19/09)
To do my part to improve argument and discourse everywhere, each month I feature a different fallacious argument. I launched the series in July with the straw man; discussed the false analogy in August; and in September explored the misused ellipsis.

What’s In Your Agreement To Mediate? Confirming Confidentiality Before The Mediation Starts (10/12/09)
Confidentiality stands as a cornerstone of mediation practice. It encourages the resolution of disputes by allowing those in conflict to candidly discuss the issues they face, secure in the knowledge that what they say in the mediator’s presence cannot be held against them later. In pop culture parlance, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

More Like Guidelines: Ethical Standards Of Conduct For Mediators Considered (10/12/09)
Some of you, particularly those with children, no doubt remember “Pirates of the Caribbean“, a 2003 movie based upon a Disneyland theme park ride. In one scene, the movie’s heroine attempts to parley with the villainous pirate captain, invoking the protection of the Pirate Code, a kind of seafaring Model Rules of Professional Conduct. He sneers at her entreaties, dismissing the Code as “more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules”.

Grain Of Salt: How Much Does Mediator Behavior Influence The Outcome Of Mediation? (09/28/09)
Those of us who mediate like to believe that our skills and temperament influence parties who are poles apart to move toward resolution, reconciliation, or settlement. But how influential are we really?

Cognitive Errors To Watch For As The Mediation Profession Discusses The Important Issues (09/28/09)
Momentum seems to be building for mediator credentialing in the United States. Change is no doubt coming. What form that may ultimately take remains to be seen — whether public licensing by the state (least likely) or the adoption of credentialing mechanisms by major ADR membership organizations that dominate the national scene (most likely). This is but one of several difficult and divisive issues that the field will grapple with in the years to come.

Mediator Certification And Credentialing (09/21/09)
As my readers know, the private practice of mediation remains unregulated in the United States. Some view this fact with consternation, others with relief.

Fallacious Argument Of The Month (09/14/09)
To contribute to the improvement of public discourse and debate, I feature a different fallacious argument each month. I kicked off the series in July by spotlighting the straw man, a perennial favorite of lazy minds, and in August discussed the false analogy, including its most popular and persistent form, the Hitler/Nazi comparison.

A Dispute Resolution Quote Of Note (09/14/09)
Here’s something for all of us, regardless of political persuasion, to think about as America debates the big issues:

Recommended Reading: 21 Alternative Dispute Resolution Blogs To Follow (09/07/09)
Creating a list like this was challenging, with so many worthy ADR blogs to choose from. I fear that some I may have inadvertently overlooked, and as I’ve written this post, I’ve had to change the number in the title several times.

Recommended Reading: 21 Alternative Dispute Resolution Blogs To Follow (08/31/09)
Recently Mediator Blah…Blah…, one of my favorite ADR blogs, sadly ceased publication. I will miss friend and fellow blogger Geoff Sharp’s intelligent, emotionally honest writing and wit. Fortunately there are other blogs, written by talented, insightful practitioners, that can fill the void that Geoff’s absence has created. I have compiled a list of currently active blogs that I recommend to you, with a few words on why.

It’s A Jungle Out There: Words Of Caution For Negotiating Social Media (08/24/09)
Twitter. LinkedIn. Facebook. Chances are you’ve set up a user account on at least one of these sites or maybe others besides these popular three. Learning how to navigate these social media sites can be overwhelming, but with the right approach they can be well worth the time you spend building your profile or your portfolio.

Negotiating Social Media: The Sequel (08/24/09)
Last week I posted “It’s a jungle out there: words of caution for negotiating social media“, an article with my recommendations about using social media wisely and courteously. What spurred me to write it were some unpleasant and fortunately isolated experiences with shameless marketers on social media sites.

The Log In Your Eye: Eliminating Gender Bias In Mediator Performance Evaluations (08/17/09)
Public credentialing of mediators will necessarily involve some kind of evaluation process - which raises a whole host of vexing questions. Among the many that I anticipate is one that particularly troubles me: given the realities of implicit bias, and the difficulties still facing women and minorities in gaining visibility in the upper reaches of our field, what would be done to ensure that any evaluation of mediators is free from it?

To Certify Or Not To Certify: That Is The Question As The Mediation Field Struggles With Professionalization (08/03/09)
One of the burning questions the U.S. mediation profession faces is a difficult one: is it time to professionalize the field and establish more formal mechanisms for credentialing?

Fallacious Argument Of The Month: The False Analogy (08/03/09)
With the aim of improving public discourse and combating sloppy thinking, I continue with the next installment of my series, Fallacious Argument of the Month.

Mediation Career Myth-Busting: 5 Urban Legends It’s Time To Debunk (07/20/09)
Ever since the publication of a Forbes article that named mediation to its list of “America’s Most Surprising Six-Figure Jobs“, I’ve been inundated with emails from mediator-hopefuls eager to stake a claim to all that cash. Troubling to me, many of them hold mistaken notions about mediation as a profession and about qualifications to mediate. To help them, and save them and me time, I’ve decided to use this post to gather some persistent myths about careers in mediation and then swiftly dispatch them. Readers are of course welcome to add and then debunk in the comment section their own favorite urban legends about mediation practice.

Fallacious Argument Of The Month (07/13/09)
There’s nothing like a good argument, as any fan of Monty Python knows. Having a good argument, however, demands diligence, attention to detail, self-awareness, and practice; it’s all too easy to have a bad one.

Mediation: Not Meditation, Not Medication, And Definitely Not Arbitration (07/06/09)
Yesterday the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported that the state’s Supreme Court “OKs mediation in custody disputes“. The problem with the story is that the New Jersey Supreme Court did nothing of the kind. Instead, it held that parties to a matrimonial action can submit questions relating to child custody and parenting time to binding arbitration

Do Generation Y And Baby Boomer Lawyers Need A Mediator? (07/06/09)
I’ve written often here about the fault lines in the ADR profession - the deep rifts dividing facilitative and evaluative mediators, the line in the sand between attorneys who mediate and professional mediators who are not lawyers. These dividing lines damage our collegiality and pose harm to our credibility as dispute resolution professionals; if we are unable to face and address our own differences, how can we be relied upon to assist others?

Mediation Credentialing: What About Mediation Trainers? (06/29/09)
Much discussion has taken place of late about credentialing or certifying mediators or what it means to prepare mediators for competent practice. All too often, number of hours of mediation training serves as proxy for proficiency and skill.

Twitter Tips For Mediators: How ADR Professionals Can Get The Most From This Social Media Tool (06/22/09)
It’s almost impossible these days to pick up a newspaper or turn on the nightly TV news or your favorite radio station without reading or hearing something about Twitter.

Just Launched A Dispute Resolution Blog? Here Are 6 Things Effective Bloggers Do (06/15/09)
As a blogger who’s been at this now for over four years, I have been fortunate enough to know first-hand the impact of blogging on the way ADR professionals practice.

Negotiation Teaching 2.0: New Book Rethinks Current Approaches, Considers Culture (06/08/09)
“But we’ve always done it this way” all too often stifles fresh thinking or bars the way to needed change. That’s why now and again it doesn’t hurt to shake things up. And shaking things up in the world of negotiation training and teaching is a new book, Rethinking Negotiation Teaching: Innovations for Context and Culture, edited by ADR movers and shakers Chris Honeyman, James Coben, and Giuseppe De Palo.

Lawyers Are From Mars, Clients From Venus: Differing Perceptions Of Mediation Documented In New Book (06/08/09)
After attending a breakout session at the 2009 ABA Section on Dispute Resolution Spring Meeting titled “What Do Litigators Want from Mediation?”, I decided it was high time to ask “What about clients?“, writing a post that called for much closer attention to the needs of those directly affected by disputes. I’m glad I did, since it turns out that my readers and I are not the only ones concerned about questions of that kind.

Conflicts Of Interest In The Age Of Twitter And Facebook: Neutrals Must Find Right Balance (06/08/09)
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn - if you are active on any of those sites or on the many others like them - then you no doubt have frequent opportunities to connect.

Law Like Love: Thoughts On A Supreme Court Nomination, ADR, And Jurisprudence (06/01/09)
Earlier this week President Obama announced the nomination of Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Praise Of Joint Sessions: Mediator Geoff Sharp Pays Tribute To Face-To-Face Negotiations (06/01/09)
The past couple of years have brought energetic debate within the mediation profession, pushing mediators to confront questions about practice, professional identity, and the nature of mediation itself. One of the most controversial questions concerns the use of the caucus, the private meetings behind closed doors with each side to a dispute separately.

Mediate.Com CEO Responds To Questions About New Mediator Certification Program (05/25/09)
Three of the mediation world’s leading bloggers, Diane Levin, Geoff Sharp and Victoria Pynchon, not necessarily great fans of mediator certification, interviewed (think “grilled”) Mediate.com CEO, Jim Melamed, on the new Mediate.com Certification Program. Here is the interview:

Preparing Mediators For Practice: Mediation Training Or Mediation Education? (05/25/09)
Recently the alert I set up to monitor appearances of the keyword “mediation” in Twitter posts pointed me to the following message: “Just got back from Civil Mediation Training (30 hrs) to be a Qualified Neutral”. The message took me aback. 30 hours? To be a “qualified neutral”? Qualified? For what?

Mediate.com Certification Program: An Interview with Mediate.com CEO Jim Melamed (05/22/09)
Three of the mediation world’s leading bloggers, Diane Levin, Geoff Sharp and Victoria Pynchon, not necessarily great fans of mediator certification, interviewed Mediate.com CEO, Jim Melamed, on the new Mediate.com Certification Program.

Mediators Pull Plug On Efforts To Enact Uniform Mediation Act In Massachusetts (05/11/09)
In 1985, the Massachusetts legislature enacted a statute creating a privilege for mediation communications. As it turned out, despite the good intentions of its makers, it proved to be a deeply flawed statute.

What About Clients? Time At Last To Consider What They Want From Mediation (05/04/09)
At the recent ABA Section on Dispute Resolution spring meeting, I attended one program whose title promised an answer to the fascinating question “What Do Litigators Want?” when it comes to mediator practices.

Mediation Channel Round-Up: Good Stuff Online For Mediators And Negotiators (05/04/09)
From time to time I round up the links to articles I’ve been sharing with my followers on Twitter, where I’ve been microblogging for the last couple of months. I’m passing some along here to my non-Twittering readers, along with other stuff that you just don’t want to miss. I hope you enjoy these.

Mediate.com Featured Blogger Interview: Diane Levin At Mediation Channel (04/27/09)
Mediate.com is doing a series of articles on our Featured Bloggers. This is the featured blogger interview of Diane Levin.

Gorilla In The Room: The Dividing Lines In Mediation Practice (04/20/09)
Last week’s annual spring meeting of the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution was endowed with an optimistic title: “ADR: Building Bridges to a Better Society”. Despite the noble sentiment it carried, something else - unwelcome and ignored - was present.

Facilitative? Evaluative? The Struggle To Define The Practice Of Mediation (04/13/09)
Recently I criticized a call by Stephen Erickson of the Association for Conflict Resolution to establish a certification system for mediators. (Lively discussion ensued, and people have continued to weigh in, so please feel free to contribute.)

Getting Out Of Neutral: A Fresh Look At Mediator Impartiality (04/06/09)
And then I read the message mediation giant Lee Jay Berman posted to an ADR listserv, which barrister and mediator Geoff Sharp helpfully published on his blog. Berman muses about impartiality and concludes that it is no Holy Grail but only fallacy.

Defending The Caucus: The Benefits For Parties In Facilitative Mediation (04/06/09)
Recently the mediation caucus - meetings in private between the mediator and one side to a dispute - has come in for some harsh criticism. Dismissed as “shuttle diplomacy” that keeps parties in the dark about each other’s interests and places full control over the flow of information in the hands of the mediator, the caucus has been derided as an inadequate tool for the facilitative practitioner.

Negotiating Twitter: a mediator test drives the hot social media craze (03/23/09)
Since February, I’ve been test-driving Twitter, the social media tool that everyone these days seems to be talking about. It’s a social and business networking, instant messaging, and microblogging service, all rolled into one. Twitter invites users to respond to the question “What are you doing?” Every day, thousands of users log in, eager to answer, using cell phones or computers.

Time for mediation certification in the U.S.? Not this way, thanks (03/23/09)
The Association for Conflict Resolution’s Family Section released the latest edition of its quarterly newsletter, Family Mediation News. A front page article insists in large typeface that “Certification of Mediators Needed Now More than Ever”.

Outwitting the Leopard: Deception at the Negotiating Table (03/23/09)
In negotiation, you have to be clever enough to spot trouble when it’s coming, and nimble to respond to change and new information. You also must be careful not to underestimate the resourcefulness of any of your fellow players at the table.

Negotiating Disability (03/09/09)
Last summer an online magazine for entrepreneurial women elevated form over substance when it advised its audience to accessorize for that big negotiation and mimic the “look” of the person on the other side of the table. I responded with a post criticizing the undue focus on physical appearance:

Round-Up Of Noteworthy Articles For Mediators, Negotiators (03/09/09)
For the past month, I’ve been test-driving Twitter, a Web 2.0 microblogging, messaging, and social media tool. I’ll be discussing those experiences later this week, but in the meantime, I thought I’d pull together a sampling of articles I’ve been sharing with my followers on Twitter.

Mediating between law and mediation: time for both sides to declare a cease-fire (02/23/09)
Last week I got a phone call from a third-year law student interested in learning more about mediation. Toward the end of our conversation, she told me that her fellow students mocked her interest in mediation practice, dismissing it as “touchy-feely, Kumbaya-singing crap”.

A Round-Up Of Must-Read Articles For Professional Mediators (02/03/09)
The following articles linked to below make essential reading for the professional mediator, addressing as they do three important topics in mediation practice — reaching settlement, making decisions, and what to do with those notes.

No soap, radio: confronting our fear of asking questions (01/26/09)
Those of you who grew up in the U.S. may be familiar with “no soap, radio“, a prankster’s joke. When I was a kid, it was the kind of gag that older kids would pull on younger ones. The prankster and her accomplices — a group of sixth graders for example — would approach their mark — a younger sibling in the fourth and fifth grade perhaps — and offer to regale him with the funniest joke ever.

January 20, 2009: The Better Angels Of Our Nature (01/26/09)

Mediation House Calls For Divorcing Couples (01/19/09)
Although I hate to admit it, I’m actually old enough to remember the days when the family doctor made house calls.

Carnival Of Trust (01/12/09)
That trust is vital cannot be doubted, as even a casual glance at newspaper headlines makes plain. From the Bernie Madoff scandal to the impeachment of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to the refusal of U.S. banks to account for the money they received in the recent Wall Street bailout, it has never been clearer that trust matters — and matters a lot. Violations of trust hit hard, whether public figures and national interests are at stake or between private citizens behind closed doors.

To err is human: how do we keep our feet out of our mouths in the first place? (11/24/08)
Last week, legal marketing guru Larry Bodine put his foot in it with a blog post describing the “Best ‘Elevator Pitch’ Ever…?”, courtesy of a “silver-haired senior-most litigator” who relies on a cheap joke about the Holocaust to woo business clients.

Court-Connected Mediation In Massachusetts Another Casualty Of Tough Economy (11/18/08)
In news that has stunned the alternative dispute resolution community in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Trial Court has terminated its mediation contracts with programs approved to provide services in courts throughout the Commonwealth.

Testing For Negotiation Skills, Creativity: An LSAT For The 21st Century (11/18/08)
In the U.S., thousands of graduate school applicants sit each year for one or more of the standardized tests that most universities require as part of their admissions process. One of them, the Law School Admission Test, known as the LSAT, measures the reading comprehension and verbal reasoning skills of hopeful attorneys-to-be — yielding results that purport to predict success in law school and in practice later.

Animated short celebrates 60th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10/21/08)
Reflecting on rights and interests, I note that this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In celebration of a document that recognizes and honors the basic dignity and worth of human beings everywhere, filmmaker Seth Pau has created an animated short.

Blawg Review 181 (10/14/08)
Welcome to Blawg Review #181, celebrating International Conflict Resolution Day. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Blawg Review, allow me a brief introduction. Hosted each week by a different blogger, Blawg Review highlights noteworthy legal blogging, sharing the pleasure of discovery of insight, news, and commentary sampled across the spectrum of legal practice.

Prevent conflict escalation: use Google's new Mail Goggles email tool (10/14/08)
s anyone knows who has awakened in the sober light of dawn to regret an email sent in haste the night before, electronic communications can be lethal.

Jumping To Conclusions, Part 2: Correct Answers To The Cash Register Test (10/14/08)
Last week I posed a challenge to my readers: to have a go at “The Cash Register Exercise“, an uncritical inference test. I promised to divulge the correct answers yesterday, but unfortunately circumstances intervened and prevented me from doing so, and so, with my apologies, I post them today.

Where are all the female law bloggers? Hanging out in the ADR blogosphere of course (10/06/08)
C.C. Holland, writing for Legal Technology laments the lack of strong female voices among legal bloggers and asks, “Where Are All the Female Law Bloggers?”

Jumping to conclusions? Take the Cash Register Test to find out how much (10/06/08)
For many years I have used the following exercise in trainings and workshops on conflict resolution, communication, and negotiation. Known as “The Cash Register Exercise”, it is adapted from “The Uncritical Inference Test” created by William V. Haney, Communication and Organizational Behavior: Text and Cases.

A negotiator walks into a bar: a joke teaches a lesson on problem solving (09/30/08)
A friend recently sent me the following joke: During a visit to a mental asylum, a visitor asked the director how to determine whether or not a patient should be institutionalised. “Well,” said the director, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient, and ask him to empty the bathtub.” “ Oh, I see,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the...

Will mediate for beer: as times get tough, locals turn to bartering (09/23/08)
At The Pigs, a pub in Norwich, England, locals can trade food — produce they’ve grown or game they’ve caught — for beer. According to the sign posted in the pub, “If you grow, breed, shoot or steal anything that may look at home on our menu, then bring it in and let’s do a deal!” That’s the story according to a video posted by ABC News this evening. (To view, click here and then on the link for the September 16 story titled, “Bartering for ...

Judgment call: everyone benefits when decision making is improved (09/16/08)
In a recently published paper, experts in decision making Dolly Chugh, Katherine L. Milkman, and Max Bazerman asked an important question, “How Can Decision Making Be Improved?” (PDF): We propose that the time has come to move the study of biases in judgment and decision making beyond description and toward the development of improvement strategies. While a few important insights about how to improve decision making have already been identified, we argue that many others await...

New blog Settlement Perspectives puts spotlight on resolving disputes and getting the deal done (09/16/08)
Attorney John DeGroote has hit the ground running with the launch of his blog, Settlement Perspectives. Although his blog is just five posts old as of today’s date, John has already demonstrated the exemplary writing and skillful storytelling that are the mark of the successful blogger. John tells readers the value he brings to the table: I created this site to help clients and their counsel navigate the challenges that inevitably result from disputes, settlement efforts, impasse, and...

Sidetaker lets bickering couples submit disputes to court of public opinion (09/10/08)
If you seek proof of civilization’s decline, look no further than Sidetaker, a site that lets the public be the judge in spats between quarreling lovers. Don’t bother to seek nuance or middle ground here; there’s plenty of blame and fingerpointing for couples bickering over everything from toilet flushing habits to illicit affairs. Sidetaker (slogan: “let the world decide who’s at fault”) of course is in this for the greater good: …far too many...

International Mediation Institute honors mediation blogs from across the globe (09/10/08)
The International Mediation Institute (IMI), a public policy initiative creating international competency standards for certifying mediators, has conferred a great honor upon a select group of bloggers. IMI has created a special section on its web site to recognize the work of mediation bloggers from countries around the world. IMI’s list of bloggers, with links and brief descriptions, is prefaced by these words from Herman Melville that capture beautifully the spirit of both mediation...

New issue of The Complete Lawyer and its ADR column, The Human Factor, now available (09/10/08)
Now available online is the latest edition of The Complete Lawyer, a web-based magazine focusing on quality of life and career satisfaction for attorneys, along with its special ADR column, “The Human Factor“. This issue of The Complete Lawyer discusses “The Brave New World of Associates.”  Articles include “Jettison the Myth of Individualism“, reflecting on the importance of building social capital. “The Human Factor” focuses on ADR from the perspective of ...

Barack Obama: mediator to a divided nation (09/02/08)
In the days after the towers fell on September 11, 2001, Americans everywhere came together to honor the dead and demand justice. The world stood beside us, sharing our shock and grief. That unity proved short-lived. “You’re either with us or against us” became U.S. foreign policy, alienating long-time allies. Pursuit of war against Iraq tore Americans apart as the U.S. divided into two opposing camps, red state from blue. Earlier this year, conservative pundit Rush...

Don't pee on my shoes and tell me it's raining: more truth, less fiction, in debate on mandatory arbitration (09/02/08)
Earlier this year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s affiliate, the Institute for Legal Reform, cranked out a press release about a recent poll it commissioned that purported to prove that a majority of likely voters would overwhelmingly support mandatory arbitration. This press release was but one weapon  in the arsenal the U.S. Chamber has deployed in its campaign to defeat the Arbitration Fairness Act, draft legislation which would ban mandatory arbitration agreements in employment,...

Daydreams lead to creativity, productive problem solving, contrary to popular belief (09/02/08)
…proper daydreaming - the kind of thinking that occurs when the mind is thinking to itself - is a crucial feature of the healthy human brain. It might seem as though our mind is empty, but the mind is never empty: it’s always bubbling over with ideas and connections. So writes Jonah Lehrer in “Daydream achiever: A wandering mind can do important work, scientists are learning - and may even be essential“, an article in today’s Boston Globe “Ideas”...

The paper it's printed on: pondering the meaning of money (08/24/08)
Money. It has been said to make the world go around. It has been maligned as the root of all evil. It breeds litigation. It spurs negotiations onward. It serves as commercial and political lubricant. Alexander Hamilton once called it the "darling [object] of human avarice and enterprise". We fill our wallets and our bank accounts with it, we spend it or save it, we go to work each day to earn it. But do we really understand it, this thing we call money? What is its fundamental...

The rest is trust: cognitive errors make it easy to misjudge trustworthiness (08/18/08)
Trust, as any negotiator knows, is critical. Its presence gets commitment; its destruction sours deals. But trusting and being trusted is a delicate balance: effective negotiators know to “be trustworthy, not trusting.” No one wants to be fooled at the negotiating table. In “Confidence game,” journalist Drake Bennett, writing for the Boston Globe, provides a fascinating look into the related issues of trust and trustworthiness. Trust is essential to much more than...

New episodes in International Dispute Negotiation podcast series cover hard bargaining, emotions across cultures (08/18/08)
One of the very best of the ADR blogs is International Dispute Negotiation, a high-quality podcast series hosted by Michael McIlwrath, Senior Counsel, Litigation for GE Infrastructure - Oil & Gas, whose home base is Florence, Italy. Masterfully produced, these podcasts offer conversations with leading thinkers and distinguished practitioners who bring a global perspective on mediation, arbitration, and negotiation. Although international in focus, these interviews have relevance to ADR...

Hip-hop video blog explains how to tell someone they're racist (08/11/08)
Jay Smooth, founder of New York’s longest running hip-hop radio show, WBAI’s Underground Railroad, hosts ill doctrine, a hip-hop video blog featuring hard-hitting, thoughtful social commentary. Smooth recently posted “How to Tell People They Sound Racist“, a video with advice on having one of the most difficult conversations there is, and underscores the difference between the “what they did” conversation and the “what they are”...

Online articles, web sites for mediators and mediation training graduates (08/05/08)
I just finished teaching a mediation training program for a group of extraordinary people from a wide range of professional and personal backgrounds. It was a delight to work with smart, insightful, good-humored men and women who demonstrated so much intellectual curiosity and a passion for learning. I promised to pull together for them a selection of must-read articles for mediators — hence this post. I am also including links to suggested sites. I’m breaking it all down into...

The mind and magic: conjuring up ways to improve awareness (08/05/08)
A skilled magician can make us see what isn’t there. We watch the silver dollar vanish but not the magician deftly palm the coin. Magic is filled with tricks — games played with our perception as the magician misdirects our attention. It is magic’s ability to manipulate our awareness that has earned it not only the delight of audiences but also the attention of the field of neuroscience, according to “How magicians control your mind,” an article in today’s...

Whatever happened to thank you? Thoughts on gratitude (07/29/08)
Several months ago, a former student of mine, about to sit for the bar, asked me to write for him the letter of recommendation his application package required. Although at that time my schedule was hectic, I was happy to do so and accommodated his request, completing the letter and mailing it off to him well in advance of the bar deadline. I emailed him to let him know it was on its way. Several weeks passed, and I heard nothing at all from my former student — not an email or phone...

Where are women who mediate, part 2: how can you hold a panel discussion on diversity and forget to include women? (07/21/08)
Last week fellow mediator, blogger and rabble-rouser Victoria Pynchon published a post with a confrontational title: “Dispute Resolution by Old White Men: Gender Prejudice Sinks Arbitration Award“. Lobbed like a Molotov cocktail, Vickie’s post blew gender bias apart, as she recited a litany of examples of discrimination spanning decades against women inside and outside the legal profession. It’s not just the persistence of gender bias that makes women like Vickie and...

Facing ourselves: new tests for hidden biases at Project Implicit (07/21/08)
This is by no means the first time I’ve encouraged readers to plumb the depths of their hidden biases with the help of Project Implicit and its Implicit Association Test (IAT), an instrument which “measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report.” With the recent discussion here and elsewhere of gender bias, I thought it was time to revisit the IAT. The IAT tests for biases across a range of...

Accessorizing for your next negotiation: should appearance matter? (07/21/08)
A Google Alert in this morning’s email directed my attention to an article titled, “Isn’t Your Look Part of Your Negotiation?“, posted on WomenandBiz.com, an online magazine “written for today’s entrepreneurial woman”. The article emphasizes the importance of preparation to effective negotiation — namely, making the right impression with your appearance: Here are some tips: mimic their style, put yourself in an attractive light and don’t create...

The art of negotiation: a video interview with international negotiator Mitchell Reiss (07/15/08)
The College of William and Mary has posted an interview with Mitchell Reiss, Vice Provost for International Affairs, who explains the art of negotiation and describes his experience negotiating with North Korea in this short video. One of the most important qualities a negotiator possesses is patience, according to Reiss, who observes that it “isn’t just a virtue, it becomes a tactical advantage” at the negotiation table. If you’re interested in learning more about...

Serving - and keeping - your membership: an open letter to organizations for ADR professionals (07/15/08)
Last week, mediator and blogger Geoff Sharp asked his readers for some help (links to follow are to PDF documents so click with care): Tuesday next week I am facilitating a breakfast session on how our two local New Zealand professional mediation organisations can serve us better - “How LEADR and AMINZ can better serve New Zealand mediators - a discussion Can you help me prepare - what’s the best thing your local organisation does for you - how does the mediation organisation you...

Within limits: honoring the finite at the mediation table (07/15/08)
Mediators and negotiators are familiar with the concept of the fixed pie versus the expanding one. In traditional negotiation, there is only one pie to be divided, and everyone wants to claim the largest piece. In principled negotiation, we talk of expanding the pie — of creating value so that everyone’s needs are met. In fact, many of us who practice principled negotiation promote the notion that the pie and possibilities are infinite and that the only limits are those our own imaginations...

Its not enough to talk about the gorilla in the room; you have to see him first (07/07/08)
One of my favorite exercises to conduct in negotiation or conflict resolution training consists of showing my audience the famous gorilla video, created by the Visual Cognition Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I tell the audience that they will observe two teams of people playing basketball, one in white shirts and the other in black, and tell them to count the number of times the team wearing white t-shirts bounces the ball. So focused are most audience members on...

Latest issue of The Complete Lawyer - and the ADR column 'Human Factor' - now available (07/07/08)
The latest issue of The Complete Lawyer, an online journal focusing on quality of life and career satisfaction for attorneys, is now available — and along with it, its special ADR column, “The Human Factor“. This issue of The Complete Lawyer asks, “What’s your exit strategy?” and looks at how best to plan financially and emotionally for retirement. “The Human Factor“ focuses on ADR from the perspective of four attorneys who mediate - me and my three...

In an election year, falsehoods not so easily banished by facts (06/30/08)
So much of negotiation and mediation is about changing minds. As negotiators gather and exchange information, new data shifts the way people understand the underlying issues, perceive the risks, and weigh choices. The concealment or distortion of facts are the thumb on the butcher’s scales in any negotiation. Knowledge — accurate information — is indeed power. But possessing accurate information may not be enough, whether we are talking about making decisions at the...

World Directory of ADR Blogs Celebrates its Second Anniversary (06/23/08)
Work has been so hectic lately that I almost missed an important milestone. On June 5, the World Directory of Alternative Dispute Resolution Blogs, a site that I developed from a project I began in 2005 to track and catalogue ADR blogs world-wide, celebrated its second anniversary. Today ADRblogs.com lists 146 blogs from 25 countries, representing conversations across the globe about mediation, negotiation, and conflict resolution in languages that include English, Spanish, Portuguese,...

Missing in action: where are all the women who mediate? (06/23/08)
An advertisement for one of the big ADR firms appears regularly in the weekly newspaper for lawyers distributed here in Massachusetts. The ad, in sober gray, black, and white, covers more than half a page. It displays thumbnail photos of the neutrals on its panel, with the names in full caps printed neatly beneath each headshot. Samuel. Jerry. William. Gordon. David. Patrick. Cortland. James. A second James. Robert. Charles. Allan. Eric. John. And, like an afterthought, or a printing error, ...

Correlation between bumper stickers on cars and driver aggression (06/23/08)
That “Mediate, Don’t Litigate” bumper sticker may reveal a lot more about you than the fact that you support ADR — it may be warning other drivers that you’re aggressive behind the wheel. In “Looking to Avoid Aggressive Drivers? Check Those Bumpers“, the Washington Post reports that people who personalize their cars display higher levels of aggression than those who don’t, according to a study by Colorado State University social psychologist...

Under Pressure: When The Minority Yields To The Majority (06/17/08)
In a famous experiment from the 1950s, social psychologist Solomon Asch demonstrated the influence a group exerts on our opinions and judgments. In this experiment, subjects would agree with the answer of the group despite the evidence of their own eyes that the majority’s answer was the wrong one. It showed how readily people will deny what they see and submit to the majority view, and how hard it is for one person to stand strong against the convictions of the many. This holds...

Too many mediators, not enough mediations: is it fair to keep training neutrals with career prospects so grim? (06/10/08)
Too many mediators, not enough mediations: is it fair to keep training neutrals with career prospects so grim? Last summer the Southern California Mediators Association posted to its blog an essay by mediator Christine von Wrangel provocatively titled, “Mediation: A Lucrative Career or a Ticket to the Poor House?“, a polemic directed against the many universities and training programs raising the career expectations of hundreds of mediator-hopefuls: Almost every...

Whose opinion counts: should clients, not lawyers, be the ones to evaluate mediators? (06/10/08)
Two respected thinkers in the mediation field, Leonard Riskin and Nancy Welsh, recently made available on the Social Science Research Network an advance copy of the law review article they co-authored, titled, “Is that All There is? The ‘Problem’ in Court-Oriented Mediation“. It takes a long, thoughtful look at the failure of court-connected mediation to fulfill its early promises and the extent to which it increasingly ignores the needs and interests of the clients at ...

The Value of a Human Life (06/02/08)
One case haunts me still, from the days when I was practicing law. The clients were parents left bereft by a tragedy that no mother or father should ever have to face. A driver in a truck, speeding down a quiet suburban street one warm spring morning, struck and critically injured their 12-year-old son, who was riding his bicycle with his friends. The boy was rushed by ambulance first to the local hospital and then transferred to the city hospital better equipped to deal with injuries so...

Half empty or half full? Test your optimism (06/02/08)
The Boston Globe reports today that many of us — possibly 80% — are optimists. Optimism and pessimism alike each have benefits. Studies suggest that optimists may enjoy better health, but being overly optimistic can be a hindrance when it comes to launching or running a business. The effect of optimism may also be influenced by one’s career: The importance of positivity can vary by profession. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman, a leading researcher on...

Print and online resources for mediators and negotiators (05/26/08)
Without a doubt one of my favorite things in the whole world to do is to teach people how to mediate. For many people, a basic mediation training is their first introduction to conflict resolution theory and to new ways of thinking about negotiation, and it’s rewarding and fun for me to guide people through those early discoveries. It’s important to remember that completion of a basic mediation training is not an end but a beginning, an initial step toward the practice of...

From all sides: a global perspective on ADR, thanks to International Dispute Negotiation podcast (05/26/08)
One of the best aspects of the digital age is the ability to connect to ideas and news whose source lies far from our own front steps. These ideas from across the globe are not only stimulating for their novelty; they also affirm, since they highlight our commonalities, not just our differences. Since I was introduced to it last November, one of my favorite sources for information and fresh thinking with a global perspective is the International Dispute Negotiation podcast. International...

Mediation gets its own official brew: Collaboration Not Litigation Ale (05/26/08)
When you toast your next successfully concluded mediation, you may want to think about hoisting a glass of Collaboration Not Litigation Ale, brewed by the Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, Colorado. May I recommend as a suitable accompaniment some delectable “Make barbecue not war” spareribs? Bottoms up! (Here’s to the Legal Antiquarian for the link.)...

Where were the mediators in the Microsoft-Yahoo negotiations? (05/19/08)
Collaborative lawyer and ADR professional David Hoffman, in an op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor, asks, “Microsoft and Yahoo: Where were the mediators?“ David makes the strong case that mediation could have made all the difference, getting these digital technology giants to yes: In the Microsoft-Yahoo negotiations, a mediator could have helped in several concrete ways. First, since disagreements about the price of a company usually turn on financial predictions, mediators can help the...

Discover myths and truths about negotiation at Social Innovation Conversations (05/12/08)
The internet always astounds me for the richness and diversity of the resources it makes available to anyone with the time and the curiosity to discover them. Consider my latest web find: Social Innovation Conversations. Its motto proclaims its mission: “reinventing the world together one conversation at a time”. Described as “an open and collaborative online platform for cross-sector and multidisciplinary learning for social change”, Social Innovation Conversations...

Have you thanked your mentor lately? (05/12/08)
If we are fortunate, mentors await us along our path, reaching out a hand to guide us when the road grows rocky or shining a light on the way ahead. Later our lives lead us miles and years from our own beginnings. In keeping our eyes on the path ahead, it’s easy sometimes to forget to look back and remember the ones who steadied our steps. I received an email this week that reminded me how important it is to stop and look back, to recall our mentors and the difference they made to our...

Mediation Is Magic (05/05/08)
This is easily one of the best, all-time great quotes about mediation: When we begin our mediation training and practice, we often hear (and speak) of the magic of mediation. When it works, it truly is wondrous. It’s easy to see why a mediator feels like a wizard with supernatural powers, enabling lambs to lie down with lions. Based on my experience in the realms of magic and mediation, here is my hope. Once upon a time, if you could take a cup of water, put it in a box, push a button,...

How skilled are you at spotting the fake smile? (05/05/08)
Test your ability to distinguish genuine smiles from fake ones at BBC Science. You’ll get your results when you’ve finished, plus a discussion of why most people do a bad job at spotting fake smiles. To put your ability to read faces to a different challenge, check out “Let’s face it: test your understanding of facial expressions” from the Mediation Channel vaults. You can also test the sex of your brain, or amuse yourself with a full array of other online...

How rational are your decisions? Find out at the Predictably Irrational web site (05/05/08)
We mediators play midwife to decision making. We patiently assist in an arduous and sometimes painful process while parties labor, struggling to make the right choices in difficult circumstances. We strive to ensure that those who weigh those choices are able to reach rational decisions based on accurate and complete information. But just how rational are the decisions that people make, whether at the mediation table or anywhere else? How much control do any of us really exert over those...

Bias: a Good Reason to Settle Before Trial? (04/29/08)
In a punchy headline, the ABA Journal sums up the message a U.S. Supreme Court justice has for his critics in “I’m Conservative, But Not Biased, Scalia Says … So Get Over Bush v. Gore“, a story about Scalia’s recent interview with the TV news magazine 60 Minutes. As I read the story, I thought back on other controversial cases in which those critics questioned Scalia’s ability to be impartial. For example, there’s the infamous duck hunting trip with Cheney, when...

I'll take Door No. 3, Monty: what a game show reveals about decision making (04/29/08)
American magazine columnist Marilyn vos Savant once posed the following question, submitted by a reader: Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors. Behind one door is a car, behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say #1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say #3, which has a goat. He says to you, “Do you want to pick door #2?” Is it to your advantage to switch your choice of doors? A large...

Raising Questions: Time To Revive A Lost Art (04/07/08)
Two years ago I introduced readers to the web site ChangeThis, which I described as a web site born of a radical and hopeful idealism: to virally transmit ideas through a culture medium of community, respect, and dialogue. Recognizing that “the best discussions in science, medicine, business and politics have always been the civil ones”, ChangeThis publishes what it calls manifestos — proposals for change which serve as “a reasoned, rational call to action, supported...

Intuition and Creativity Workshop on June 24 with mediation pioneer Albie Davis (04/07/08)
On Tuesday, June 24, 2008, influential thinker and ADR pioneer Albie Davis presents an “Intuition and Creativity Workshop” for mediators at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. Albie enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a true innovator who has made significant contributions to the development and advancement of mediation and conflict resolution during the course of her decades-long career. From the workshop description: You tune up your car every few thousand miles....

A video game tests racial bias - and the willingness to pull the trigger (04/07/08)
Joshua Correll, a member of the University of Chicago Department of Psychology faculty, in conjunction with his work with the Stereotyping & Prejudice Research Laboratory, has created The Police Officer’s Dilemma, a video game that tests the effect of racial bias on decisions to shoot. When you launch the game, you are presented with a series of images of young men against various backgrounds. Some of the men hold guns, while others hold innocent items like cellphones or soda cans. ...

World Directory of ADR Blogs adds its first Turkish and French blogs (03/31/08)
I’ve just added two new blogs to the World Directory of ADR Blogs, my ongoing project to track and catalog ADR and negotiation blogs around the globe. Allow me to introduce them to you: Arabulucu Blog, a Turkish language blog, bears the distinction of being Turkey’s first and only blog about mediation and negotiation. It is published by mediator Samil Demir, who is based in Ankara. dominique.lopez-eychenie is the eponymous blog of French lawyer and mediator Dominique...

What was your first time like? (your first mediation, that is) (03/24/08)
Attorney Nancy Hudgins, who shares the wisdom won from her experience mediating thousands of disputes in her blog Civil Negotiation and Mediation, today describes her first mediation. It’s a story, wonderfully told, about discoveries — how one party discovers empowerment, another closure, and a mediator discovers the quiet satisfaction in helping others help themselves. It made me wonder how many other first-time stories await their telling. While Nancy’s story stands in...

Ask For It: a book, a blog, and online resources for women leveraging the power of negotiation (03/24/08)
Five years ago Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever published Women Don’t Ask, a book that ripped the lid off of one of negotiation’s most intractable problems: the challenges that women face in negotiating successfully. They examined the barriers — institutional, cultural, and social — that hold women back and provided strategies to help women conquer the gender divide at the negotiation table to ask for and get what they want. Women Don’t Ask touched a responsive...

Support dissent or the terrorists win: thoughts on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war (03/24/08)
[Note to readers: Mediation Channel is not a political blog, so I don’t typically use it as a vehicle for expressing my political views. Sometimes though I must when an issue implicates the work I do or when it has affected me or my family directly, as it did when I wrote “When the political gets personal: what the Military Commissions Act of 2006 means to one mediator and her family“. Today marks another one of those times when I must speak up. That shouldn’t be...

Recovering From A Big Mistake (03/17/08)
In my experience, one of the most persistent sources of interpersonal conflict is the inability to own up to and correct mistakes. Our first impulse may be to conceal an error, or to deny it exists. We may try to shift the fault and blame it on the negligence of others. We may be paralyzed by embarrassment, shame or a sense of personal failure. Or, perhaps, we just don’t know what to do. Dumb Little Man presents a remarkable story of one lawyer’s workplace error — missing...

Debating The Meaning Of The 'A' In ADR (03/10/08)
Our local Whole Foods Market carries a brand of high-end chocolate bars in assorted flavors which boast a variety of exotic ingredients, including — I am not making this up — smoked applewood bacon. In so many ways, that’s just wrong. Let me set the record straight. I like chocolate. And I love bacon. In fact, a lot (which doomed my brief flirtation with vegetarianism). Bacon pairs well with lots of food. Chocolate doesn’t happen to be one of them. See, no matter how ...

The Complete Lawyer adds ADR column, “The Human Factor”, written by four mediators (03/10/08)
The Complete Lawyer — an online magazine covering professional development, quality of life, and career issues for attorneys published by Don Hutcheson — has added an ADR column, “The Human Factor“. Written by me and three smart, savvy women I am honored to call my friends — Stephanie West Allen of Idealawg and Brains on Purpose, Gini Nelson of Engaging Conflicts, and Victoria Pynchon of Settle It Now Negotiation Blog — “The Human Factor” seeks ...

You be the judge: do retiring justices make the best neutrals? (03/10/08)
An article in this week’s Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly asks, “Retiring judges have always flocked to ADR. But do they make the best neutrals?” While judges may make great arbitrators — a role which is essentially judging in a private forum — whether they make good mediators is a whole other story. ADR legend Frank Sander, interviewed for the article, had the following observations: “Arbitration is private judging, so I think it is very natural that...

Resolve Conflict, Be Healthier (03/04/08)
People who get along well with others, including family, friends, and neighbors, may be healthier than those who don’t — so suggest the results of a recent study reported in Health Psychology. Researchers from Portland State University School of Community Health (Oregon) conducted a two-year study of 666 older adults, aged 65 to 90, and found an association between higher levels of negative social exchanges and poorer health. According to a recent article in HealthDay News, The...

One Trick Ponies? Political Leaders Should Be Adept In Many Negotiation Styles, Not Just One (02/27/08)
One trick ponies? Political leaders should be adept in many negotiation styles, not just one In this election year, everyone’s paying a lot of attention to the negotiation styles of the presidential contenders, as I pointed out in a recent post. The most recent commentary comes from the blog Daily Kos (thanks to fellow blogger Victoria Pynchon for the link), which discusses the substantive differences in the negotiation styles of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton: By engaging all ...

Cybersettle Makes The Case For Resolving Disputes Online (02/27/08)
Richard Susskind, digital technology expert and legal visionary, once said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” That’s exactly what Charles Brofman did. He invented the future. Brofman, a former trial lawyer, is the co-founder of Cybersettle, the world’s leading online claim settlement company. Cybersettle makes use of what is known as online dispute resolution (ODR), a kind of dispute resolution process that utilizes digital technology to settle...

What voters can learn from the field of negotiation (02/19/08)
Throughout this election season here in the US, there’s been a lot of talk about the candidates and their skills in, or positions on, negotiating. Barack Obama took heat for saying he’d talk with Iran, as Republican contenders insisted they wouldn’t negotiate with terrorists, while Hillary kept changing her mind whether she would or not. Meanwhile from the mediation community we’ve heard Robert Benjamin’s views as a hard core negotiator on one of the candidates, ...

Head of U.S. Office of ADR Services describes benefits of online dispute resolution (02/19/08)
In an interview with Government Computer News, Daniel Rainey, Director of the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution Services for the U.S. National Mediation Board, makes the case for online dispute resolution (ODR). Rainey, an internationally recognized authority on ODR, explains how collaborative technology can be used to resolve disputes successfully while saving time and money, as well as to promote online brainstorming and negotiation, streamline the intake process, and facilitate the...

Mandatory arbitration agreements unhealthy for patients (02/19/08)
Two different sources — one approvingly, one not — report that a growing number of doctors are asking patients to enter into agreements to arbitrate malpractice claims and waive their right to trial by jury. Both sources link to “Arbitration a growing trend in health care“, a story appearing earlier this month in the Philadelphia Inquirer: Michael Cohen was handed an arbitration agreement when he visited his longtime primary-care doctor in Bucks County. Cohen said he...

World Directory of Alternative Dispute Resolution Blogs is now a blog too (02/11/08)
In June 2006, I launched The World Directory of ADR Blogs at www.adrblogs.com as part of my ongoing effort to track and catalog the slowly growing number of blogs discussing dispute resolution, negotiation, and innovations in law and justice. It’s a project that has put me in touch with dispute resolution professionals, scholars, and students around the globe and has shown me the many faces of negotiation and ADR across time zones and cultures. Despite the fact that I created the World...

Workplace violence blog committed to making employees safer (02/11/08)
PART27.com, a web site dedicated to providing resources that help organizations, companies, and agencies create safer workplaces, also publishes Workplace Violence, a blog that delivers news and links to resources for employers and others seeking ways to address and prevent violence at work. Among the stories covered recently are: “Bullying bad for business“ “Bullied at work: practice costs productivity, health” and New European report highlights emerging...

Mediator ethics: how professional codes of conduct fall short (02/04/08)
ADR scholar and law professor Michael Moffitt has rightly lamented the lack of meaningful guidance that professional rules of conduct for mediators provide the practitioner. This is especially so when more than one ethical duty is at stake, since codes of conduct provide no instruction on how best to balance one ethical duty against another. A case from Pennsylvania demonstrates the challenges real-life issues raise. The York Daily Record reports on the controversy generated by the selection...

Send lawyers, guns and mediators: what songs would be on your mediation playlist? (01/28/08)
On the ABA Journal Daily News web site, the Question of the Week asks “Which Songs Would You Choose for a Lawyer’s Playlist?” A few of the usual suspects are suggested, including “Lawyers, Guns and Money” by the immortal Warren Zevon. In time for Friday and the weekend, here’s a proposed playlist for mediators. (And no, “Kumbaya” does not make the cut. Not on my list, pal.) Walk a Mile in My Shoes, Joe South We Can Work It Out, John Lennon and...

Why I blog: reflections on Mediation Channel's 3rd anniversary (01/28/08)
It’s been such a busy month that my third anniversary of blogging, January 10, 2008, passed unnoticed. I completely forgot until now. That is partly due to the attention that my blog’s move to a new home required, as well as the demands of work. And among the tasks involved in that move was the slow sorting-through and creation of categories for over 650 posts, the product of 36 months of blogging. Among my archives I discovered several posts that reminded me why I continue to...

Resolve conflict in your marriage, live longer (01/28/08)
A recent study shows that the upside of marital fighting is not just the makeup sex afterwards. Researchers at the University of Michigan followed 192 couples over a 17-year period and discovered something interesting: Couples in which both the husband and wife suppress their anger when one attacks the other die earlier than members of couples where one or both partners express their anger and resolve the conflict… The study results suggest that good conflict resolution skills may be...

Martin Luther King, Jr.: lessons in conflict resolution and negotiation (01/21/08)
One of the best blogs on cognition, behavior, and the mind sciences is The Situationist, which examines the implications of social psychology for law, policymaking, and legal theory. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, which is celebrated in the U.S. today, The Situationist has republished a post from 2007, “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Situationism“. Pointing to excerpts from the text of King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail“, this post makes the case that...

Short Canadian film depicts aboriginal woman's experience with mediation (01/21/08)
"An Aboriginal Woman&'s Experience with Mediation" is a six-minute-long film that allows a woman to describe what mediation meant for her and the changes in her life it helped her produce: …When you go to appear in front of a judge with a lawyer, your lawyer does all the talking and you don’t get to be heard. Whereas with mediation you have a voice and there’s options…and things get worked out on both sides… Despite its length, this little film...

World's most aggressive first offer: Katrina victim demands $3 quadrillion (01/14/08)
One of the trickiest stages of any negotiation is when to make the first offer. No one ever wants to go first. But that first number possesses almost talismanic properties — it can profoundly influence how the other side perceives the value of what you demand. Studies have in fact shown that negotiators who make the first offer often do better than those who wait. Why? According to an article by Kellogg School of Management Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in...

The art of persuasion: negotiation advice for women (01/14/08)
What difference does gender make in negotiation? Although both men and women in business strive to be leaders at the negotiation table, there are potential traps that women need to be on guard against, according to the speakers at a recent seminar of the Women’s Law Association of Ontario. Leadership communication expert Donna Goodhand and attorney and negotiation coach Delee Fromm had advice tailored for women who want to become more persuasive and effective negotiators: “People...

Mediation in Practice (01/14/08)
[Editor’s note: In the blogosphere you have to move fast. I’d planned to get this completed and posted last night but instead elected to watch the Patriots vanquish the Jaguars on the road to the Super Bowl, a decision this Pats fan does not regret for one moment. Carrie Menkel-Meadow got here first, but I’m still weighing in with my own two cents.] Authority wields an irresistible power, as Robert Cialdini recounts in the well-known classic, Influence: The Psychology of...

Fighting words: using language to reduce or produce conflict (01/08/08)
According to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This must surely apply to the dispute resolution field. Consider this: Exhibit 1: Action. Family lawyers in Massachusetts, including esteemed family mediation pioneer John Fiske, are currently working to replace references in state law to “custody” and “visitation” — words laden with negative associations for parents facing divorce — with the terms...

2007 highlights: the year's best from Online Guide to Mediation (12/31/07)
Year's end is a time for looking forward and also for looking back, as we take stock of where we've been, while we consider the journey ahead of us.As part of that annual tradition, I've pulled together the posts from 2007 that have been the most frequently visited, the ones that drew the most comments and emails, or that are simply my favorites.I hope you enjoy them.From January:"Is your negotiating style leaving value on the table?""Mediator certification and credentialing: getting accurate...

In celebration of the ADR blogosphere: blogging transforms how we talk about dispute resolution (12/17/07)
In less than a month I'll be celebrating Online Guide to Mediation's third anniversary. Looking back, I marvel at how radically things have changed since my early days of blogging.With all things web-related, change occurs rapidly and time accelerates. Last year is ancient history and yesterday is old news. Those three years have witnessed some radical change.When I launched OGM, it was mighty lonely out here for anyone blogging about mediation or ADR. Although there were a handful of early...

Optical illusions as a training tool for mastering negotiation and conflict resolution skills (12/11/07)
As a trainer of negotiation and conflict resolution skills, I love using optical illusions to demonstrate the fallibility of our perception. They alert us that our senses can be unreliable and susceptible to influence. And they remind us that it is always possible to see things differently. The ability to be alert to errors in thinking and judgment that any of us are prone to is of course essential to anyone who is negotiating or resolving a dispute.Here are two optical illusions I was...

Premier ADR web site Mediate.com adds new feature with global focus (12/11/07)
Mediate.com, the world's leading online resource for news, information, and bleeding-edge thinking in the field of ADR, has added a new feature.Mediation Today highlights the importance of mediation, posting stories from around the globe that demonstrate the many ways in which men and women confront and address disputes -- and the continuing relevance of the work that the conflict resolution field is engaged in.

Online Guide to Mediation Link Round-up (12/11/07)
Here's the latest round-up of conflict resolution and negotiation links for mediators:The Telegraph discusses the benefits of negotiation training in "The art of being a winning negotiator". Lessons learned include "Don't squander trust" and "build relationships with the other party".In a story from NPR's Weekend America, an Iraqi artist living in the U.S. uses art to convey what life is like when it's lived under the gun.The Britannica Blog bravely calls for "Negotiation, Not War: How to Deal ...

In Weighing The Uniform Mediation Act, Massachusetts Mediators May Be Poised To Repeat Mistakes Of The Past (12/04/07)
In April 2006, I reported that the Boston Bar Association proposed an amendment to the Massachusetts mediation confidentiality statute, Mass. Gen. Law. ch. 233, s. 23C. That statute protects from disclosure in a judicial or administrative proceeding "[a]ny communication made in the course of and relating to the subject matter of any mediation and which is made in the presence of such mediator by any participant, mediator or other person."

Don't Neglect Emotions in Negotiation and Mediation (11/20/07)
I often hear critics of mediation dismiss it as "touchy-feely".Yet as the results of one recent poll conclude, half of commercial disputes "get personal" as hearts win out over minds in business-related conflict. This suggests that it may be neither possible nor prudent to ignore the emotions that conflict triggers when it comes to successfully resolving disputes.In "Emotions and Problem Definition in Mediation", Professor Nancy Welsh, blogging at Indisputably.org, discusses the value of...

Latest podcast from Harvard PON covers negotiation lessons from baseball's free agents (11/20/07)
Red Sox fans like myself, while still basking in the afterglow of our team's recent World Series triumph, are grieving that baseball season has at last come to an end.But I can take comfort in the latest edition of PONCAST, which brings together two of my favorite topics, negotiation and baseball, in its latest podcast, "Negotiation Lessons from Baseball's Free Agents".

Online Guide to Mediation Link Round-up | November 16, 2007 (11/20/07)
Some good stuff on the web to round out the week:Language Log posts a cartoon on communication by omission about all the unspoken messages family members convey to each during the stress of the holidays (particularly mothers and their adult children), as well as a meditation on the use of diplomatic language to settle disputes in "The moral of losing your pants, your suit, and your job".Thinking Ethics links to a great resource on the BBC web site on the ethics of lying.At the Harvard Gazette...

How to turn a simple misunderstanding into all-out war: a mediator's advice (11/13/07)
If public opinion is anything to go by, conflict resolution is for sissies. If that's the case, then maybe it's time to give the public what it really wants: advice on how to escalate conflict.I therefore offer 5 steps guaranteed to transform any molehill into a mountain:1. Ignore facts. Disregard or suppress all evidence that undermines your position. In fact, facts can be trouble -- they might raise doubt among your supporters, or, even worse, persuade them or even you that your opponent ...

Time for a Change: Is Mediation Ready for Reform? (11/06/07)
While legal futurist Richard Susskind contemplates the future of the legal profession in an online debate over excerpts from his new book, The End of Lawyers?, two leaders in the alternative dispute resolution field take a hard look at the direction of mediation and think it's time for change.Guerrilla negotiator Robert Benjamin offers both tribute and lament to the field of mediation in an essay honoring Mediate.com co-founder Jim Melamed, recent recipient of the ACR John Haynes Distinguished...

Jim Melamed receives John Haynes Distinguished Mediator Award from ACR (11/06/07)
Congratulations to Jim Melamed, influential mediation pioneer and co-founder of Mediate.com, who received the 2007 John Haynes Distinguished Mediator Award from the Association for Conflict Resolution at ACR's recent 2007 Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.Jim, I can't think of anyone more deserving of such an honor. Thanks for your contributions to our field -- and your support of the ADR blogging community.

Trick or Treat: Halloween links from Online Guide to Mediation (10/30/07)
Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. It provides a great excuse to buy chocolate -- by the bag in fact. Plus no hours spent slaving over a hot stove, no need to shop for gifts (or wait in endless lines to return any), and no family feuds to mediate. What's not to like?It's the one holiday that I unfailingly observe here at Online Guide to Mediation. So, in keeping with tradition, here are some Halloween-related links for your reading pleasure:Start with my posts for...

Blawg Review 130-NH (10/23/07)
Welcome to Blawg Review #130 -- the Northern Hemisphere edition! This is Part 2 of a globe-trotting edition of Blawg Review, the weekly review of legal blogging hosted each week by a different law blog.This week's Blawg Review has two hosts, both mediators, and one for each hemisphere. My co-host, Geoff Sharp, in Wellington, New Zealand, is covering the Southern Hemisphere in his own edition of Blawg Review. And I'm covering the other half of the globe from Boston.Blawg Review #130 - The...

New dispute resolution firm OptionBridge LLC launches; based in New England, aims for the globe (10/16/07)
I'm pleased to share with you news about a new dispute resolution business I've launched with four colleagues. Here's the official announcement that went out today:Building on more than 75 combined years of experience in the field, five dispute resolution professionals - Moshe Cohen, Melinda Gehris, Ericka Gray, Bill Logue, and Diane Levin - have formally joined forces as OptionBridge LLC.OptionBridge is a one-stop, full-service conflict management firm helping companies, organizations, and...

Mediation's identity crisis: it's time to regulate the profession (10/16/07)
Mediation has been struggling with an identity crisis for years now. It's been confused with meditation. It's often mistaken for arbitration. And more recently an Illinois governor characterized a state-funded gang mediation program as "pork" to be trimmed from an overbloated budget. Wrong, wrong, wrong.In the grand scheme of things, these are harmless errors that should prod professional mediators to do a better job at marketing and packaging their services and educating the public about...

Collaborative law: attorneys who mediate and negotiate, not litigate (10/15/07)
As family lawyer Diana Skaggs recently alerted readers, the nation's leading divorce lawyers are finding more cases settled before trial. This trend in favor of negotiation over litigation in divorce may in part be attributable to the growing popularity of alternatives such as mediation and collaborative law which emphasize mutual gains, joint problem solving, and better communication between disputants.In "Lawyers who mediate, not litigate: Collaborative law doesn't have to be an oxymoron", a ...

Apologies can improve the health of hospital-patient relations (10/15/07)
All Things Considered, a National Public Radio news magazine, recently aired a program on the benefits for both patients and the medical profession when hospitals find better ways to respond to medical errors and unsatisfactory patient outcomes in "Practice of Hospital Apologies Is Gaining Ground".What stands out is the reaction of one patient interviewed for the program whose doctors failed to make an early cancer diagnosis. Instead of denying responsibility for the error, the hospital's...

Bursting the bubble: cultivating dissent in the workplace (10/15/07)
According to a recent BusinessWeek poll, 90% of executives and middle managers believe that they perform in the top 10%. (This effect, known as positive illusion bias, is not confined to managers alone: it can be found among drivers confident that their reflexes are superior to those of others on the road, trial attorneys certain that they have the stronger case, and negotiators with an overinflated sense of their own prowess at the table.)Given how widespread this phenomenon is, and how...

'Art of the Dispute': American Express ad campaign touts benefits of dispute resolution (09/10/07)
"Art of the Dispute": American Express ad campaign touts benefits of dispute resolution A member of a group I'm working with to develop a logo and marketing slogan for court-connected dispute resolution services just sent us all a link to "The Art of the Dispute", an American Express ad that's been airing during the U.S. Open.Starring former tennis professional John McEnroe, remembered not only for his virtuosity on the tennis courts but also for his fearsome temper,...

News Roundup For Mediators (09/10/07)
This week's mediator link-fest includes the following headlines:"Attributing Blame — from the Baseball Diamond to the War on Terror", from The Situationist, examines the ways in which we attribute blame and draw inferences about the motivation of others when bad stuff happens.Cognitive Daily offers "Insight into how children learn cultural values", and also explains "Why we are blind to some changes but not others".Neuromarketing, a blog I've recently discovered, takes a look at decision making ...

From Diane Levin (09/05/07)
When new mediators ask me to name the best resource for news, ideas, and information on dispute resolution, I tell them there's only one name they need to remember: Mediate.com. No other publication--either print or digital--brings together so much wisdom from so many experienced practitioners across the world--and all of it just a mouse click away. And unlike other online ADR resources Mediate.com is more than simply a web site. It is simultaneously conversation and community--innovative, dynamic, and vibrant. Bravo, Mediate.com, and congratulations on your 200th edition.

World's simplest dispute resolution tool (09/04/07)
Getting ready to head back to college? Moving into a new apartment on September 1? Prevent roommate disputes with these Declaration of Ownership labels.Alternatively you could try the Fair Division Calculator, "a java applet for interactive decision making" which uses algorithms to achieve "envy-free divisions of goods, burdens, or rent".

News Roundup For Mediators (09/04/07)
For your reading pleasure, some links to news stories especially for mediators:Can a surfeit of choices be too much of a good thing as far as effective decision making goes? That may just be the case, according to "Just Choose It!" from The Situationist.They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but even smaller doses can be fatal. Bob Sutton offers "More Evidence that Getting a Little Power Turns You into a Self-Centered Jerk".When you say "I'm sorry", surprisingly enough it may not...

Inter-religious Conflict Finds Forum For No-holds-barred Dialogue In Bangalore (09/04/07)
Every once in awhile, if we are fortunate, we meet an individual that intuition tells us is destined for great things.My friend Ashok Panikkar is one of those individuals. Ashok, who left Boston and returned to his native Bangalore two years ago, founded Meta-Culture, Bangalore's first center for dialogue and conflict transformation. When I interviewed Ashok in July 2005, he described his goals for Meta-Culture:Meta-Culture is in the process of creating India’s first integrated conflict...

Won't Get Fooled Again: Negotiating With Liars (08/20/07)
When it comes to negotiating, be trustworthy, not trusting--advice that many negotiation trainers give their students. Since lying may be endemic to the human condition, this is undoubtedly good advice.But what can a negotiator do to counter deception at the bargaining table?In "The fine art of negotiating (with liars)", an article in today's Boston Globe proffers some advice from the experts, including:Ask negotiating partners upfront to disclose their credentials, credit record, or personal...

The Lawyer as Problem Solver Award: A healthy pandemic of fair and creative solutions (08/13/07)
Here in the U.S. this summer's cable TV lineup includes "Damages", a new series about, surprise surprise, lawyers. Already viewers have seen one of the principal characters, a scheming and ambitious plaintiff's lawyer (played by bunny-killing star of "Fatal Attraction" Glenn Close), use deception to trick her opponent into settling a personal injury suit on the courthouse steps, bully her associates, manipulate clients, and arrange to have a witness's dog killed. And that was just the first two ...

Resistance fighters: how newcomers can speak up and not get put down by the rest of the crowd (08/06/07)
Raising criticisms or concerns can often be a heroic act, even within a group whose members know each other well (a reality familiar to anyone who has tried to offer constructive feedback to a sensitive family member or friend.) Pity then the group's newcomer, who can expect even brilliant suggestions to meet harsh resistance.So how to counter that resistance? What's a newcomer to do to gain greater influence in a group?The Situationist reports on a newly published study that has some...

New blog posts notes from the conflict trenches (08/06/07)
As I've discussed here before, the conflict-averse among us (which, I suspect, is actually most of us) go to great lengths to avoid confrontation.>passiveaggressivenotes.comBut even among those who are willing to tackle conflict, no one seems to want...

Let's kill all the lawyers: web-based negotiation platform seeks to revolutionize the creation of contracts (08/06/07)
Negonation, a Spanish start-up, has launched Tractis, a web-based platform to revolutionize the negotiation, management, and execution of contracts in e-commerce.But it's not just about helping business get done. Negonation's goal for Tractis is far more ambitious:Our goal is to provide a way to make online borderless justice possible. Yeah, you heard us right. We want to develop a new legal system that overcomes the inefficiencies, complexities, injustices and sluggishness of traditional legal ...

Concepts of Religion, Civic Responsibility Promote Cooperation, According to Study (07/27/07)
Canadian psychologists have found that when people are primed with religious concepts they behave in more altruistic ways.Secular humanists need not fear--the same results were produced when participants were instead primed with concepts relating to civic responsibility. Researchers used word games to surreptitiously introduce these concepts to their subjects. Interestingly enough, exit interviews revealed that participants were unaware that they had been primed.What I find fascinating about...

Nothing but the truth: Radical Honesty Movement Proposes A World Without Deception (07/16/07)
They say that honesty is the best policy.But given the lengths to which people will go to avoid confrontation or tough conversations, honesty may be the first casualty in human interaction.Besides, is lying really always wrong? What if it serves noble ends? Isn't deception just a social lubricant, allowing us to get along? Shouldn't we lie to prevent harm to another? If lying is always wrong, then are studies in human behavior ethically indefensible? What about undercover police work? Or the...

The Situationist blog sheds light on predicting and influencing human conduct (07/02/07)
As a mediator, I see people behave under extraordinary pressure and in the face of difficult circumstances. They come with carefully constructed narratives of the past which often must be dismantled and considered anew. Their understanding and reactions may influenced by unanticipated forces. I watch as they struggle to expand the boundaries of perception--and reshape their understanding of themselves and each other. As a consequence of my work, the way people interpret the world around ...

No-Exception Confidentiality Laws Bar Evidence Of Legal Malpractice Occurring In Mediation, According To California Appeals Court Decision (06/25/07)
Critics of alternative dispute resolution have claimed that it undermines the rule of law and subverts justice. A court decision this week from California may lend support to these criticisms. In a case titled "Wimsatt v. Superior Court" (PDF), the California Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that California laws barred a plaintiff from obtaining mediation briefs and related e-mails from an underlying lawsuit so that he could pursue a malpractice action against his former lawyer for...

Premature negotiation: how to get rid of performance anxiety at the mediation table (06/18/07)
In my line of work, I help people do it all the time. And they all do it differently.Some of them boast that they're good at it--but in fact know only one way to do it. Some will stick with the position they're comfortable with. Some lack confidence. They worry they won't measure up. Others lack experience.But in the end, with the right motivation, I can often help them do it better. And do it until everyone's satisfied.I'm talking about negotiation.Hey, what else did you think I was talking...

Questioning authority: teaching new mediators the value of open-ended questions (06/18/07)
There's a story I tell when I teach mediation students how to ask effective questions:A guy walks into a bar. He strolls up to the bartender and asks for a glass of water. The bartender looks at him--then flies into a rage, pulls out a gun from under the counter, and aims it straight at the guy's head. The guy thanks the bartender and leaves the bar.I instruct my students to figure out the ending of the story using only yes/no questions.People start asking, "Did the bartender know the guy?"...

World Directory of ADR Blogs celebrates its first anniversary (06/10/07)
Today marks the first anniversary of the World Directory of Alternative Dispute Resolution Blogs, a directory that tracks and catalogues ADR blogs world-wide. It grew out of a project that I began during my first year of blogging in 2005, when I conducted my first census of ADR blogs and learned that there were only a few of us blogging about mediation, negotiation, or conflict resolution.Today the World Directory lists 104 blogs from 17 different countries.I continue to look for ways to add to ...

Two creative legal minds, two new conflict resolution blogs (06/10/07)
Two blogging attorneys, both inventive, smart, and insightful, have each announced the launch of new blogs:Stephanie West Allen, best known for her work on Idealawg, a blog that reveals the artistry within the practice of law, has devised a new outlet for her creativity--Brains on Purpose, which will traverse the intersection between neuroscience and conflict resolution. She will be joined by research psychiatrist Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. Knowing the thought-provoking content of Idealawg, I...

Does ADR Deliver Justice? (05/14/07)
Several months ago someone tried to post one of those unwelcome comments that all bloggers receive from time to time. With plenty of full capitalization for emphasis, and with attacks on my character and personal habits thrown in for good measure, the writer accused me, among other things, of undermining the rule of law simply because I happen to be a mediator. Since I allow attacks on ideas only not on people on this blog, I hit "delete".I have remained haunted however by the concern this...

Dispute Management Biggest Cost Control Opportunity Companies Have (04/23/07)
One of the biggest--and costliest--mistakes that businesses make is the failure to properly address disputes early in their life cycle. More and more though in-house counsel recognize the virtues of alternative dispute resolution as a cost- and time-saving device for the organizations they advise.Case in point: in a Law.com interview, Mark LeHocky, general counsel at Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, advocates the use of early dispute resolution to keep costs down and prevent disputes from, in his...

The Answer is Still No to 'Getting to Yes': What One Conservative Commentator Says About the Anti-Bullying Movement (04/16/07)
Recently I looked at why the world--or least America--has not yet gotten to yes. I described the cultural forces that resist mightily the logic and common sense of principled negotiation and are deeply distrustful of peacebuilding, collaboration, and dialogue.I offer you yet one more example: a transcript of right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's comments on a recently released study on workplace bullying.Here's a sample--and it's classic Limbaugh all the way:There's nothing new in any ...

Are Mediators Hindering a Civil Right to Counsel? One Scholar Says Yes (04/09/07)
It behooves all of us who serve in a profession to pay attention to the way our work is perceived or our profession characterized. In particular we should heed the criticisms, whether just or not, that are raised about our work, so we can learn from or counter them.Mediators may then wish to know how we are viewed by one scholar in a movement afoot here in the U.S. This movement would expand the right to counsel in criminal cases to civil litigation. It comes in response to a challenge that...

Fifth International Forum on Online Dispute Resolution to be held April 19-20, 2007 in Liverpool (04/02/07)
The Fifth International Forum on Online Dispute Resolution will be held in Liverpool, England, April 19-20, 2007. According to its web site, This meeting builds on prior meetings in Geneva (2001 and 2002), held under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Council for Europe (UNECE), in Melbourne (2004) under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and in Cairo in 2006 in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social...

What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love And Understanding? Thoughts On Why We're Not Getting To Yes (04/02/07)
Respected dispute resolution scholar and pioneer Carrie Menkel-Meadow recently posed an important question for our field in her essay "Why Hasn't the World Gotten to Yes? An Appreciation and Some Reflections". In it Professor Menkel-Meadow pauses to consider the enduring legacy of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Roger Fisher and William Ury's influential work which laid out a common-sense approach for effective negotiation that stresses satisfaction of interests, mutual gains, joint problem-solving, and the use of objective criteria to create fair deals.

Collaborative Law Unethical Says Colorado Bar Association (03/19/07)
Collaborative law, a process in which lawyers and their clients contractually agree to pursue non-adversarial means of resolving disputes and reaching agreement without going to court, has become an increasingly popular way to address divorce, family, and other matters. It is designed to utilize and foster mutual respect, joint problem solving, open communication, and interest-based negotiation. If the process fails and the client wishes to proceed to court, the lawyer must withdraw and the client must choose another lawyer.

Since When is Changing Your Mind a Bad Thing? (03/19/07)
"Change your thoughts and you change your world," said Norman Vincent Peale. But he was obviously not reckoning on today's political culture, which seems resistant to change--at least when it comes to minds. Despite the results of the 2006 midterm elections here in the U.S., American politicians and pundits continue to laud the virtues of "staying the course" as sound strategy for political success--and not just when it comes to the Iraq war, but to all kinds of issues. Consistency,...

Recent Study Shows Bad Workplace Apples Do Indeed Spoil the Barrel (02/27/07)
According to the results of a study reported in the journal Research in Organizational Behavior, bad apples really do spoil it for their co-workers. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever shared a workspace with a negative personality. The study, conducted by Will Felps, a Ph.D. candidate in management and organizational behavior, Professor Terence R. Mitchell, and graduate student Eliza Byington, all from the University of Washington Business School, examines the ways in which ...

Working Group in Massachusetts Seeks Input Help from Mediators in States that have Adopted Uniform Mediation Act (02/19/07)
I am a member of the MassUMA Working Group, a committee which is exploring the possible adoption of the Uniform Mediation Act here in the Commonwealth. We would be very interested in hearing from mediators in states which have adopted the UMA as to how it has affected your practice (if at all). We are especially interested in learning how it has impacted your description of the process to parties and/or their representatives, including privilege and exceptions to confidentiality. For example, ...

Is Your Negotiating Style Leaving Value on the Table? (01/31/07)
There's an exercise I use to get people to think about negotiating styles. You mark a line down the middle of the floor with masking tape. Then you tell participants to find a partner and to stand facing each other on opposite sides of the line. You instruct them that they are about to play a game and that the object of the game is to get your partner to come over to your side of the line. You tell them that if they can do that, they'll win. And not only will they win, but you will pay the winner $1000. You then give them 60 seconds to play. What happens next is predictable . . .

What To Look For In A Basic Mediation Training (03/07/05)
My purpose in writing this article is to raise public awareness of the importance of doing your homework when it comes to making decisions regarding choosing a mediation training. Taking a mediation training constitutes an investment in your professional development, representing an important commitment of both time and money. The last thing you want is to waste either one of those precious commodities.