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Stephanie West Allen



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

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




Contact Stephanie West Allen

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

Articles and Video:

Seven Challenges When Using the Neuroscience Lens to See the World (09/02/14)
Over the years, I have learned that people reading this blog come from a wide range of belief systems, including atheist, agnostic, and those involved to large or small degree in various spiritual and religious practices. Although this blog post to which I am linking today is written by a Christian and part of the post is from a Christian perspective, I think anyone can learn from this article.

How to Focus That Wandering Mind (03/08/14)
Below is an article with a good overview of a skill and habit that is helpful, probably essential, to both parties in dispute and conflict professionals: focusing a mind that's wandering. The article also explains some of the neuroscience underlying focus and wandering.

How Your Memory Rewrites the Past (02/21/14)
Since the past is usually an important factor in a dispute, understanding the process of memory can be helpful to anyone involved in the dispute and its resolution. Although the malleability of memory is not a new topic here in this blog, a reminder can be of value.

Do Mediators Make Unsubstantiated Claims? (12/13/13)
It is often a mystery to me why mediators will make statements about the practice of conflict resolution that are unproven or even inconsistent with research.

How Influential are Brain Scans? (11/22/13)
While visions of brain scans dance in our head, we may not be as impressed by them as we were a few years ago. Or maybe we never were all that impressed? Just how impressed were we—and how impressed are we now? These are questions to which we have yet to find clear answers.

From Stephanie West Allen (10/14/13)
This publication fills an essential need for mediators: It allows us to keep up with each other and the field. In fact, as I think about it, I can come up with no other service that even comes close to mediate.com in quality of delivery, clarity of purpose, and level of value. Thanks to you for your effort, vision, and commitment. And congratulations on this big milestone!

Be Mindful and Name That Feeling (09/27/13)
Brain imaging now supports what psychotherapists, writers, and the philosopher Baruch Spinoza have observed: Simply recognizing and naming an emotion quells its effect, making thoughtful management of subsequent behavior more likely. Psychotherapists employ this phenomenon when treating patients.

Each Conflict is "Unaverage" (09/08/13)
We have the same rich variability and diversity of brains and minds among parties to a dispute and yet how often do we see conflict professionals implementing notions and models and techniques that ignore this heterogeneity? Most the time, I believe. If you think I am exaggerating, listen to what is being taught about mediation.

Resources to Help us Evaluate Research (08/13/13)
As neuro-foolishness and psych-silliness continue to seep into both mainstream media and mediation presentations, resources to help us be discerning users of neuroscience and psychology are needed more and more. In the past, I have recommended some resources to increase discernment when reading press releases or encountering news from the mass media or even reading research papers.

Filters and Frames: Mediation is all About the Viewfinder (04/26/13)
Our brains are vigilant, hyperaware of any sensed change to see if it represents danger. Partly because they use a lot of our energy, our brains seek to deal with new information quickly and easily. So, rather like a photographer, the brain applies filters and frames. The filters shift, accentuate, and diminish what is seen. And the frames limit what is viewed to certain boundaries.

Conflict Concert? Dispute Ditty? Mediation Minuet? Can the Speech of Angels Lead to Agreement? (04/08/13)
Music is used to regulate mood and arousal in everyday life and to promote physical and psychological health and well-being in clinical settings. However, scientific inquiry into the neurochemical effects of music is still in its infancy.

Is Your Clients' Conflict Water, Ice, or Vapor? Insights from the Science of Complexity (02/22/13)
Reading the Executive Summary of a presentation that will be given this week in Davos reminded me of some of the problems with the use of neuroscience in conflict resolution: reductionism, for example. And reminded me that mediators should be paying as much (maybe more) attention to complexity as they are to neuroscience. Why, you may ask?

Mirror Neurons - the Most Hyped Concept in Neuroscience? (12/14/12)
Which is more hyped? Mirror neurons or oxytocin? I guess it depends on the day you're asking, or the blogs you are reading, or the conferences you are attending. There's is no doubt that the silliness surrounding both is a wonder to watch.

Memory is a Creative Activity (11/05/12)
Memory is not like a video camera; it's malleable, shifting and changing with time, place, and mood. That's why, in mediation, the story of a conflict is not as important as the role and place of the current versions of the story in the path towards resolution.

Mediation is Not the Only Arena Where Neuromyths Abound: A Highly Recommended Article (10/26/12)
As attention on neuroscience from mediators grows, so does the inaccurate information and unwarranted extrapolation from the research. That's not a new observation; I have blogged about the problem many times in the past.

Using Images to Solve Problems is Brain-Friendly (10/19/12)
In at least two ways, drawing can improve communication between decision coaches and their clients. First, it can help the coach explain factors that may be important to the client's making a good decision about matters for which he has sought the professional's counsel. Second, it can facilitate the client's explaining to the coach matters critical to the decision being made. Drawing can take understanding between decision coach and client to a new level of clarity.

Your Memory is like the Telephone Game: Each time you recall an event, Your Brain Distorts It (09/21/12)
Remember the telephone game where people take turns whispering a message into the ear of the next person in line? By the time the last person speaks it out loud, the message has radically changed. It’s been altered with each retelling.

Meditation Can Improve Our Brains and Minds (and probably our ability to resolve disputes) (09/14/12)
Ignoring your meditation practice? Here's a reminder that you may want to give it some renewed attention. Taking regular walks might step up your cognitive ability, too. (Puns intended.) From "Boosting Brain Power Through a Mind-Body Connection" (Observer-Association for Psychological Science).

Can you Mediate with an Indignation Addict? (08/20/12)
One of the books I recently read that got me thinking and thinking (and thinking) is Pathological Altruism. Two chapters particularly grabbed my attention and thought: "Self-Addiction and Self-Righteousness" by David Brin, and "Pathological Certitude" by Robert A. Burton*.

Memory, Look a New Day has Begun: What's the Role of the Past in Conflict Resolution? (07/23/12)
Memory is studied in the fields of neuroscience and cognitive psychology—a lot! In fact, it is hard to keep current with all the research and related articles. Today I will post a goulash of memory-related links. Why? Because the past, the stories we tell about what happened, are typically an integral part of conflict.

Memories Serve as Tools for Learning and Decision-Making (07/16/12)
The study, led by Alison Preston, assistant professor of psychology and neurobiology, shows this memory-binding process allows people to better understand new concepts and make future decisions. The findings could lead to better teaching methods, as well as treatment of degenerative neurological disorders, such as dementia, Preston says.

Want to Understand Power Better? A New Book from Neuroscientist Ian Robertson may help (07/09/12)
Power and money both act on the brain's reward system, which if over-stimulated for long periods develops appetites that are difficult to satisfy, just as is the case for drug addiction. We call these appetites greed and greedy people are never satisfied. That is the challenge for politicians and regulators.

Give us a Break: Mediation Marathon or Some Conflict Calm? Another Case for Mindful Reflection (07/02/12)
As each day passes, the pace of life seems to accelerate – demands on productivity continue ever upward and there is hardly ever a moment when we aren’t, in some way, in touch with our family, friends, or coworkers. While moments for reflection may be hard to come by, a new article suggests that the long-lost art of introspection —even daydreaming — may be an increasingly valuable part of life.

According to this Protocol, Empathy can be Taught (06/18/12)
Resident physicians' participation in a brief training program designed to increase empathy with their patients produced significant improvement in how patients perceived their interactions with the residents. This contrasts with several studies showing that empathy with patients usually drops during medical school and residency training. The report from a team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers will appear in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and has been released online.

Good Magicians are Masters at Attention Choreography: So are Good Mediators (05/21/12)
Why are neuroscientists interested in the skills of magicians? Because magicians have long known traits and states of the brain that brain scientists are just now learning. Why am I so interested in what magicians do to so masterfully simulate magic? Because they know the value of paying attention to attention, a critical skill in the my approach to conflict resolution.

Dopamine Related to Motivation? (05/07/12)
After reading books such as Psychology's Ghosts: The Crisis in the Profession and the Way Back, I am even more likely to see most research studies as, at best, clues, and clues only only in the material world. That's how I view this study written about below, but I post the news release here because I can never be reminded too often that we are each different; this study is another reminder that one size does not fit all.

How the Story of Conflict Can Shift, Twist, and Turn (04/17/12)
By now, I believe most conflict professionals are aware of the malleability of memory, the problematic role that storytelling therefore can play in a dispute, and how to "correct" for the shifting narrative.

How Important is Mindset to Conflict Resolution? (04/09/12)
What's your mindset about conflict? Those conflicts that you may be a party to and those that you work with as a conflict professional? What's your mindset about the role of a mediator? Before you answer those questions, read this good overview article about mindsets and their strong influence.

One Minute Lesson on Changing Your Brain (02/20/12)
How do you change your brain? Pay attention to what you're paying attention to; watch your mental flashlight. How do you help others to change their brains (e.g., parties to a dispute, attendees at a presentation)? Facilitate their attention, be an attention choreographer, an attention conductor.

Rescuing the Amygdala from the Swamp of Pop Culture (01/30/12)
Almost every study of fear finds that the amygdala is active. But that doesn’t mean every spark of activity in the amygdala means the person is afraid.

Although There's no Certain and Fool-proof Way to Persuade, People Keep Looking for the Magic Manipulator (12/19/11)
How we are persuaded is individual and situational, so beware of anyone trying to sell you a surefire way to successfully convince, cajole or persuade. Nevertheless, human beings continue looking for that elusive brainwashing soap that always works. The search will probably continue as long as we are on this planet.

Respect Mediation? Love It? Prove It, Shove It, Move It: Mix Things Up, Break the Patterns (12/12/11)
Body posture influences quantitative estimates. We predicted that people would make smaller estimates while leaning slightly to the left than they would while leaning slightly to the right, and this prediction was borne out by our results.

"New Insight into Impulse Control" (09/06/11)
How the brain controls impulsive behavior may be significantly different than psychologists have thought for the last 40 years.

Embodied and Grounded Cognition: A Short Introduction (08/01/11)
In the past, I have posted several times about the intriguing topic of embodied cognition. Basically it looks at how we think with more than just our brains and minds, and what our bodies knows that our brains and minds do not.

Predators and Punishment (06/05/11)
An article abstract on legal responsibility and psychopathy.

Use fMRI to Measure the Usefulness of Conflict Resolution Programs? Me, I Don't Think So! (05/23/11)

Interview of Dr. Dan Siegel about THE MINDFUL THERAPIST (05/16/11)
In all these ways science has now shown that teaching mindfulness to clinicians would be a very important basic step in helping everyone involved in the clinical experience.

The Amygdala is the Fear Center? (05/09/11)

A Reminder that One Role of a Dispute Professional is Attention Choreographer (04/11/11)
Attention is a key skill in handling pain and emotion.

John Cleese Gives Some Tips on Creativity: How Might They Help Resolve Conflict? (03/07/11)
John Cleese lists ideas about encouraging creativity that will also aid in conflict resolution. He says to be creative in thinking about how each of these can be incorporated into a mediation, or other conflict resolution process. (Do this exercise only if you think creativity aids dispute resolution, of course.)

Will The Topic Of Neuroscience Of Conflict Resolution Soon Be Outdated? (12/20/10)
A blog post from The Saybrook Forum reminds us that we almost certainly think with more than just our brains. We also think with our minds, wherever you think the mind is located. And, of course, that location is hotly debated, as we have discussed here before.

One World, One Song? Probably Not: Looking At Music In Conflict Resolution (12/06/10)
I have blogged so frequently here about the possible use of music in conflict resolution that music is one of the categories in the list over to the right. If you are interested in the question of whether or not there is any music that is universal enough to positively benefit most mediations, you will likely like the article "The Mind on Music" (Chicago Tribune).

Two Resources For You: One On Attention And the Other On Cultural Neuroscience (11/29/10)
I have blogged several times about attention and culture here at BonP because I think understanding both is important for conflict professionals. Here are two additional sources of information.

Are There Advantages To Face-To-Face Mediations? When Are They Necessary? This White Paper Looks To Neuroscience For Answers (10/11/10)
hough this white paper is about business meetings, much of it also would apply to conflict resolution sessions. From the Executive Summary of the white paper "The Future of Meetings: The Case for Face-to-Face" (found on the Web site of the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research):

A Way Out Of The Prison Of No Man's Land. Use The Key Of Music (08/30/10)
Musician David Amram tells a story in the beginning of his book Upbeat: Nine Lives of a Musical Cat, and that story holds a big clue about why I want to include music in conflict resolution.

Gain And Loss In Optimistic Versus Pessimistic Brains (08/09/10)
Our belief as to whether we will likely succeed or fail at a given task—and the consequences of winning or losing—directly affects the levels of neural effort put forth in movement-planning circuits in the human cortex, according to a new brain-imaging study by neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Oxytocin Again: This Neuropeptide May Not Be A "Magical 'Trust Elixir'" (08/02/10)
The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) plays such a key role in social behavior that it has been referred to as “the love hormone” and “liquid trust”. These nicknames have an element of truth: When OT levels are increased, people do in fact seem to become more altruistic, trusting, and generous.

Empathy Is A Good Thing? Oxytocin, Too? Beware Because Each Has A Dark Side (07/12/10)
Currently empathy seems to be a sought-after goal. Why? I am not sure because seeking it in the name of good, peace, and collaboration is as silly as seeking focus or communication skills or charisma for the same purposes. Empathy, focus, skilled communication, and charisma are a few of many traits and states that are neutral. When they are used in the furtherance or service of helping or harming another, they assume goodness or badness.

Article On The Reptile Brain In The Jury Box (05/24/10)
With Jeff Schwartz and Diane Wyzga, I have coauthored an article for the new edition of The Jury Expert. From "Atticus Finch Would Not Approve: Why a Courtroom Full of Reptiles Is a Bad Idea":

Interested In Cross-Cultural Conflict And Understanding? Then Listen To This Podcast About Cultural Neuroscience (05/10/10)
For many years, social scientists have attempted to explain human cultural differences by studying behavioral or attitudinal traits. But recent advances in neuroimaging techniques are now allowing researchers to look directly into the brain and to identify these differences at a cellular level.

Which Metaphor Do You Like? Is A Mediator A Human Alarm Clock Or A Knight With No Daze? (04/26/10)
We are most easily manipulated when we are in our day-to-day daze, sleepwalking through life. The level of awareness, and degree of somnambulism, of each person in the conflict room can be affected by a mediator who is awake and mindful. Think of the conflict professional as a human alarm clock, not typically jarring, but nevertheless influential and noticeable. The awake and mindful professional's presence revives and alerts. And she has no snooze button.

Apples And Oranges? Apples And Pcs? Eastern Brains And Western Brains? Another Look At Cross-Cultural Conflict (03/22/10)
When I observe cross-cultural conflict, I remind myself often (and still forget) that brains and the ways they perceive are not universal. To assume homogeneity can be foolish.

Are Mediators "Mr Or Ms Beige"? A BBC Article About Neuroscience Of Conflict Resolution (And Another Plug For Telling Your Clients About Their Brains) (03/15/10)
Although the article may have some contradictions, I suggest that you read "Can our brains help us solve conflicts?" (BBC News Magazine).

Attention Choreography: Revisiting The Key Role Of Attention In Conflict Resolution (And Just About Everything Else You Do) (03/01/10)
I sometimes say the role of the mediator is attention choreographer or attention conductor. Where people are putting their attention is going to powerfully influence the conflict, and any resolution. Attention is key.

Mindfulness Training Can Improve Mood And Working Memory: Conflict Pros, Are You Taking Advantage Of Mindfulness Benefits? (02/22/10)
More research by neuroscientists has shown some possible benefits of mindfulness training. These benefits detailed below could be helpful to mediators and other conflict professionals.

Brain Talk: How To Talk With Your Clients About Neuroscience (02/01/10)
Last November, I posted a poll in a post titled Do you tell your clients about neuroscience? A quick poll. I appreciate the time and thought taken by those who responded.

We Think With More Than Just Our Minds: Conflict Reaches Clear Down To Our Toes (01/18/10)
A negotiation is so much more than minds and brains interacting with each other. Our bodies are an integral part of any conflict resolution and not just to hold up our heads that house our brains. Whole people are in the room and the conflict goes from head to toe. Our cognition is embodied.

Being Strong And Silent, Or Meek And Mild, May Turn You Weak And Wild (12/21/09)
Is it good to suppress or hide your feelings? Perhaps sometimes, but certainly not always, because voicing them seems to activate the brain's braking system and calm down the emotional response. I have blogged about labeling the affect in the past, but was reminded of that process's value when reading the article "The Brain’s Braking System (and how to ‘use your words’ to tap into it)" [pdf].

Using The Arts In Conflict Resolution: Some More Pieces Of The Puzzle? (12/07/09)
As regular readers know, I explore the use in dispute resolution of playing and making music, drawing, and other activities that access parts of our brains and minds not typically reached through usual conversation and negotiation. Whether these neural regions facilitate resolution has been researched a little (see, for example, studies here) and supported often anecdotally.

Are You Promoting Yawning In Your Mediations? If Not, You May Want To Rethink That (11/30/09)
Yawning can affect the way we interact with each other. Read what neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg has to say about that mouth-opened-wide action. From "Yawn: It’s one of the best things you can do for your brain."

What's Attention Got To Do With It? Quantum Physics Of The Brain In Mediation (11/23/09)
I often talk about the importance of paying attention to what you are paying attention to in conflict resolution, and in life. Because I think it is so important, the A in the acronym of my CARVE Disputes Model™ stands for Attention.

Some Short Podcasts From The 2009 Neuroleadership Summit At UCLA (11/02/09)
I got back late this week from the NeuroLeadership Summit with a strong need for a nap. The days were long and the presentations many. I hope to blog about some of the programs soon. Originally I had planned to blog in the evenings while there. Instead, soon after I returned to my room, I curled up in bed with a book and fell asleep minutes later.

Scent Of Fairness In The Air? Mediation Running Hot Or Cold? The Importance Of Subtle Environmental Cues (10/26/09)
Not only do the people in the room affect the outcome of a mediation, but the room itself may, too. How much attention do you pay to the little things in the conflict resolution setting? Let's look at some recent experiments that just might increase that attention.

Ipods In Mediation? More On The Power Of Music (10/05/09)
In my ongoing research into the use of music in mediation (see past posts here), I am frequently reminded of the power of music to shift our moods and thoughts, and change our behaviors. It is because of that power that I believe music could be a helpful mediation tool.

Warnings About Brain Scans, Empathy, And Oxytocin (08/31/09)
With the mass popularization of neuroscience in many arenas, including conflict resolution, one hears much dumbing down of how the brain works. I read an excellent blog post today at Lucid Thoughts titled fMRI and "locationism": Something Old, Something New and wanted to point it out to you since it explains a factor in this dumbing down. Blogger Steve Genco calls it "locationism.'

Want To Communicate Well In Mediation? Here Are A Couple Of Tips For You (07/06/09)
One of my favorite books about the brain and how we take in information is by cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham. The book has a memorable title: Why Don't Students Like School. (In April, I blogged about the book before reading it and linked to a review in the Wall Street Journal.)

Why Use Metaphors In Conflicts? Because Understanding Is Remembering In Disguise (06/29/09)
The brain considers new information from the point of view of what it already knows and remembers, so the use of good metaphors is an effective way to communicate. Metaphors facilitate getting your message across in every area of your life, including dispute resolution. Those who have been reading my posts here for a while know that I have recommended metaphor use in the past; I am a metaphor advocate.

The Noisy Coffin Does Not Tell All (05/25/09)
When we are in conflict, our brain interacts with other brains so to study the single brain can be a misleading abstraction. We are not alone and yet much of the neuroscience research looks at just one brain at a time.

And The Quest Goes On: Still Looking For Mediation Music (05/18/09)
I am going to figure out how to use music in mediation. Why am I tenaciously hunting down the right music to use with people in disputes?

That Fashionable And Popular Brain! Are Neuromyths Increasing In Dispute Resolution? Who Creates Them? (05/11/09)
I am happy to see that neuroscience is being mentioned more frequently by many who are talking and teaching about dispute resolution. On the other hand, I am a little concerned about what is being said about the brain; I'm hearing some neuromyths and assertions that go beyond what the research has proven. Let us be careful not to introduce neuromyths into the dispute resolution arena. Once they get in, repeated and accepted, it will be very hard to weed them out.

Neuro-Talk? Keep Talking Neuro-Talk? Talk About Things You'd Like To Know (04/27/09)
In Seduction by neuroscience: Resisting the allure, I wrote about the problems with neuro-talk or using neuroscience incorrectly. That post was written nearly two years ago and I believe neuro-talk has since then greatly increased.

A Tight Grip On Your Mental Flashlight Is The Deciding Skill In Conflict Resolution (04/20/09)
Attention is a pivotal force in any conflict. More than that, it is the key to success in any arena because your attention defines you. Laurence Freeman said, "You are a disciple of that to which you give your attention." Gangaji said, ""Wherever your attention is, this is what you love." William James said that what we pay attention to is what we believe. They echo what philosophers have been saying for centuries and what neuroscience is now showing.

Some hard questions about neurolaw: If you are interested in law and neuroscience, read this article (02/09/09)
This blog takes the position that there is a difference between the mind and the brain. That point of view is probably obvious since I collaborate with one of the leading non-materialist neuroscientists Jeff Schwartz. (For more about non-materialist neuroscience, read his book The Mind and the Brain.) Because of my interest in the mind/brain question, I was intrigued with a new article I recommend to you.

Use music in mediation? Still no answer since one note, tone, or tune does not fit all (01/19/09)
Because of the effects it can have on the mind and the brain, I would like to use music in mediation. (See one of my earlier posts on this quest.) So I have been trying to find out if there is music that is universally calming, invigorating, inspiring, you get the idea, or if the effect is so individual that use of music in a mediation or negotiation would be risky. Today I have some more pieces to the puzzle but no definitive answer yet.

The brain dancer: How about a little movement in your mediation? Just a little? (12/14/08)
I watched a wonderful video. It is of a scientist dancing some information about the brain. Be sure to take a look at Scientists explain their work through the medium of dance (BPS Research Digest blog). Beautiful. So much conveyed with no words.

Use of music in conflict resolution: Some pieces of the "how to" and "why" puzzles (12/01/08)
Over the last many months, I have been researching the appropriate and beneficial use of music in mediation and other negotiations. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you may recall that I have mentioned before the idea of using music in conflict resolution. And sometimes I mention the possibilities when I give presentations. The idea has been in my head for years.

Take a tree (or a picture of one) to your next mediation: Attention Restoration Theory and the cognitive benefits of nature (11/24/08)
Sometimes I post research to get you thinking about the location of, and activities in, conflict resolution in ways that are fresh, fertile, and productive. I would like this post to get you thinking about location. Where do you hold mediations? Meetings? Negotiations?

Mind-based mediation: Do you do it to clients or with them? (11/18/08)

The Brain Has Its Ways: What Does My Name Have To Do With Conflict Resolution? (11/03/08)
For years I have wondered why people, even friends, call me Stephanie Allen West, perhaps a third of the time. I do believe I have solved the mystery and the solution was a good reminder. When Steve Roesler of All Things Workplace jumbled my name (now fixed), I wrote to him and asked him if he had any idea why this happens so frequently. He was the perfect person to ask.

How many people came to the mediation? Probably many more than you can see in the room (10/21/08)
The idea that we carry many people within our personas is not new. As examples, I recently blogged about subpersonalities and in the at post mentioned Bonnie Badenoch's aligned concept of the inner community. And this notion of an inner multitude has just been addressed by Professor Paul Bloom in November's Atlantic in an article with an apt title: "First Person Plural."

Regulating In-The-Way Emotions In Conflict Resolution: Is The Difference Between A Roar And A Purr Found In The Eye Of The Beholder (Or Ear Of The Listener)? (09/30/08)
Conflicts that include runaway emotions can be very difficult to resolve, of course. Because there are so many methods of emotion regulation, James Gross and Ross Thompson have created a handy model that makes the various methods easier to sort and recall.

NeuroMediators: Understanding the brain is a critical key to resolving conflict (both within a culture and between cultures) (09/16/08)
Yesterday I blogged about how very important it is for conflict resolution practitioners to have knowledge about the workings of the brain and the mind. To underscore my point, please listen to this new interview of Doctors Jeffrey Schwartz and Norman Doidge. (Thanks to Australia's ABC National Radio All In the Mind for posting the interview so we may listen; they will post the transcript midweek.)In the interview you will hear about the brain's plasticity and how understanding its...

A must-watch interview of law professor, mediator, and meditator Leonard Riskin (09/10/08)
In this video, Professor Len Riskin gives three examples of moving from the reactive brain to the reflective mind during conflict.The interview was filmed as part of a Cutting Edge Law project. (I posted about Cutting Edge Law in July at idealawg.)

Are you leaving these conflict resolvers and problem solvers out of your toolkit? If so, why? (09/02/08)
Two tools that facilitate creativity and effective problem solving are not allowed in the structure and timing of many conflict resolution sessions. Perhaps another reason why expediency and pressure cut against the best resolutions?The first tool: Take a well-researched step that leads to insight, that Eureka moment when new solutions seem to appear out of nowhere. Jonah Lehrer writes in his article "The Eureka Hunt" [pdf] (New Yorker) that research from neuroscience indicates that...

Interested in brain-based coaching? Tomorrow night's call will likely have information related to brain-based mediation, too (08/18/08)
Although the call at 7 PM Eastern on Tuesday, August 19, is an activity of the Brain-Based Coaching Special Interest Group of the International Coach Federation, anyone can call in to listen and also, if you would like, ask questions. From the group's blog post announcing the call:TWO SIDES TO THE EQUATION - Interweaving brain based science into a sustainable coaching model?Brain or science led coaching has been around for some years. Yet for many it remains a bit of a mystery tool. Both...

The obligation of a mediator to practice good mind hygiene, and an interview of Bonnie Badenoch on being brain-wise (08/11/08)
I have been reading Dr. Badenoch's new book Being a Brain-Wise Therapist: A Practical Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology. I recommend it to you. Not just therapists can gain valuable knowledge about the brain from this book; anyone who is in the vicinity of others who have brains can pick up some helpful ideas about how interacting brains change, shape, and impact each other. And readers will learn practical techniques, too. Much of what the author has written will assist practitioners of...

Play what you know and then play above that: The role of improvisation in mediation (07/29/08)
A jazz saxophonist decided to see what his brain was doing when he was improvising. Luckily he was also a neuroscientist so he was able to cleverly set up and conduct the research. Watch a short video here about how they were able to allow musicians (jazz pianists) to improvise while undergoing fMRI scans. (Study link at the end of this post.) What did they find?From "This Is Your Brain On Jazz: Researchers Use MRI To Study Spontaneity, Creativity" (Science Daily):It appears, they conclude,...

From scaredy cat to serene lion: The alchemy of cognitive reappraisal (07/21/08)
Have you ever seen fear during a conflict? In many mediations and negotiations, I certainly have spotted fright, alarm, and even terror. The mediators I admire most are talented at using, modeling, and teaching a technique that can turn fear upside down into calm. This technique was described today by Jason Zweig in The Wall Street Journal, as well as in this article from the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.The technique is called cognitive reappraisal or cognitive reframing, and learning how ...

More words of caution: Are you a wise mediator or a woolly mystic? (07/07/08)
Lots of pseudoscience being tossed around these days, sometimes by people you might likely assign credibility. Last month, I attended a talk by George Lakoff about his new book The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain and was appalled at how he used the science. After reading an article "Mind Games" (The National), I knew I was not alone. Jeremy Freeman writes:In a typical argument, Lakoff starts by describing a fairly...

Cognitive paparazzi and the backlash against the bright lights of brain images (06/30/08)
What do we really know about the brain? Not as much as many in the media would have us believe. I have blogged before about using caution when applying neuroscience to conflict resolution (or to anything), including a few words about the Brain Overclaim Syndrome. (Scroll here for cautionary posts.) Now caution is issuing forth from many tongues and pens.Charles Barber's recent article "The Brain: A Mindless Obsession?" (The Wilson Quarterly) includes a look at what brain imaging can tell us, or ...

Values and Empathy across Social Barriers: A Neurocognitive Approach to Fairness (06/23/08)
A conference with that title will be held later this year. From the New York Academy of Sciences Web site:What makes suicide bombers capable of sacrificing themselves for a belief? Why do members of one race believe they are superior to another? How do subliminal messages affect the outcome of political polling? Using the tools of neuroscience and social science, researchers have learned a great deal about the brain's role in human behavior and interactions. This November, international...

Long-Overdue Conversation About The State Of Mediation (06/17/08)
For those mediators who read this blog and do not read idealawg, I point you to a blog post by Geoff Sharp: The legal community has learned to accept low-functioning mediation. I linked to it from idealawg today and only occasionally link to one thing from both blogs. Sharp's is an important post so I want to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible.The post looks at dialogue between parties to a conflict, and at the very common practice of keeping the  parties...

Mirror Neurons: Some Resources (06/02/08)
Mirror neurons with their role in perceiving intent and emotions are important to the processes of conflict resolution, so I have discussed mirror neurons here before. Two new books on the topic were reviewed this weekend in The Wall Street Journal. "The Reflection Reflex" covers both Mirroring People:The New Science of How We Connect with Others by Marco Iacoboni and Mirrors in the Brain by Giacomo Rizzolatti and Corrado Sinigaglia. Reading the review is a quick way to brush up on...

Coach and coax your brain to create new habits: Lay down some new tracks (05/12/08)
Want to make some changes in your life? Is there something you want to quit doing? Or start doing? If yes, then please read one of the articles I have written with Jeffrey Schwartz to which I have linked and from which I have taken excerpts below. I was pleased to see an article in Sunday's New York Times in which was a discussion about self-directed neuroplasticity (changing your brain on purpose). The article's author Janet Rae-Dupree did not use the phrase "self-directed...

Now online: A new article by Jeff Schwartz and me, plus the newest intallment of my ADR column (05/05/08)
The new edition of The Complete Lawyer includes an article by Jeff and me entitled "Exercise Mind Hygiene On A Daily Basis." Excerpt:Become More Self-Aware In Three Steps Your reflective mind is your shield against living reactively. It can help you become wiser, healthier and more satisfied—which is worth more than any imaginable income. It is easy to use—but not often simple. Here are three steps that will help you separate yourself from your reactive brain and begin to move into ...

Take a closer look at what the media report: Recent studies about fairness and empathy (04/29/08)
Reading about research in the media sometimes can be misleading. Here are two recent examples. First, several articles and blog posts have covered "The Sunny Side of Fairness," research out of UCLA by Golnaz Tabibnia, Ajay B. Satpute, and Matthew D. Lieberman. An article about the study at physorg.com is titled "Are humans hardwired for fairness?" Professor Greg Downey of Neuroanthropology posted at Craving money, chocolate and… justice his concern about interpreting the ...

Images can help you paint a bright resolution to conflict (04/21/08)
Western societies have largely lost the ability to think in images rather than words.-Ian Robertson Each day, I am amazed at the brain power that is lost when we focus solely on words; I now am using hand-drawn images more and more for: problem-solving thought clarification communication memory enhancement. For a couple of years, since reading neuroscientist Dr. Ian Robertson's Opening the Mind's Eye: How Images and Language Teach Us How To See, I have been increasingly...

Grit your teeth and bear it: Get angry for all the right reasons (03/31/08)
Another study on the usefulness of anger! That emotion is enjoying attention and a second—and third—look. (Is March the month for mad?) From a Science Daily article "Anger Has An Upside, Study Suggests":Psychologists Maya Tamir and Christopher Mitchell of Boston College, and James Gross of Stanford University tested whether people prefer to experience emotions that are potentially useful, even when they are unpleasant to experience. The authors wanted to examine whether individuals ...

Has brain science reached a tipping point? Do mediators and lawyers 'need to incorporate neuroscience into their practice'? (03/24/08)
Ed Batista, Leadership Coach at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, posted today about the use of neuroscience in coaching, leadership and learning. His thoughtful post includes due concern about "neuro-hype" and the limitations of the science, topics on which I have posted before (posts here). Batista's discussion about limitations includes the link to a very good article from Haaretz.com titled "Of two minds". From the article:[M]any scientists are taking issue with...

Some clues about brain mastery and conflict resolution: How mindful are you? Want to find out? (03/17/08)
Because of its role in both brain mastery and conflict resolution, several times in the past I have posted here at BonP about mindfulness (click to see mindfulness posts). If you want to gauge your mindfulness, some mindfulness instruments or scales have been designed. One of them is the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS). Here are the first seven MAAS questions—with a link below to the other questions and the test instructions:1. I could be experiencing some emotion and not be...

Is A Good Leader A Good Conflict Facilitator? Is A Good Conflict Facilitator A Good Leader? (03/10/08)
This month's Fast Company includes an article about four traits of leadership: curiosity, charisma, knowledge of neuroscience, and adaptability. Often these four traits are also embodied by someone skilled in resolving disputes. James Kuczmarski, author of the article "The Journal-ist: In the Lead," reviewed four recent academic journals to create the quartet. In "The Role of Curiosity in Global Managers’ Decision-Making" from The Journal of Leadership and...

Brains Vary From Culture To Culture—A Lot! (02/19/08)
Vickie Pynchon at her Settle It Now Blog is posting about the event she is attending: Mediators Beyond Borders Founding Congress. Yesterday in How to Make Your Opponent Do What You Want Him to Do: Part I she posted a list created by Ken Cloke of 12 Ways Systems Resist Change. In reading it, I was reminded of how much cultures vary. This list would apply in some cultures; in many other cultures it would be a mismatch. Neurocience research is showing us that the brains of people in different ...

Wise, insightful words on the perils of popularizing neuroscience (01/28/08)
We have blogged about neuro-talk in the past. Neuro-talk is what we call use of the science to create misleading brain myths or make ungrounded leaps from the research to unjustifiable conclusions. From past post Seduction by neuroscience: Resisting the allure:Neuro-talk is popular these days. You can read about neuro-this and neuro-that. Much extrapolation is being done from the findings of neuroscience; often the extrapolation is not warranted or accurate. We are aware of the temptation to...

CSI (Conflict Scene Investigation): Why the brain likes to hang out with Columbo, Monk, and Sherlock Holmes (01/21/08)
The brain likes to be creatively engaged. Creative and thoughtful engagement lessens stress and fear, and therefore can lead to better ideas.  An activity important to conflict resolution, and an activity of creative engagement, is questioning. Our brains like to formulate and answer questions. The brain likes to be a detective and the detective work helps in negotiation. The authors of the Harvard Business Review article "Investigative Negotiation" say, "The best way to ...

MediationChannel.com: Tune in your blog neurons now (01/08/08)
If the conflict resolution blogosphere was a brain, all neuron pathways would lead to Diane Levin. She is a star shepherd, scout, and sage of our corner of the blog world. If I open my google reader and see that she has posted (no matter how busy or tired or distracted I may be), I eagerly look to see what she has written. She never fails to be informative, thought-provoking, and original. And where does she get those great graphics to brightly illustrate the topics of her posts? If you have ...

More research on the power of our minds: Clues for buffing up our conflict resolving muscles (01/08/08)
In "Mind Over Matter: Mental Training Increases Physical Strength" (pdf), we learn of some astounding research. The study "tested whether mental training alone can produce a gain in muscular strength." The answer? Yes! Here's the research method:Thirty male university athletes, including football, basketball and rugby players, were randomly assigned to perform mental training of their hip flexor muscles, to use weight machines to physically exercise their hip flexors,...

Mediate.com posts a great online holiday card (12/31/07)
Want to watch a quick, sweet, and memorable holiday animation? Mediate.com has provided us all with just that. (As you may recall, I have posted before about Mediate.com and their value to the ADR community.) Take a look at their clever and smile-inducing holiday card. And, of course, editors John Ford and Jim Melamed provide a great Web site and ezine all year 'round—from January all the way through to this last month. If you do not yet know of Mediate.com, click on over now and often. Don't...

Asclepius, JD: What can this god's daughters teach us about conflict? (11/27/07)
"There is a dimension to the practice of mediation that has received insufficient attention: the combination of psychological, intellectual, and spiritual qualities that make a [mediator] who he or she is.   . . .   Indeed, this . . . may be one of the most potent sources of the effectiveness of mediation.--Daniel Bowling and David A. Hoffman, Bringing Peace Into the Room: How the Personal Qualities of the Mediator Impact the Process of Conflict...

Brain Myths & Folk Psychology: Let's not include any misleading myths in conflict resolution (like perhaps mirror neurons?) (11/13/07)
To spread accuracy, Professor Amy Shelton at Johns Hopkins is teaching a course this semester called Brain Myths & Folk Psychology. She sent me the Brain Myths syllabus (and in her e-mail said this class is much fun to teach). After looking at the readings and lecture topics, I wish I could be one of her students. The course goal:. . .is to explore popular notions about the brain and psychology and to discuss what science has actually revealed about them.  In the process, we will...

Don't let the Nut Run the Conflict Resolution (10/30/07)
In an earlier post, I mentioned a fear center in the brain and a method to facilitate its calming. That part of the brain is the amygdala. At Neurophilosophy, I learned that Dr. Joseph LeDoux, a leading expert on the amygdala and author of The Emotional Brain, has written a primer on the amygdala. The primer has much good information for those of you wishing to learn more about this part of your and your client's brain. More about the nut reference in a moment . . . During the seminar ...

Feelings as facilitators: Emotions can either enhance or impede communication (10/16/07)
Jeff was interviewed on national radio last week when he was in Australia. Several of the points he made are very useful for conflict resolution. (Click to listen to Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz. Jeff begins right about one-quarter of the way in.) Just one example: he talked about the role of emotion in communication. In the interview, Jeff described self-awareness, and the observing self, and explained some of the benefits of watching what your brain is doing. One of these benefits is the positive...

The Myth of Mars and Venus: A new book dispelling some entrenched myths (10/08/07)
Gender differences can play a part in conflict—both the differences themselves, and the assumptions we  make and the myths we believe about the differences between men and women. Those assumptions and beliefs may be not only about parties to a dispute but about others involved, including lawyers and ourselves. Let's make sure we have good information about any differences. "Rewire Your Brain to Systematize, Empathize" is an article in today's Boston Herald about "brain...

Notes from the 'fascinating' talk Jeffrey Schwartz gave today at the IdeaFestival (09/18/07)
( Photo credit: Geoff Oliver Bugbee—click photo for larger image) As I announced a while back, Jeff Schwartz spoke this morning at the 2007 IdeaFestival™ in Louisville, Kentucky; his talk was called The Mind and the Brain (just as is one of his books). Wayne Hall blogged about Jeff's presentation and concluded the post with: "This has been a fascinating talk that I'm certain my notes don't capture adequately." You may read the Hall notes on the Schwartz talk here. Some of the...

Conflict: Is it all in your head? (09/10/07)
Since neuroscience is one eye through which we look on this blog, and the brain is in the head, I am glad to be reminded of how important the rest of the body is to conflict resolution. The mind and the brain are important but so are the foot and the ankle and the shin . . . The latest reminder was in an article from The New Mexican: "Mapping the mind." The reporter Jennifer Strand tells us the story behind the soon-to-be-published book The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body...

From Stephanie West Allen (09/02/07)
These busy days, so many newsletters and announcements arrive in my e-mailbox. Most of them I should read in order to keep informed. The rest I delete or click on "unsubscribe." The arrival of a very, very few make me smile with anticipation. Mediate.com is one of those rare arrivals that fall in the category of want-to-read—no, can't-wait-to-read! It is the mediation publication and Web site. One can keep up with the latest, read the intelligent thoughts, ideas, and practices of other professionals, and easily follow what's going on that's related to ADR in the blogosphere. A big plus: Mediate.com has fostered a community feel and flavor. Congratulations on your 200th issue and two million thanks.

Birds and feathers: The role of homophily in conflict (08/06/07)
Homophily makes it much more likely that we will communicate and associate with others we know to be similar. Many, many studies have been done on the theory of homophily showing that most communication occurs between people who are homophilous. Homophily is the degree to which people share certain attributes such as level of education, class, values, philosophy, and organizational role — the degree to which they are alike. Another name for homophily is the "birds of a feather"...

Your Values: One Way To Lessen The Stress Of Conflict (07/23/07)
Of course, conflict can be stressful. When stress impedes the resolution of the conflict, many methods are available to lessen stress. One method, studied at UCLA, is affirming one's values. Affirmations have been touted by many New Age gurus and joked about by comedians. In MedicineNet.com article "Trump Stress With Your Thoughts," David Creswell, lead researcher in this study of values affirmation, explains the difference between that kind of affirmation and the affirmation he...

There's a great future in [neuroplasticity]. Think about it. Will you think about it?* (07/09/07)
"We commonly live with a self reduced to its bare minimum; most of our faculties lie dormant, relying on habit; and habit knows how to manage without them."-Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time In this short sentence, Proust has described one of the most important differences between accidental brains and brains on purpose. When we are only relying on habit, we are reduced to our "bare minimum" — and we are not in charge of our own brain...

Mind Advice? Bring Attention To The Conflict (07/02/07)
Would the following be helpful in the resolution of conflict? Increased ability to Prioritize and manage tasks and goals Focus on specific information Stay alert to the environment. Yes, these abilities can be assets in conflict resolution, whether you are a party to the conflict or a professional assisting in the parties' resolution. Once again, we hear of a way to increase these helpful abilities. In another flurry of articles just appearing in publications, the role of...

'What Are You Feeling?' 'What Am I Feeling?' These Questions Are Tools For Brain Taming (06/25/07)
A flurry of articles appeared this week about the neuroscience research showing that labeling your feelings can quiet your brain and increase impulse control, including Scientific American: "Name that feeling: You'll feel better" Daily Telegraph: "Happy chatting" Reuters: "Name that feeling: You'll feel better" Science Daily: "Putting Feelings Into Words Produces Therapeutic Effects In The Brain" Of course, a quiet and controlled brain is...

Good brain, bad brain? Bring it all to the negotiation table (06/18/07)
We are hearing much lately about the wise parts of the brain as well as the unruly. Truth be told this division into camps in the cranium is simplistic. David Brooks described part of the simplistic approach in his New York Times column "The Vulcan Utopia" (subscription required) in which he reviews Al Gore's book The Assault on Reason. Brooks wrote . . .Gore seems to have come up with a theory that the upper, logical mind sits on top of, and should master, the primitive and more...



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