Are Mediators “Mr Or Ms Beige”? A BBC Article About Neuroscience Of Conflict Resolution (And Another Plug For Telling Your Clients About Their Brains)

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

Although the article may have some contradictions, I suggest that you read "Can our brains help us solve conflicts?" (BBC News Magazine).

An example of a possible contradiction is when Baroness Susan Greenfield is quoted as saying:

[I]n  conflict resolution, the parties should avoid "highly arousing" environments that could lead to irrationality. Instead, she recommends a familiar, unchallenging, and bland atmosphere – such as a beige hotel room.

She also says a neutral third party, such as a friend, arbitration service, or statesman, can act as "Mr or Ms Beige" and guide the conflict resolution.

Later in the article, her co-speaker lawyer and mediator Jeremy Lack was quoted about the environment in which US and Soviet representatives negotiated.

He … says that the environment can have a positive effect on creativity. For instance, US and Soviet disarmament negotiators famously went on a "walk in the woods" to help them devise new plans.

The woods are not bland. But, if the trees facilitated communication, the walk among them is likely a good example of Attention Restoration Theory (ART). (My past posts on ART: here and here.) One dispute resolution environment is not going to be the best fit for all clients; this is another instance of one size not fitting all.

Before I sign off so you can read the article, let me point out one study that Lady Greenfield mentions, although not specifically. I recognized which research she was describing because I have long thought the study is probably an indication (yes, I know I am extrapolating) that we should be teaching our clients about their brains.

Lady Greenfield says that simply telling children about the brain's plasticity – proving their ability to learn – can drastically improve their educational performance.

I think (and have only my experience to back this up) that telling clients about their brain's (and mind's) ability to resolve conflict, and about the obstacles the brain throws up to resolution, will improve resolution "performance." Here is the study [pdf] to which I believe Lady Greenfield is referring.


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… MORE >

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Concerns on the New Singapore Convention

Business Conflict Blog by Peter PhillipsThe United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) has announced agreement on a “United Nations Agreement on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation.”  Informally...

By F. Peter Phillips

Say Cheese – Cracker Barrel Signs Mediation Agreement with the EEOC

From the First Mediation Blog of Jeff Krivis and Mariam Zadeh. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. have signed a Universal Agreement...

By Jeffrey Krivis, Mariam Zadeh

Marketing Monday 8 Days A Week (Book Review)

“Marketing Monday 8 Days A Week” By Natalie Armstrong In Marketing Monday 8 Days A Week Ms. Armstrong manages to capture her keen sighted advise over the past 3 years....

By Jon Linden

Find a Mediator