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<xTITLE>The Brain Has Its Ways: What Does My Name Have To Do With Conflict Resolution?</xTITLE>

The Brain Has Its Ways: What Does My Name Have To Do With Conflict Resolution?

by Stephanie West Allen
November 2008

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

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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.

Roesler wrote:

Stephanie Allen West has a natural flow because of the number of syllables: 3-2-1. I'm not making this up as I spent a lot of years writing copy for radio and tv and, as you well know, rhythms are an important part of the spoken word. I'd seriously consider that as a contributing factor.

Makes sense to me. The brain likes its rhythms and patterns; if it hears something that does not fit, it may just change what it hears. The brain can be like your computer's automatic fill-in. You type "b-r-a-i" and it fills in "b-r-a-i-n." You were typing "b-r-a-i-l-l-e" so have to go back and erase and type in the right letters. How often in your negotiations are the brains in the room engaging in automatic fill-ins? Is the level of communication clarification high enough to make sure the fill-ins are caught?

The brain's tendency to fill in is another reason why you want to make sure reflective minds are in the room, not just brains that are conserving energy by being automatic and reactive. The brain uses a lot of our energy so wants to be energy-efficient by taking short cuts and relying on past patterns. Short term efficiency often is detrimental to a good solution that requires the mind fuel of creativity and reflection.

I asked a close friend why she recently had introduced me in an e-mail as Stephanie Allen West. She replied, "I don't know." I think I know. What a great reminder of the brain's ways which are tricky and yet often predictable.


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

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

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