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<xTITLE>Which Metaphor Do You Like? Is A Mediator A Human Alarm Clock Or A Knight With No Daze?</</xTITLE>

Which Metaphor Do You Like? Is A Mediator A Human Alarm Clock Or A Knight With No Daze?</

by Stephanie West Allen
April 2010

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

Stephanie West Allen

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.

Whether or not the mindfulness of the mediator can affect the conflict resolution process is a matter of debate. If you read this blog, you know that I think the mediator's mindfulness has impact. There is a continuum along which this debate roams and sometimes rages.

On one end of the continuum are those who think the self-awareness and mindfulness of the mediator is paramount to his competence. On the other end are those who say the proper application of techniques is the critical ingredient. I lean much more to the first-described end of the continuum, but acknowledge some skills, some practices, are needed.

Why do I think mindfulness is important? Many reasons, but perhaps the most important is the subtle and also the obvious ways we relate as human beings. Brains and minds affect each other. We are not isolated by our skulls. To say the awareness state of the conflict professional is not an influence on the process is, to me, mystifying. 

I was reminded of the value of self-awareness today when Roger Dooley Tweeted a blog post that looks at mindfulness as a shield against manipulation. (There's the knight metaphor. Were you wondering when it was coming?) The blogger also looks at what is happening in the brain when we are manipulated.

Two discussions being held in the conflict resolution arena, the mindfulness discussion, and another about brain knowledge, are both brought to mind by this article. I am intrigued to see that these two discussions are not particular to dispute professionals. In many arenas in addition to conflict resolution, e.g., coaching, counseling, managing, teaching, leading, I hear people talking about

Read the blog post and perhaps think about these two issues. Although the post is titled How to Protect Yourself From Advertisers Neuromarketing Tricks, much of it applies to being manipulated anywhere, anytime, including when in conflict.

Let's continue these discussions. Tell me:

  • Do you think your mindfulness is important to your effectiveness as a conflict professional?
  • Do you think it is important to have some basic knowledge of the brain? If so, do you think that information should be given to your clients?
  • Alarm clock or knight?


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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Additional articles by Stephanie West Allen