Dan Simon

Dan Simon

Dan Simon writes the blog for the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation. He is a national leader in the field of transformative mediation.  He practices and teaches it in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  He's trained mediators throughout the country for the U.S. Postal Service, the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation, and as an Adjunct Professor at the Hofstra University School of Law. He serves on the Minnesota Supreme Court's ADR Ethics Board, is the Immediate Past Chair of the Minnesota State Bar Association's ADR Section; and he serves on the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation. He has been the director of Twin Cities Mediation since he founded it in 1998. He helps with divorces, parenting differences, real estate issues, employment cases, business disputes, and neighbor to neighbor conflicts.

Contact Dan Simon

Website: www.twincitiesmediation.com

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Articles and Video:

Transformative Mediation Described Accurately in New Book (01/04/22)
Tara West has studied all of the approaches to mediation.

Transformative Family Dialogue During the Pandemic – A Story from a Mediation Center in the Czech Republic (12/11/21)

Remembering Mediator Irvin P. Foster (10/23/21)
Irvin P. Foster, who mentored and inspired many mediators, died on September 5th. ISCT Coordinator, Janet Mueller, shares the following remembrance of him.

Southern Maryland CMC’s Support Conversations on Race and Privilege (07/23/21)
Constructive dialogue is essential in our world today, and indeed, transformative. It has the ability to open our eyes to the pain of others as well as our own.

Face and Mediation (06/11/21)
We’ve all heard the phrases “saving face” or “losing face.” How does the concept of FACE play a role in conflict?

City Commissioner Commends ISCT Staff Member for Work on Police Reform Initiative (06/11/21)
"I know much of our work is done privately in mediation rooms or with groups and we rarely get this level of public acknowledgement so I thought it was important to share!"

A Transformative Mediator Intervening in a Commercial Would-Be Dispute (10/16/20)
On September 15th, 2020 IDI, the International Distribution Institute organized a webinar focused on possible solutions for re-starting distribution and retail/franchising relationships which have suffered difficulties during lock- down, and which are still suffering difficulties in order to adapt to the restrictive measures imposed by the COVID pandemic.

Mediator’s Thoughts for Parents During the Pandemic (08/21/20)
Divorce or separation is a big challenge in itself.

Transformative Community Mediation Centers Thriving (03/06/20)
A handful of community and municipal mediation centers throughout the world are committed to providing mediation exclusively in the transformative model.

Directive Impulses Run Deep (01/03/20)
While mediating, I try to support parties in making their own choices about how they participate in the conversation.

The Forgiveness Instinct and Transformative Mediation (12/12/19)
The capacity for forgiveness runs deep in our genes.

Mediation Approaches: We Don’t Have Science, So Let’s Have Principles (09/20/19)
The research on mediation approaches shows a connection between transformative methods and the best outcomes on all levels.

Moving Parents – and a Moving Conversation (08/30/19)
Empowerment and recognition shifts can happen between people whose interaction has fluctuated for years.

Czech Transformative Mediators Empower Parents and Kids (08/16/19)
Transformative mediation is thriving in Brno, Czech Republic.

Self-Imposed Ground Rules: The Only Kind Worth Having (12/23/18)
“You might be wrong. Your voice can be big. Genuinely listen.”

Interruption and Self-Determination (11/30/18)
Chaos? A mediation out of control? A weak mediator? I don’t think so.

The Next Level of Impartiality (10/19/18)
All mediators understand that we’re supposed to be impartial. Our ideas about what that means fall on a continuum.

Establishing Rapport in Mediation (07/13/18)
Establishing rapport seems like a nice thing to do, right? I don’t think so.

Why Is Conflict Such a Big Deal? (06/14/18)
Conflict is a big deal because it affects our two most basic values – strength of self and care of other.

Transformative Dialogue – The Salvation of Democracy? (05/25/18)
While some conversations result in “getting to yes”, others lead to clarity that no agreement is possible at that time.

More FAQ’s from Mediators (04/06/18)
Here are typical questions mediators have at mediation trainings.

FAQ’s from Mediators (02/09/18)
I often present to mediators for an hour or so on the transformative approach. These are certain questions that come up regularly.

Mind Mapping and the Transformative Framework (12/08/17)
Guest blogger, Kees van Eijk, supports human interaction in this article by mapping thoughts, ideas, and emotions. He is a registered mediator and team facilitator working in the Netherlands.

The Only Impartial Direction is Up (11/06/17)
Here’s me trying to persuade another mediator that she’s not being impartial if settlement is her goal. I’m not going to be able to persuade her, but what do you think?

Why Don’t Transformative Mediations Get Violent? (08/11/17)
“It’s important to set ground rules at the start of a mediation, and then you can remind the parties of those rules if they get off track later,” said a trainee in one of my mediation courses.

How Can the Presence of a Mediator INCREASE Party Self-determination? (06/09/17)
When discussing different forms of conflict intervention, the various processes are sometimes listed in order of increasing party control.

Litigation–Style Mediation Has Got to Go (04/21/17)
It’s entirely understandable that retired judges and experienced litigators would want to work as mediators.

Social Networking Ain’t Transformative Mediation (03/03/17)
Those people [who share your political perspective] are vile and despicable and should be ashamed of themselves!

Even the Best Mediation Doesn’t Eliminate Differences – Nor Should It (02/03/17)
Conflicts that are resolved only to etch out a settlement are resolved in the shallowest sense.

Same Transaction, Different Interaction (12/23/16)
Different interactions can cause you to become interested in transactions that you previously were not interested in.

Strength and Responsiveness in the Time of Trump (12/02/16)
Transformative theory acknowledges people’s propensity to fall into a vicious cycle of feeling threatened, losing compassion for each other, and then behaving in ways that perpetuate or worsen those experiences.

Wikipedia Does Conflict Well (11/04/16)
Successful collaboration is predicted by the transformative theory of conflict.

Is the Other Side as Bad as We Think? (10/07/16)
How can they possibly support ____ for president?!

Miscommunication: A Symptom, Not Just a Cause (08/19/16)
The communication problems that happen in the mediation session might be symptoms of the conflict.

Mediation Center Director Re-Inspired by the Transformative Approach (07/15/16)
Our intent in a recent training was to provide new mediators training in parenting plan mediation, we received so much more. Over the course of the weekend, I found myself reexamining some of my beliefs about mediation practice.

6 Reasons Name-Calling Can be a Healthy Part of Mediation (07/01/16)
In some circles, name-calling is considered to be counterproductive in a mediation session.

Trust the Process, Not the Procedures (06/10/16)
“Trust the process,” said the mediator.

Surgeons’ Apologies Decrease Lawsuits: How Can that be News? (05/06/16)
I read an article on CNN that explains that when surgeons and other medical providers apologize after they’ve made a mistake, people are less likely to sue. What I found hard to swallow was that the story was considered newsworthy.

Evaluative Mediation – Its Five Fatal Flaws (02/05/16)
Although mediators prefer not to be pigeonholed, the truth is that we each stick to our own philosophy.

Divorce Mediation: More Mainstream But Less Pure (01/04/16)
Although mediation has the potential and in many cases succeeds at being an entirely different and healthier experience than legalistic divorce, mediation has more often been watered down to the point where it’s simply another part of litigation.

People Like Me Now! (12/18/15)
People accepting me gives me a great feeling of strength, which frees me up to be attentive and responsive to them, which enhances my sense of strength, which allows me to focus more on them, and so on.

Mediation Study Bolsters Transformative Claims (12/04/15)
The Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts has completed a significant study of mediation methods.* It measured the effects, in parenting disputes, of different techniques. The report strongly supports that methods consistent with the transformative approach are more effective than others at achieving lasting improvement in the situations mediated.

Death and Conflict are Part of Life (11/09/15)
In conflict, professionals often believe that containment, suppression and an efficient settlement are needed. That is, they try to make the conflict go away, just as physicians try to make disease go away.

Death and Conflict are Part of Life (10/23/15)
In conflict, professionals often believe that containment, suppression and an efficient settlement are needed. That is, they try to make the conflict go away, just as physicians try to make disease go away. But single-minded focus on ending the conflict can have very unpleasant side effects, just like excessive medical treatment can.

Bad Day at JAMS, Part 2 (10/16/15)
For this mediation, I feared that everything I’ve heard from litigation-mediators about how they view things would manifest itself in a tedious, frustrating process. The last time I had participated in one of these mediations was as a lawyer in 1995. It was as bad as I feared.

Bad Day at JAMS, Part 1 (10/02/15)
An old friend (I’ll call him Frank) called to tell me he was being sued by a former employer (I’ll call him Owen) for improperly taking customers and trade secrets. I warned Frank that mediations conducted by retired judges often feel silly, meaningless and frustrating to litigants, and that they achieve, best case scenario, a settlement that both sides are unhappy with.

The Transformative Lawyer (09/04/15)
The skills and underlying premises of transformative mediation are often contemplated in the context of mediation. But is there a place for using the skills of a transformative mediator as an advocate in a contentious litigation? Here is the story of Chris G., a recent Hofstra graduate who was a member of the mediation clinic where transformative mediation was the approach taught and used.

Bush and Folger on Reclaiming Mediation’s Future (05/22/15)
One of the many things that Baruch Bush and Joe Folger have contributed to the mediation community is the stimulus to engage in difficult conversation about how we support participants in conflict. What informs our practice? What does it mean when I say that I’m committed to participant self-determination? Baruch and Joe’s recent article on Reclaiming Mediation’s Future and their challenge to return to “an original vision of the mediation field” has certainly stimulated conversation and strong reaction.

The Meanings of May Fourth (05/15/15)
My social media feed was filled with clever posts yesterday (May 4th, 2015.) The Stars Wars geeks in my life are many and so were the “may the fourth be with you” memes. But every time I saw “May 4th” a very different image came to my mind. In 1970, four students were killed and nine others wounded by gunfire from the National Guard at Kent State. I went to Kent State in the 90’s, not knowing much about the events of May 4th.

Mediation: Why Distinguish Between Models? (04/03/15)
This blog highlights examples of a typical conversation between mediators trying to decide the importance of different models.

Conflict Transformation in TV and Movies (03/21/15)
My wife and I started using movie and TV clips in mediation training after participating in a workshop facilitated by Baruch Bush and Joe Folger called Rethinking Conflict in 2008. We were so inspired by this teaching and learning tool that we picked up the ball and ran with it.

Minnesota Considers Moving Divorce out of Court (03/13/15)
“In our culture, court means contest – it means a fight. . . we’ve culturally viewed divorce as a battle” says Bill Doherty. Doherty says that, no matter how well-intentioned the lawyers, the assumption that judicial supervision is needed greatly increases the risk of destructive conflict arising. Doherty believes that, very often, couples who get divorced without the help of lawyers do better than they would with lawyers. Doherty’s plan takes divorce entirely outside the courts.

A Conversation about Evaluation in Mediation (02/20/15)
A made up conversation follows. It’s an amalgamation of conversations I’ve had with mediation trainees. Mediation Trainee: I get it that mediation is about self-determination. Therefore, when parties ask us to give them an evaluation of their case, shouldn’t we honor that determination they’ve made? I mean they’ve hired us to settle the case, right? Don’t they need to know if their expectations are too high?

The Downside of Evaluation in Mediation (02/06/15)
“Based on my years of experience as a litigator and as a judge, I’d say your latest positions are both within the reasonable range for this case. I’d say the plaintiff’s demand of $200,000 is on the high side of that range; and I’d say the defendant’s offer of $100,000 is on the low side of that range. So I’d say that any settlement you arrive at now, between those numbers, would be a good deal for both sides, considering the costs and uncertainty of continued litigation.”

Improve Your Communication: Use Earplugs! (12/01/14)
Guest blogger Kees van Eijk writes, "It started as a communication problem between my spouse and me. But my hearing impairment has remarkably become the most important instrument in my communication toolbox." Turning an impairment into a benefit.

5 Reasons It’s Hard for Mediators to Support Self-Determination (11/11/14)
Many mediators practice consistently with our intention to support party self-determination throughout the process. These mediations tend to be very meaningful to the parties and tend to lead to profound shifts in how parties see the situation, themselves, and each other. They also tend to lead to settlements that all parties are genuinely, lastingly at peace with. But in the world of litigation, mediations continue to be far less effective, meaningful, and empowering than they could be. Many mediators who work on litigated cases continue to use methods that undermine self-determination, that interfere with inter-party recognition and that cause the process to be far less satisfying. Here are 5 reasons that these less effective practices persist.

Transformative Mediation Program Helps Ohio Employees (10/31/14)
Calls kept coming in to the Ohio Employees’ EAP program. Some calls came from a supervisor who was having trouble dealing with an employee. Some came from an employee who was having trouble with a supervisor. Sometimes it was co-workers who were in conflict with each other. Regardless of whom the conflict involved, the EAP was underequipped to help. They could counsel the caller, but the director of the EAP knew a different type of service was needed. So they sought outside expertise on workplace conflict intervention, and they put out a Request for Proposal.

Lawyers Benefit from Transformative Mediation – Video (09/12/14)
Why hasn’t transformative mediation swept the world of litigated disputes with represented parties? A new video reveals that there’s no good reason. While the transformative approach has succeeded in the US Postal Service workplace mediation program, and while some community mediation centers and family mediators have embraced it, the realm of civil litigation continues to be dominated by far more directive approaches.

Law Professor Transformed (09/05/14)
Professor Sherry Colb, who teaches criminal procedure and evidence at Cornell Law School, took a training in transformative mediation this spring and it blew her mind. You can read the full text of the article she wrote about it here. In her article Colb explains the fundamentally different assumptions that underly the legalistic paradigm as compared to the transformative paradigm. Here are a dozen of the insights that the training inspired in her:

Transformative Mediation, Slovenia, and the Wright Brothers (07/26/14)
Many times throughout the Transformative Mediation Congress, I saw mediators explore various aspects of the transformative approach– how it looks in practice, what it means to be non-directive, how to talk to clients as a transformative mediator. We grappled with what this work means to us and to our clients. We discussed ways to help people understand this different approach to conflict resolution. The participants were willing to embrace the challenges of applying the Transformative Approach to their practice and wrestle with them.

Mediating Between Charlie Brown and Lucy (06/30/14)
Is it finally time for Charlie Brown to trust Lucy not to pull the football away? As mediators, we like to see our clients regain or establish a level of trust that allows them to make commitments to each other and move forward. Sure, many times Lucy has pulled the ball away from Charlie at the last minute, despite promising otherwise. But here they are in mediation, a chance to turn over a new leaf, to come clean, to let go of their mistrust and to collaborate. Isn’t it our job to encourage Charlie to take a risk?

5 Year-old Almost Derails Transformative Mediator (05/02/14)
After picking up my 5-year old son, Caleb, from school last week, we had a very interesting ride home. He had gotten in trouble for not participating in a classroom activity. As I drove, I started to interrogate him on why he didn’t participate. I was upset and concerned that my well-behaved son had gotten in trouble. I kept asking questions and got no response. I looked in the rear view mirror and noticed how upset and closed he had become.

How Do You Get Them To. . .? (03/21/14)
When I spend a day teaching mediators who were originally trained in a Facilitative approach, many questions start with “So how do you get them to. . . ?” That question reveals that the asker has a different sense of what self-determination means than I do. That is, I don’t want to get clients to do anything. I find that clients tend to do certain things with my support, but it’s their choice whether and when they do those things; and it’s their choice whether they want to do . . . anything.

Conflict: It's Relational and That Ain't Situational (12/27/13)
Many mediators say they adjust their approach according to the situation. This makes sense on one level. If a mediator remains responsive to the parties, the interventions will necessarily vary according to the parties, and will even vary with the same parties as their interaction changes.

Conflict: It's Relational and That Ain't Situational (12/27/13)
Many mediators say they adjust their approach according to the situation. This makes sense on one level. If a mediator remains responsive to the parties, the interventions will necessarily vary according to the parties, and will even vary with the same parties as their interaction changes.

Autonomy is a Big Deal (09/13/13)
“I’m doing it because I want to, not because you told me to,” said in a mocking na-na-na-na-na sort of way, was a line heard often between my siblings when I was a kid. Nobody wanted to be bossed around by a sibling. So if you happened to want to do something a sibling had told you to do, you made it clear that it was your own choice. This phenomenon, of people wanting to make their own choices, seems to run pretty deep.

Tough Questions About Human Nature and the Purple House (08/02/13)
Baruch Bush and Joe Folger conducted a training in May called “Responding Effectively to Workplace and Family Conflicts”. This workshop focused on how we might best manage our own conflicts, taking into consideration the transformative framework. A participant in that course posed the following questions afterward.

The Tyranny of the Flipchart (07/08/13)
“Maybe it would help make things clearer if we list all of your assets on this big sheet of paper. We can list each item that either of you thinks should be discussed; then we can go through and list approximate values of each item; then we can talk about how you’d like to distribute each item; we can also tally up the values, so you’re each receiving about equal value, assuming that’s what you’re aiming for.”

Nice Guys Fight on a Plane (05/10/13)
It’s the disputing, not the dispute. Interaction matters, even more than the “subject” of the dispute.

The World's Next Top Mediation Model (02/15/13)
I estimate it took me 5 years of trying until I fully embraced the transformative perspective. I had started out mediating by assuming my job was to uncover underlying interests, then help both sides figure out how to get as much of what they wanted as possible, and help them accept that they couldn’t get everything they wanted. When I started mediating, I saw hostility and distrust between the parties as impediments to a solution, but they didn’t hold much interest beyond that.

Fear and Loathing Near Las Vegas (12/08/12)
My nephew is an amazing kid. At age 14, he knows more about chemistry, biology, physics and calculus than I ever will. He’s also a more accomplished actor and musician than I will ever be. He’s also created a successful business and raised thousands of dollars for charity. And he has incredible communication skills – in two languages. So why did I hate him this summer?

The Annoying Union Rep (11/26/12)
One of the areas of disagreement was what exactly happened when there was physical contact between Jack and the supervisor. The supervisor had reported that Jack puffed his chest out and intentionally bumped into him. But Jack said that he was trying to walk away from the supervisor at the time, but that the supervisor was following very closely behind him – and when Jack turned around, it was the supervisor who bumped into Jack.

The Surprising Effects of Transformative Mediation (09/21/12)
In the last few weeks, I’ve exchanged emails with transformative mediators from throughout the USA and Europe. I asked them how working as a transformative mediator has affected them personally and professionally; and I asked them what’s surprised them most about their work. In this post, I'll share what they said has surprised them most.

It's Changed Who I Am (09/11/12)
In the last few weeks, I’ve exchanged emails with transformative mediators from throughout the USA and Europe. I asked them how working as a transformative mediator has affected them personally and professionally; and I asked them what’s surprised them most about their work.

Judge Praises Transformative Mediation (08/20/12)
This force of law, backed up by full-blown coercive force, is present even in family cases. It is not unheard of for the police to appear at a parent's house "WITH A GUN" to take a child to the other parent's house, based on a court order. Most often we don’t hear about it when that happens, but sometimes we do.

Transformative Mediation for Divorce: Rising Above the Law and the Settlement (03/07/11)
Abstaining from providing legal advice and resisting the urge to problem-solve, transformative mediators offer divorcing couples an essential service: providing authentic support for any discussion they choose to have, helping them arrive at greater clarity, and improving their sense of connection with each other. While these conversations often lead to a comprehensive divorce settlement, their primary value extends far beyond the terms of the agreement.