Deborah Sword

Deborah Sword

L. Deborah Sword has been a conflict manager, trainer, writer and speaker since 1991. Her other musings about conflict analysis, management and resolution appear on her website:

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From Deborah Sword (10/31/13) has, from the beginning, been a resource for conflict managers in at lest three unique ways. First, access to the influencers, thinkers and mentors of our field across time and distances; Second, a safe place to test ideas through articles we want our peers to read and comment upon, and; Third, a collection of easily accessible articles we can steer clients, students, and others to for understandable information. That's just the top three contributions - there are many more. Thank you Jim and colleagues through the years!

Conflict Analysis Of Theory Of Mind (06/12/10)
Theory of Mind is something most conflict resolvers know about while perhaps not knowing that it’s called Theory of Mind. It refers to how a person knows what someone else’s intentions are. This belief that we can know someone else’s private unspoken intention, and judge the intention as moral or immoral, is the basis for Theory of Mind research.

Professionalization Of Conflict Resolvers (07/20/09)
Those of us speaking out against creating certification for conflict resolvers don't seem to have a lot of allies. The weight of popular opinion is that it should (must) be done. I appreciate an opportunity to present a cautionary point of view.

The Mind Of A Mediator (03/31/09)
We practitioners talk about many aspects of what goes on in mediation. Studies point to best practices, and we research and write about our experiences. We love to reflect on and share our mediation stories. From being retained to drafting any settlement agreement, we relish the details our conflict resolution practices. However, not much has been said about our in-the-moment thought and decision-making processes. Our love of conflict resolution analyses has not translated into writing about that moment of tension in which, with all parties’ eyes on us, we decide what to say or do next.

An Improbable Fairy Tale Of Alien Romance (05/12/08)
On a small lovely planet with a magenta sky and cinnamon flavored water, at least three social groups interact successfully.

Conflict Analysis Of A Newspaper Op-Ed (08/06/07)
So much of how ineffectively we tend to do ‘conflict talk’ is reflected in the editorial pages, that it’s fascinating to do the analysis. Typically, there are two ‘opposing’ arguments on a single topic, presented as ‘pro’ and ‘con’ the issue in question. For discussion, I’ll use the Calgary Herald editorial page of June 8, 2007, because the topic was non-lethal, a dress code, as an example of how communication can replicate, and complicate, conflict situations. The conflict analysis critique would be similar, whether the contentious topic is gun ownership after a massacre, or parental culpability after a child goes missing.

A Complex Conflict Analysis of ‘Resolution’ (05/14/07)
Since I ascribe to the theories of complexity science, it was only a matter of time before I was challenged to write what complexity scientists might say about mediation outcomes and mediators’ investment in same. That time came when Michael, a reader, responded to my previous article and asked, “even if there is no particular outcome in mind, does the very act of mediating, i.e. being in the position, influence observations?”

A Conflict Analysis of Why (02/19/07)
Well-timed, well-placed, well-worded questions distinguish experienced mediators, especially in caucus. Questions do much more than merely clarify the parties’ stories. With questions, we test the parties’ realities, open new possibilities and challenge the borders of their thoughts. How to do this effectively is not a small issue. Considering the importance of the questions we ask in mediations, we ought to pay considerable attention to how we word them.

Complexity Science Analysis of Conflict (10/16/06)
Conflict theory seeks to understand what is happening in a conflict from many perspectives, and to design processes to make the conflict more manageable. Conflict theory assists researchers and practitioners analyze conflict to identify the many parties and their interests, to track or modify changes in conflict intensity over time, and to seek intervention opportunities. Complexity science, the study of nonlinear, complex, dynamic systems, includes conflict and thus aids in conflict analysis. This article, based on my dissertation research that used complexity science to analyze conflict systems, discusses how complexity science aids in identifying who is able to influence the direction of a conflict system, thus deepening any ongoing conflict analysis.