Category Archives: Online Publications and Articles on ADR

Negotiation teaching 2.0: new book rethinks current approaches, considers culture

negotiation training - the second generation“But we’ve always done it this way” all too often stifles fresh thinking or bars the way to needed change. That’s why now and again it doesn’t hurt to shake things up.

And shaking things up in the world of negotiation training and teaching is a new book, Rethinking Negotiation Teaching: Innovations for Context and Culture, edited by ADR movers and shakers Chris Honeyman, James Coben, and Giuseppe De Palo. Published by DRI Press, an imprint of the Dispute Resolution Institute at Hamline University School of Law, this book is available at Amazon.com and, best of all, as chapter-by-chapter PDF downloads at the Hamline web site.

In his introduction, Honeyman explains why it’s time to reconsider how negotiation is taught:

The completion of one generation offers a classic moment to take stock in full of any social innovation. By some measures, including market success across a variety of disciplines, the teaching of negotiation has been a great success story, and has been relatively consistent. The cohesiveness and attractiveness of the interest-based model across law, business, public policy, international relations, urban planning, and other fields have been remarkable. From a base of essentially zero courses in 1979, nearly every law or business school in the U.S. now has at least one course in negotiation, and many other countries are at various points on the same path. But that very success has combined with the inchoate nature of an interdisciplinary field to mask the inherent challenge created by the separate discoveries of many disciplines.

Over the last three decades those discoveries have been many. But by and large, they have not yet been incorporated in current teaching in any organized or consistent way. This book, together with the simultaneous publication of the Spring 2009 issue of Nego-tiation Journal, [Volume 25(2), with a special section guest-edited by the same editors], marks the first results of an interdisciplinary effort to make sense of these discoveries. We intend to revamp the teaching of our field across many settings and cultures.

I have already begun to dip into this superb collection of articles. Among those that grabbed my attention are these:

  • Moving Up: Positional Bargaining Revisited“, by Noam Ebner and Yael Efron. (“If we are going to teach our negotiators to succeed in real life, they contend, we are going to have to teach them to bargain. The authors offer a fully worked-out exercise to do just that.”)
  • Reflective Practice in the New Millennium“, by Michelle LeBaron and Mario Patera. (“LeBaron and Patera use their own cultures – Canadian and Austrian respectively – to examine the teaching assumptions of a group of top-flight teachers of negotiation. They discover a number of unstated theoretical assumptions, heavily influenced by Western thought in general and U.S. culture in particular, and demonstrate alternate assumptions which might better guide second generation training”)
  • Death of the Role-Play“, by Nadja Alexander and Michelle LeBaron. (“Alexander and LeBaron argue for a…determination toward removing role-plays from their enthroned position in negotiation training. Their substitution by younger, more vigorous teaching tools, they argue, would be good for the commonweal.”)

If you’re a negotiation trainer or teacher who’s ready to reboot their own thinking about how to teach negotiation, this is one book you’ll want to add to your shelf.

Mediation certification back on track at Association for Conflict Resolution, but bumps in road ahead

go slow on mediator certificationIn its June 2009 Update (PDF), the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) reports that it’s full steam ahead for the ACR Certification Task Force, resuscitated after a three-year break.

According to Nancy Gardner, Co-Chair of the ACR Mediator Certification Task Force, a 2008 survey indicated support for certification from ACR member, providing the impetus for reviving the Task Force. Gardner reports that ACR’s board adopted a call for certification that would be premised upon

basic principles and practices that are applicable across the broad range of mediation, e.g. client self-determination, mediator neutrality, management of process, understanding of conflict theory, etc., but also

  • reliability, involving not only requirements for experience and training but also assessments of knowledge and performance-based skills;
  • accountability, which requires Standards and a Code of Ethics, specific to the areas of expertise with a credible grievance procedure; and
  • inclusivity, requiring that it be available and achievable by diverse demographic groups, and that it be model-neutral.

Certification itself would rest upon training, a portfolio of experience, and an assessment of knowledge and performance-based skills.

Mediators in the U.S. will be watching the efforts of the Task Force closely as its work unfolds.  I already see several challenges that I wonder how ACR will address.

First, the call for inclusivity and a “model-neutral” approach is contradicted by an article written by Gardner’s co-chair Stephen Erickson for ACR’s Family Section newsletter, in which he argued that only certain models of mediation practice should be eligible for certification, expressly excluding evaluative mediation.This is hardly a promising start, not when one of the task force leaders has already made up his mind that “model-neutral” means “all models except”.

Second, the proposed certification framework includes a performance-based assessment. Given ACR’s stated commitment to diversity, I must ask what ACR will do to ensure that such assessments are free from bias and based on objective criteria not subjective observations. Given the widely reported gender discrimination that female musicians suffered until orchestras began utilizing blind auditions to assess candidates, as well as early studies that suggest the existence of discrimination against women who mediate, not to mention real-life anecdotal accounts, ACR must be prepared to explain what steps it can take to reassure women, and minorities, too, that the process will indeed achieve not thwart inclusiveness.

With a hat tip to Ericka Gray.

(Photo credit: Asif Akbar.)

In praise of joint sessions: mediator Geoff Sharp pays tribute to face-to-face negotiations

in praise of the joint sessionRing the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

– Leonard Cohen

The past couple of years have brought energetic debate within the mediation profession, pushing mediators to confront questions about practice, professional identity, and the nature of mediation itself. One of the most controversial questions concerns the use of the caucus, the private meetings behind closed doors with each side to a dispute separately. Some consumers of mediation services, particularly attorneys, insist upon it, as I learned while attending one of the break-out sessions at the annual spring meeting of the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution.  Some mediators rely on it heavily. Meanwhile, others, like Gary Friedman and Jack Himmelstein, authors of Challenging Conflict: Mediation Through Understanding, reject the use of the caucus entirely, arguing that the caucus distorts the flow of information between parties and negates the principles of dialogue and rapprochement that lie at the very heart of mediation practice.

Wading into the debate is experienced international commercial mediator Geoff Sharp with a working paper entitled, “In Praise of Joint Sessions” (PDF). Geoff pulls no punches in his criticism of devotees of the caucus, observing that “shuttle mediation has arisen, in part, out of a laziness by mediators.”  On the basis of his substantial experience mediating difficult commercial disputes, Geoff explains why he believes the joint session is so essential to their resolution:

The heart stopping success or failure of a large commercial mediation often occurs in joint in those pivotal moments where the mediation sets its course, north or south. In my 10 years of mediation, I have never seen a party make the kind of movement, whether emotionally or financially, in private as they do in joint. Sure, movement may manifest itself away from the public glare but it is usually as a result of insight gained in the fire of a joint session.

Of great importance to Geoff as well is the capacity for mediation to bring transparency to people whose differences have largely kept them in the dark, as well as revelations that light their understanding. To bring his point home, he shares the quote from Leonard Cohen with which I began this post. The joint session illuminates the shadows and brings the sun to the dark places in the disputes that divide us. Go read this working paper – it truly shines.

Mediate.com launches interview series with mediation bloggers

Mediate.com launches interview series with mediation bloggersOver the years the terrific folks at Mediate.com – the premier online source for the latest in news and ideas related to dispute resolution and negotiation –  have shown tremendous support for ADR bloggers. They were kind enough to give us a home on their site with a Featured Blogs page that posts the best each week in mediation blogging, giving bloggers increased visibility by allowing us to stand on their shoulders.

Now they have launched a Featured Blogger Interview series, posing questions to bloggers and inviting them to do some thinking out loud.

I was deeply honored that Mediate.com invited me to do the first interview. You can read it here. (While you’re there, think about signing up for Mediate.com’s free weekly newsletter – scroll down to the sign-up widget in the site’s left sidebar.)

Thank you, Mediate.com – your ongoing support means a great deal. It’s an honor to be a part of the global community you’ve created online – you embody the principles of collegiality and connectedness that mediation itself is premised upon. Cheers!

Another round-up of articles for negotiators, ADR professionals

roundup for mediatorsSince February I’ve been microblogging at Twitter, a social media tool ( and recently sharing my experiences and lessons learned).

As I’ve come to appreciate, Twitter can be a great way to keep your ear to the ground and gain access to the latest news and ideas that the world is discussing.

As I’ve done in the past for non-Twittering readers of Mediation Channel, I’ve pulled together a sampling of articles I’ve recently passed along to my followers on Twitter.

If you’re already on Twitter, you can follow me at @dianelevin. Or you can subscribe to the RSS feed for my Twitter updates.

Outwitting the leopard: deception at the negotiating table

outwitting the leopard

The other day a friend emailed me the following joke, which has circulated widely on the internet:

A wealthy old lady decides to go on a photo safari in Africa, taking her faithful aged poodle, Cuddles, along for company. One day the poodle starts chasing butterflies and before long, Cuddles discovers that he’s lost. Wandering about, he notices a leopard heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.

The old poodle thinks, “Uh, oh! I’m in deep trouble now!” Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the leopard is about to leap, the old poodle exclaims loudly, “Boy, that was one delicious leopard! I wonder if there are any more around here?” Hearing this, the young leopard halts his attack in mid-strike. Terrified, he slinks away into the trees. “Whew,” says the leopard, “that was close! That old poodle nearly had me!”

Meanwhile, a monkey who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the leopard. So off he goes, but the old poodle sees him heading after the leopard with great speed and figures that something must be up. The monkey soon catches up with the leopard, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the leopard.  The young leopard is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here, monkey, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!”

The old poodle sees the leopard approaching with the monkey on his back and thinks, “What am I going to do now?”, but instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet. Just when they get close enough to hear him, the old poodle says, “Where’s that damn monkey? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another leopard!”

I like this joke. Not only is it workplace safe, it’s funny, builds suspense, and ends with an unexpected twist. Best of all, it inspires a lesson or two about negotiation.  After all, in negotiation, you have to be clever enough to spot trouble when it’s coming, and nimble to respond to change and new information. You also must be careful not to underestimate the resourcefulness of any of your fellow players at the table — as the monkey unhappily discovers.

In real-world negotiations, it’s a safe bet that none of us will ever have to outsmart a cunning poodle or a talking leopard and his monkey sidekick.  But how can we protect ourselves from those who would deceive us?  A recent paper considers deception at the negotiating table in “Was Machiavelli Right? Lying in Negotiation and the Art of Defensive Self-Help“. From the article:

…lawyers, businesspeople, and everyone else who engages in negotiation must learn how to carefully and purposefully implement strategies and behaviors to defend themselves against those who lie and deceive—no matter the reasons prompting it. I therefore conclude the Article by offering prescriptive advice (including examples) for minimizing one’s risk of being exploited in a negotiation should other parties lie. The advice is undergirded by the notion, expressed throughout the Article, that information exchange (or lack thereof) plays a pivotal role in all negotiations. Indeed, I argue that information is the lifeblood of any negotiation, and therefore that the various strategies and behaviors influencing whether, when, and how information is obtained and/or exchanged are extremely important in the process of defending oneself (or one’s client) against lying and deception.

The moral: it’s a jungle out there.

Round-up of noteworthy articles for mediators, negotiators

roundup of mediation articlesFor the past month, I’ve been test-driving Twitter, a Web 2.0 microblogging, messaging, and social media tool. I’ll be discussing those experiences later this week, but in the meantime, I thought I’d pull together a sampling of articles I’ve been sharing with my followers on Twitter.

If you’re already on Twitter, you can follow me at @dianelevin. Or you can subscribe to the RSS feed for my Twitter updates.

The Complete Lawyer: a new look, a new issue

The Complete LawyerThe latest edition of The Complete Lawyer, a web-based magazine focusing on quality of life and career satisfaction for attorneys but with relevance for dispute resolution professionals as well, is now available. This month’s issue asks, “What Do Savvy Lawyers Do In An Uncertain Economy?”.

The Complete Lawyer features a regular ADR column, which explores ADR from the perspective of four attorneys who mediate – me and three colleagues, Stephanie West Allen of Idealawg and Brains on Purpose, Gini Nelson of Engaging Conflicts, and Victoria Pynchon of Settle It Now Negotiation Blog .  The four of us alternate as writers.

This month’s column, written by Nelson and Pynchon, reminds us that “Savvy Lawyers Value Their Human Capital“.

The Complete Lawyer has a fresh new look as well, and an RSS feed to go along with it, making it easier for devoted readers to follow it.  Congratulations to TCL’s innovator-in-chief, Don Hutcheson, for making an already superb online magazine even better.

Master the geography of collaboration with the latest edition of The Complete Lawyer

the geography of collaboration

The latest edition of The Complete Lawyer is now available, putting the focus on “Doing Business Internationally.” The Complete Lawyer is a web-based magazine focusing on quality of life and career satisfaction for attorneys but with relevance for dispute resolution professionals as well.  It features a regular ADR column, “The Human Factor“, which explores ADR from the perspective of four attorneys who mediate – me and three colleagues, Stephanie West Allen of Idealawg and Brains on Purpose, Gini Nelson of Engaging Conflicts, and Victoria Pynchon of Settle It Now Negotiation Blog .  The four of us alternate as writers.

It’s my turn this month with this particular installment of “The Human Factor”, where I invite readers to “Master the Geography of Collaboration.

The Complete Lawyer is published by Don Hutcheson, a good friend to the four of us and an enthusiastic supporter of “The Human Factor”. Thanks, Don, as always for your encouragement — we are all deeply grateful.

Conflict style inventory gets upgrade, free review copy available

Kraybill releases 2008 upgrade for Style MattersConflict resolution expert, mediator, and peacebuilder Dr. Ron Kraybill has asked me to let readers know that he has released a 2008 upgrade for Style Matters: The Kraybill Conflict Style Inventory through the company he founded, Riverhouse ePress.

With over 120,000 users, Style Matters has helped business managers, organizational consultants, and conflict resolution trainers worldwide teach personal conflict management skills. What distinguishes Style Matters from other conflict mode instruments is its commitment to cultural sensitivity, providing different instructions for collectivist and individualistic cultures.

As he has done in the past with previous releases of Style Matters, Dr. Kraybill generously offers a free review copy for downloading, along with a trainers’ guide (PDF).