August 10, 2017

Build your conflict resolution skills this fall ! Reserve your place in Fundamentals of Mediation starting September 27.

"Developing effective conflict resolution skill sets are an essential component of a building a sustainable business model. Unresolved conflict often results in loss of productivity, the stifling of creativity, and the creation of barriers to cooperation and collaboration," according to a post by Mike Myatt, Contributor, Forbes. *

Likely any of us who have been in a workplace with others can give examples of the effects of unresolved conflict. When I mediate in workplace conflicts I see the effects of unresolved conflict on the lives of those involved. 

Of course conflict is not limited to workplaces.  It's in all aspects of human interaction.

Would you like to develop your conflict resolution skills?

Register for the Mediator Education Program at Munn Conflict Resolution Services this fall in beautiful London , Ontario.

If you are considering becoming a professional mediator, our schedule gives  you the opportunity to complete sufficient training to apply for the Q. Med. designation in 2017.

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – Sept 27 to Oct 3, 2017 – 5 days – 40 hours 

Early registration discount ends August 22. - Recognized by the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Law Society of Upper Canada.  

Course # 2 – Mediation Beyond the Basics – November 6, 7, & 8, 2017 – 3 days – 21 hours

Course # 3 - Advanced Mediation – December 4, 5, & 6, 2017 – 3 days – 21 hours

Last course dates before price increase in 2018!

*Mike Myatt's full post is here.

June 25, 2017

Happiness in 5 Simple Steps


Would you like to be happier? The start of the summer season is a great time to bring more happiness into our lives. 

Recently I was working with people struggling in a long and complex conflict situation.  Afterwards I thought about how important it is to manage our emotional distress by shifting our focus to what we can do for ourselves to increase our happiness.

I found this distillation of ancient wisdom about happiness from the Stoics  in a recent post by Eric Barker in the blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Simple steps but not easy.   Here’s a summary:

1. Events Don’t Upset You. Beliefs Do: Only the end of the world is the end of the world.

If you lose your job you might feel excited or devastated depending on your beliefs. If you believe that the job was bad for you and you will have no problem getting another job, you will feel excited by the opportunity.  If you believe that it was your perfect job and you will never be able to get another job like it, you will be devastated.  The objective event is the same, the emotion is different.

The emotion we experience is based on our belief. In Shakespeare’s words, “Nothing either good nor bad but thinking makes it so.”

Most of the bad feelings we have are caused by irrational beliefs. The helpful approach is to focus on those negative emotions about an event, rather than focusing on the event that we think was the cause of our negative emotions. 

Ask yourself what you believe about that event. And then ask yourself if it’s rational:

  • “If my partner dumps me, I’ll never get over it.”
  • “If I lose my job, my life is over.”

These are irrational beliefs, and if those are your beliefs you will likely be anxious, angry or depressed.

If you revise your beliefs and you can change your feelings: “Even if I get fired I can get another job.   I’ve been unemployed before and I got through it.”

 2. Control What You Can. Ignore The Rest: Worrying never fixed anything.

Remember the old serenity prayer? “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.”

Much of what we experience as stress and worry are events over which we have no control. If we worry about getting laid off in a market downturn, our worry will not change the market downturn or the employer’s decision.  Worry is another irrational response that we need to train ourselves to leave behind for the sake of our happiness.

However if there is any part of the event that you do control, it’s better to stop worrying and take action. Improving the quality of your work so as to be as lay-off-proof as possible and looking for other job opportunities are both elements within your control.  Not only does this cut down your stress, it also means that you are spending your energy on action that will make a difference for you.

 The image with this article explains this point visually.

Image1

3.    Accept Everything. But Don’t Be Passive: Nobody recommends denial. Accept. And then do something.

If we choose not to get upset about irrational emotional responses or worrying, what should we do? Accept things as they are and then decide what to do about them.

Acceptance is not resignation; acceptance is the opposite of denial. We may wish things were otherwise but it is irrational to deny the reality facing us. We can think, “I should not be laid off,”  but that will not change reality if we are given the pink slip.  “Should” is a very popular way of denying reality.  Denial is another irrational belief and is going to lead us to those negative emotions as in step 1. 

Instead if we accept reality we can decide what we can control, and then take action on those controllable factors, as in step 2. Maybe this lay-off is going to lead to a new opportunity which you could not imagine in the old job.

 4. Choose Whose Child You Will Be: “What would Batman do in this situation?”

Now shifting away from the reactive to the positive, take a look around and realize that you are not alone on this island. There are mentors, teachers, role models and lots of other people to learn from.

Seneca said “ We like to say that we don’t get to choose our parents, that they were given by chance – yet, we can truly choose whose children we wish to be.”

Identify a person you really admire, a person who is doing something that you would eventually like to do, including living life well. Interview them about how they were able to accomplish what they did and the steps that you could take to get to that level.

Next time you face a challenge, think of that person you admire. Research shows that asking yourself “What would _____ do?” can have powerful positive effects on your behavior.

5. Morning and Evening Rituals Are Essential: Plan for the day, then reflect on the day.

Rituals can help you recognize whether you are  improving.

Every morning think about all the negative things that will be brought to you by the people you face, try to understand why they will behave that way, and then “forgive and love them for it”.

At the end of the day reflect on what has happened and what you can improve.

“As long as you live, keep learning how to live” is another quote from Seneca. We all have the potential to become better.

 

One final tip:

The final tip is from Marcus Aurelius, “Don’t set your mind on things you don’t possess as if they were yours, but count the blessings you actually possess and think how much you would desire them if they weren’t already yours.”

A few thousand years later, the research shows that gratitude still makes a difference to happiness. Subtracting cherished moments from your life makes you appreciate them more, makes you grateful and makes you happier.

“What if I never met my partner? What if my child was never born? I am so lucky to have them in my life.”

 

Take action in 5 steps and spend this summer being happier - and grateful that you read this blog post.

 Build your conflict resolution skills by registering for Fundamentals of Mediation.  The next course starts September 27, 2017.

Read Eric Barker’s full post here: http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2016/09/ancient-wisdom/

March 3, 2017

Thinking about Thinking: Conflict and Cognitive Bias

Next time you are experiencing a difficult conflict try thinking about how you and the other person are thinking.  When I read a recent post by Buster Benson I was struck by how cognitive bias contributes enormously to my day-to-day world of resolving conflict. Understanding more about cognitive bias certainly improves our conflict resolution skills.

Recently a learner in one of my courses expressed surprise when I said most people I deal with in mediation do not lie. However often they have very different perceptions about the same situation. Frequently those perceptions develop as a result of cognitive bias.

Let’s consider an example of employees in a workplace. One feels that having their reports corrected by a colleague is harassment. The other feels that this behaviour is being helpful. Or consider the joke that one member of the team does not find funny, and feels is intended to mock her.

According to the definition in Wikipedia, a cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation from rationality, in which inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. For example, when we choose to rely on details which support our beliefs and ignore those details which do not, we are demonstrating cognitive biases such as confirmation bias, ostrich effect or post-purchase rationalization.

It takes a lot of energy to think, and then to think about how we think. Being efficient humans, for good reason we rely on the shortcuts of cognitive bias. In his post Buster Benson said:

Every cognitive bias is there for a reason — primarily to save our brains time or energy. If you look at them by the problem they’re trying to solve, it becomes a lot easier to understand why they exist, how they’re useful, and the trade-offs (and resulting mental errors) that they introduce.

Here are four problems that cognitive biases help us address and some examples of the ways they contribute to make conflict situations more difficult.

1.  Too much information.   There is so much information in the world that we need some way to filter out the majority of it. Conflict situations often include the example above of relying on details which support our beliefs and ignoring details which do not, leading to several common cognitive biases, three of which are mentioned above.

2.  Not enough meaning.   How do we make sense of all the vast information out there? In conflict situations it is common to use our cognitive biases to fill in characteristics from generalities and prior histories, (for example, stereotyping and bandwagon effect) and to imagine things and people we’re familiar with as better than things and people we aren’t familiar with (for example, halo effect, and in-group bias). Another common participant in conflict situations is our tendency to think we know what others are thinking. Examples of this are illusion of transparency, asymmetric insight, and spotlight effect.

3.  Need to act fast.    We have too much information, not enough time to figure it out and we need to act fast without enough time to be certain. Ever since our cave-dwelling days, standing still invites danger. A factor in many conflict situations is our need to be confident in our ability to make an impact and to choose to do what is important, (for example overconfidence effect, and fundamental attribution error). Another popular area of cognitive bias which contributes to conflict is the tendency to choose what we know and preserve the way things are. Better the devil you know than the devil you do not. Examples of this are decoy effect and status quo bias.

4.  Not enough memory.  There’s too much information for us to remember much of it. What we choose to remember helps us create the filters we need for # 1 above and to fill in missing information for #2 above. It’s a self-reinforcing circle. Our tendency to edit memories after the fact is a contributor to conflict, for example, source confusion, and false memory. Another frequent contributor to conflict is our tendency to reduce facts and events to a few key elements, for example, misinformation effect and primacy effect.

 

Back to our examples of employees from the beginning. Of course the cognitive biases in action depend on the specific circumstances. The employees in a dispute about whether correcting a colleague’s report is harassment might benefit from considering how the cognitive biases of asymmetric insight and the illusion of transparency are affecting their perceptions of the situation. The team with the joke that is not shared by all might be experiencing perceptions framed by the cognitive biases of bandwagon effect and in-group bias. That group plus the one who does not find the joke funny may also be experiencing the cognitive bias of the illusion of transparency.

We need to use more logic when we think about our thinking. Simple to say and definitely not simple to do. Understanding more about how we form our perceptions, the illogical shortcuts we use and the errors those cognitive biases cause us can go a long way to helping us unravel the tangled mess of a conflict.

 Read Buster Benson’s article here.

  Build your conflict resolution skills by registering for Fundamentals of Mediation.  The next course starts March 29, 2017.

January 30, 2017

Help! I feel powerless!

Maybe it’s something about the bleakness of winter. In the last few weeks I have had several people ask me variations of the question, “How do I negotiate when the other person has a lot more power than me?”

“When the other side seems to hold all the cards, how you negotiate is absolutely critical,” wrote Roger Fisher and William Ury in the influential book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In”.

First of all, don’t be discouraged. Your skill as an interest-based negotiator and your preparation can create the opportunity for success. 

It pays to think positively and optimistically, and at the same time realistically. There is no point wasting your time and effort trying to negotiate the impossible.  Unless you can make the other side an offer they find more attractive than what they can achieve if you are not involved, trying to get a better deal with them doesn’t make sense. The company offering a young person their first job after graduation is not going to offer the CEO job, not matter how well the grad negotiates.

Power is not static, so that one person constantly has it and the other does not. As you negotiate, the power may shift from on negotiator to the other.  That’s where your negotiation skill and careful preparation can pay off.  Just because you feel powerless is not a reason to avoid trying to change the situation.  Here are 6  tips to increase your power. 

  1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.     The more important this negotiation is to you, the more thoroughly you should prepare. Learn more about interest-based negotiation if you need to improve your skills. Gather and make notes of the information and ideas to achieve the next tips.
  2. Enhance your alternatives.    It may seem odd that one important source of power is to develop your alternatives to walk away from this negotiation. The stronger your alternatives without this negotiation, the more your negotiating power increases.*   You may or may not choose to inform the other side about your alternatives.
  3. Build a good working relationship with them.     This can be the most challenging and at the same time most effective step. When communication breaks down we often feel that the other person is the problem. Treat the other person with respect. Take the time to listen to them and try to understand. Help them understand your point of view. Acknowledge the emotions. Good communication is an excellent source of negotiating power.
  4. Identify their interests.    The more you understand the other person’s interests, the better you may be able to satisfy them at minimum cost to yourself. Especially when you feel that you have less power, identifying the interests that you have in common with them may be a key to them starting to appreciate your interests.  
  5. Be open to creative options.    Increase your power to influence them by inventing a way to meet their interests AND your interests. This is where your thorough understanding of their interests and your interests makes a difference. In the negotiation after you thoroughly understand each other’s interests it’s time to brainstorm with them for ideas that will meet as many of the interests as possible.
  6. Measure fairness by using external standards.    When it seems that you do not have as much power, it is particularly helpful to find standards outside of you and the other negotiator to measure fairness. For example, the new grad hoping for a job offer would be well advised to gather information about the range of pay and other benefits for this type of job in this region.

  * For more information see What is a BATNA and why do I need one?

    Build your conflict resolution skills by registering for Fundamentals of Mediation.  The next course starts March 29, 2017.

December 16, 2016

Holiday Peace Plan: 5 Tips for Peaceful Holiday Conversations

Holiday season can be a time when the things that divide us seem much harder to deal with. Especially when alcohol consumption is part of the event, holiday gatherings can be very challenging with family, friends, or co-workers who don’t share our views.  Am I imagining it or has loud, divisive self-expression become a “thing”, perhaps an outcome of the recent U.S. election climate? Some days it seems international diplomacy is simple compared with navigating family holiday events. 

It helps to approach the holidays with a Holiday Peace Plan to make sure our holiday conversations are peaceful and communicate the level of thoughtfulness that we would like. You may not find it easy but your struggle will likely provide a return that is well worth the effort.   Here are five tips to help.

1.  Listen to them. Understand them and tell them what you understand.    If you are listening carefully enough to be able to summarize back to them what you think they said, then you are listening actively. If your summary is not correct, they will likely say more to help you understand clearly. Active listening means you cannot ignore what they say and wait to jump back into the conversation with an argument, “Yah, but…” 

If you’re not sure what they said, ask questions to clarify your understanding. An interesting thing often happens when you use your active listening skills:  they will mirror back the same behavior.  No argument there.

2.  Be curious.     Your tone of voice and body language must also communicate the mindset that you are actively listening and seeking to understand their point of view. Being genuinely curious about their beliefs, values, hopes and fears helps to open up a deeper dialogue.  When you get to the core of what’s important, it often allows a richer understanding that may not have seemed possible with the previous superficial conversation. 

3.  Keep an open mind.    Be willing to learn something new, to consider other ideas. This means that you may need to question your assumptions or suspend judgment.  You might even find that you could be wrong.

If you start to feel angry or offended, take a breath. While you are breathing slowly and deeply, consider whether your own biases or assumptions are contributing to your emotional response.  Give them a chance to clarify and try to prevent a breakdown in communication.

4.  Tell them stories from your own experience.    Telling stories from your own experience to help describe your point of view is much more effective than arguing over statistics. The phrase “I remember when…” is a very helpful way to start. 

This shifts the conversation away from argument and allows more possibility for a personal connection. Your experience is not likely to invite a defensive response from your listener and may help to build empathy.

5.  End on a positive note.    You may be able to shift the conversation to the ideas you both share. There may be beliefs, values, hopes or fears upon which you agree, even if you disagree on other aspects. You may even be able to reach a complete agreement.  Sometimes when we really listen to each other we find that we’re not as far apart as we thought.

Even if you do not reach agreement, find a way to end on a positive note. Differences of opinion are a normal part of being human.  For example, you could end the conversation by saying that you appreciate hearing more about their perspective, thank them for their willingness to talk with you, or tell them that you learned something from them.  Just because you disagree with them on this topic does not mean you can’t get along well with them. You can leave the door open for another peaceful conversation with them in the future.

Invest your time and energy wisely in the people that matter to you. Use your Holiday Peace Plan to build positive holiday memories which will remain long past this holiday season for yourself and those around you. 

October 30, 2016

Toronto Speaks Out in the World of Commercial Dispute Resolution

The Global Pound Conference event was held in Toronto on October 15, 2016, the only Canadian venue.

In 2016 participants with an interest in the legal system are invited to join a world-wide, 15-month-long conversation being convened by the International Mediation Institute. There are currently 40 events planned in 31 countries starting in Singapore in March 2016 and ending in London, U.K. in July, 2017.

Forty years ago modern mediation began after the Roscoe Pound Conference in St Paul, Minnesota in 1976, a historic gathering to discuss ways to address then-current dissatisfaction with the American legal system and to reform the administration and delivery of justice.  The Global Pound Conference is the much-expanded update of that event.

At all Global Pound Conference events core questions are posed and then voted on by participants with the goal of collecting information to develop future initiatives for better access to justice, locally and globally.

In Toronto several panels of local experts responded to the voting results that day on each series of core questions. This was added to the engaging day-long discussion of better, more appropriate dispute resolution for commercial matters and how to get there. 

The Global Pound Conference participants/ stakeholders are categorized and comparisons are made in the responses between the categories. The stakeholder categories are Party/User, Advisor (lawyer, consultant), Adjudicative Provider (arbitrator, judge), Non-Adjudicative Provider (mediator, conciliator), and Influencer (educator, researcher, government).

The Toronto data identified some thought-provoking comparisons.

For example, Parties, Advisors, Adjudicative Providers, and Influencers rated financial outcomes, such as damages as the most important before starting a process in commercial dispute resolution. In contrast only Non-Adjudicative Providers rated financial outcomes slightly lower than and about equal to action-focused outcomes (prevent or require an action from a party). 

Another interesting comparison between the stakeholder groups in Toronto was that Parties, Adjudicative and Non-Adjudicative Providers ranked the combination of adjudicative and non-adjudicative processes (such as arbitration or litigation with mediation or conciliation) as the most effective dispute resolution process. In contrast Advisors and Influencers ranked preventative, pre-dispute or pre-escalation processes as most effective.

All stakeholder groups in Toronto ranked Advisors as being most likely to be resistant to change in commercial dispute resolution practice.

Another interesting comparison was the stakeholder group perceptions of the role parties want lawyers to take in the dispute resolution process. Parties said they want lawyers to work collaboratively with them to navigate the process. Advisors, Adjudicative and Non-Adjudicative Providers all said that the parties want lawyers to speak for them or advocate on their behalf. 

For those of us working in commercial dispute resolution despite the disappointingly small sample size in Toronto, there is lots to learn already from the local data, and there is much more to discover as the global data is collected.

For full information and the app to see the voting results check out the Global Pound Conference.

October 2, 2016

Eliminate Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination- October 18 in London, Ontario

Munn Conflict Resolution Services supports healthy, peaceful workplaces

Please join us for an event in London, Ontario sponsored by Munn Conflict Resolution Services.

The topic is:  Workplace Harassment, Sexual Harassment & Violence

Elizabeth Hewitt, LLB of E. Hewitt Law will be the keynote speaker hosted by  London Business and Professional Women.

Date:   October 18, 2016. 

 Ms Hewitt will discuss the best practices and common pitfalls of workplace harassment, bullying and discrimination and how these issues cost both employer and employees.

Resister now. The deadline is October 11.

Click here for details and registration.

Eliminate Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination- October 18 in London, Ontario

Munn Conflict Resolution Services supports healthy, peaceful workplaces

Please join us for an event in London, Ontario sponsored by Munn Conflict Resolution Services.

The topic is:  Workplace Harassment, Sexual Harassment & Violence

Elizabeth Hewitt, LLB of E. Hewitt Law will be the keynote speaker hosted by  London Business and Professional Women.

Date:   October 18, 2016. 

 Ms Hewitt will discuss the best practices and common pitfalls of workplace harassment, bullying and discrimination and how these issues cost both employer and employees.

Resister now. The deadline is October 11.

Click here for details and registration.

September 8, 2016

Build your conflict resolution skills this fall ! Still space in Fundamentals of Mediation starting September 28.

According to a survey by the American Management Association, managers typically spend at least 24% of their time managing conflict. Based on my own experience this estimate seems low.

What was not included were the statistics about how many managers fear conflict or struggle to manage conflict. And then there is the impact of mismanaged conflict on other employees, on workteams and on the business itself, whatever the mission of the organization is.

Build your skills and confidence to resolve conflict whether you are a manager, a team member, or an advisor, a professional or consultant providing advice to organizations.

Register for the Mediator Education Program at Munn Conflict Resolution Services this fall.

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – Sept 28 to Oct 4, 2016 – 5 days – 40 hours - Early registration discount ends August 26 - Recognized by the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Law Society of Upper Canada – Click here for details.  

Course # 2 – Mediation Beyond the Basics – November 2, 3, & 4, 2016 – 3 days – 21 hours

Course # 3 - Advanced Mediation – November 30, December 1 & 2, 2016 – 3 days – 21 hours

You might even decide to add Mediator to your career path!

June 27, 2016

Join the Global Conversation about Conflict Management

What if you could tell the legal system and its professionals what you want and need to manage conflict - in your business, in your community, or in your life?  In 2016 you have an opportunity to do just that.

Modern mediation began after the Roscoe Pound Conference in St Paul, Minnesota in 1976, a historic gathering to discuss ways to address then-current dissatisfaction with the American legal system and to reform the administration and delivery of justice.

Forty years later, in 2016 we are all invited to join a much expanded world-wide, 15-month-long conversation being convened by the International Mediation Institute.

The first Global Pound Conference event was held in Singapore on March 17-18, 2016.   Singapore Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon opened the whole conference series by outlining the shift to “appropriate” dispute resolution from “alternative” dispute resolution; secondly, greater international collaboration between courts and governments and through this the development of countries’ best practices whether common law or civil law; and thirdly, recognition of the need for international delivery of legal services.  

The last stop on the tour is July 6, 2017 in London, U.K. The only Canadian event is Saturday, October 15, 2016 in Toronto, in conjunction with the annual conference of the ADR Institute of Canada. 

Core questions will be posed at all of the events with the goal of collecting information to develop future initiatives. The participants/ stakeholders are categorized and comparisons are made in the responses between the categories.  The stakeholder categories are Party/User, Advisor (lawyer, consultant), Adjudicative Provider (arbitrator, judge), Non-Adjudicative Provider (mediator, conciliator), and Influencer (educator, researcher, government).

The data is already identifying thought-provoking comparisons.

For example, at the Singapore event, in response to a core question about what is the greatest influence on parties when deciding which type of dispute resolution process to use, Advisors ranked legal advice top. Users, as well as both Adjudicative and Non-Adjudicative providers all ranked efficiency first and then legal advice much lower.

Another interesting contrast between the stakeholder groups was that Advisors were the only stakeholder category to rank purely adjudicative dispute resolution processes highly.

All stakeholder groups in Singapore ranked the combination of adjudicative and non-adjudicative processes (such as arbitration or litigation with mediation or conciliation) as the most effective dispute resolution process, despite the fact that this combination is much less available in practice. All stakeholders were in agreement that combining adjudicative and non-adjudicative processes should be prioritized in order to improve the future of dispute resolution.

Join the conversation. For full information check out the Global Pound Conference.

Mediator Education Program