Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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One of the more interesting assignments I had this year required me to mediate a dispute between two mediators. In preparing for this mediation, I wondered whether my usual conflict resolution techniques would work. These two experts were already wise to all of the usual mediators’ tricks. What could I possibly suggest that they had not thought of already? During the course of a couple of conference calls it took to resolve the problem, these two mediators showed that they were way ahead of me with respect to understanding the stages of the mediation process and the techniques we were using to reach a resolution. At one point for example, one of the participants asked me if it was premature […]

Over the past year, I participated in a committee formed by the Southern California Mediation Association, and chaired by SCMA past president Barbara Brown, to study the question of mediator certification or regulation. We started our work without any preconceived agenda, knowing only that our organization had opposed a proposal to have mediators regulated by the California State Bar. We were against that, but we did not yet know what we were for. We knew that there were a wide range of views on this topic within our own organization, and also learned that this issue had stymied bigger organizations that ours, with the ABA Dispute Resolution Section as well as the Association for Conflict Resolution both unable to reach […]

I remember reading a piece by a newspaper columnist who described the process by which someone in that field can finally claim to have mastered the trade. The aspiring newspaper columnist starts with a head full of ideas. He might even have rough drafts or outlines for many weeks’ worth of columns in a bottom desk drawer. But after about a year of doing the column, all of those ideas are going to be exhausted, and the columnist will have nothing left in the storehouse to draw from. Around that time, the columnist is going to be facing a looming deadline with no idea what to say. And that is when any newspaper columnist worth his salt begins to prove […]

When I was in high school, I had a chance to see the Amazing Kreskin perform his “mind reading” and similar feats in the school gym before a large audience. One of Kreskin’s signature stunts is to ask the event organizers to hide his check anywhere in the room where he is performing. If he fails to find it, which apparently hardly ever happens, he forfeits his fee. I still remember watching Kreskin run up and down the risers supposedly drawn by the mental waves he was feeling, until he inevitably found what he was looking for. I can’t say for sure how he does it, but it seems likely that in addition to any psychic emanations he might have […]

Yesterday I mediated my last case referred by the Los Angeles Superior Court mediation program (aside from a couple of cases I am still trying to wind up as private mediations). This last case turned out to serve as a good illustration of some of the problems with the LA program. It was a case involving a high dollar amount, making me wonder why the parties chose a randomly-assigned mediator for three free hours. One of the attorneys was determined to insult the mediator, reminding me that I was chosen at random and admonishing me not to speak to her client. Another attorney refused to engage in any substantive discussions about the case until after the other side presented what […]