Mediator's Tweet Gets Him "Iced" from Case

I am definitely an unofficial advocate of conflict resolution professionals using and embracing technology for all different reasons.  This includes keeping up to date with news and research, networking, and raising awareness of your name and services.
The story out of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services offers some caution to embracing technology.  One of FMCS mediators had to be removed from the NHL mediation session due to, according to an article:
full article [HERE]
WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal mediators are entering the stalled NHL labor talks, with the season's first 2½ months already lost because of the lockout.
George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, said Monday the parties had agreed to use the agency. He assigned three mediators to assist negotiations - deputy director Scot Beckenbaugh, director of mediation services John Sweeney and Commissioner Guy Serota - who was removed later in the day because of a Twitter account that may have been tampered with...
...Cohen said Serota was removed because "within one hour after I issued a press release ... it has been called to my attention that there are issues involving an allegedly hacked Twitter account associated with Commissioner Guy Serota." He said Serota was removed "to immediately dispel any cloud on the mediation process, and without regard to the merits of the allegations."

For those wondering what does that mean, I too was left scratching my head.  Did Serota say something he wasn't suppose? Did someone hack the account and post something?  Unfortunately the article mentioned no further on the issue.  
A quick search of "sertota removed" reveals a Yahoo! Sports blog article providing the full information.  Basically, Guy made "several partisan political" comments as well as "featuring a slew of off-color jokes."  Here's a screenshot of a tweet made by the account:
The article mentions an ESPN writer was able to speak with Guy who did say his account was hacked.  I suggest reading the entire article to get Guy's comments and the subsequent analysis of the author. Read the article [HERE].

What can be a takeaway from this?  Should you abandon you twitter account?  I'd say no, but like what we say in a mediation session, be careful what you say and in this case tweet.  A mediation session is a private interaction.  Although tweets can be done in privacy, the whole world can see them.  Although you might delete the tweets, they can still existing on computers- forever.  
As far as security, make sure you take measures to reduce your account from getting hacked.  Make sure passwords include letters, numbers, and a symbol character.  Also, if you access your twitter account from your mobile phone, ensure your phone has a password/lock feature so in case you lose your phone, people do not automatcially get access to your twitter and other accounts.  
A final note to consider- if you are going to mention the organization you work for yet the tweets are not official, consider adding some along the lines of "Tweets are my own/do not represent any org" to at least try and clarify the difference.  Then again, consider if it is worth including your company in your profile if the account is private.
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The President Is A Mediator & Publicly Endorses It

Yes, with the title I deserve to be writing headlines for the NY Post, and no, I am not lying I'm just referring to the President of India.  People on the Greater New York area dispute resolution community listserv recently had a great discussion on the media's lack of knowledge between the difference of mediation and arbitration.
From that mindset, I thought it is also important to point out when a positive mediation articles comes out too.  Enjoy this snippet with the link to the full article below:

Referring to his own experiences, Mukherjee said that many of the disputes were rooted in communication gaps and were ego-centric. He said that confidentiality and sensitive handling were important to mediation.
"It is my experience that most disputes become difficult to resolve due to either miscommunication or egoism of the individuals involved", Mukherjee said, adding: "Effective communication combined with sensitivity to the concerns of individuals concerned makes resolution of most disputes possible."Having said this, Mukherjee, a mediator, said: "At the very basic level, all that is required is an informal and confidential process and third party assistance that can help negotiate and amicably resolve matters in the common interest."
"It is not about cutting the pie, but making all feel victorious in the process", Mukherjee said.
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The Power Of Body Language

Nonverbal communication, including body language, plays a crucial role curing conflict resolution situations including negotiations and mediation sessions.  Because it occurs primarily subconsciously, people can dismiss it's importance.

Research has time and again proven the effect nonverbal communication can have during interactions with other people in a variety of settings.  For example, during negotiations,unconscious mimicry is connected with favorable negotiation outcomes. Unconscious mimicry is connect to people who possess empathy.  Research on on empathy shows a great deal of it is related to nonverbal channels.

Following me? :)  If you are interested in reading more about mimicry, see my recent article [HERE].

Regardless, I think many will find this  TED Talk video by Amy Cuddy worthy of watching.


Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” -- standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident -- can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.
Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions. Full bio »
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Should You Just Let Him Smoke That Cigarette?

The negotiation ended before it began:
Landing in Tokyo, he asked how a previous session, conducted by his boss, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, had gone. Not well, Mr. Richardson learned. Dr. Albright’s Japanese counterpart requested permission to smoke, she lectured him on the dangers of tobacco, and things never improved from there.

This is just one fascinating anecdote from Bill Richardson in a fantastic piece written by Jodi Kantor for the NY Times in 2007.  It is well worth reading, specifically looking at things from your conflict resolution specialists lens.  Another gem from the article includes:

Instead, Mr. Richardson practices diplomacy as contact sport, whizzing from country to country, conflict to conflict, and charming, insulting, even touching his way through negotiations. (After he persuaded Saddam Hussein in 1995 to release two American aerospace workers who had wandered into Iraq, Mr. Richardson reached over to clap the dictator on the arm, causing Mr. Hussein’s men to reach for their guns.)

Enjoy the rest of the article [HERE].
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Using Metaphors With Coaching, Mediation & Negotiation

Metaphors are easily overlooked yet they possess an incredible amount of power.  The use of metaphors during conflict can either help parties move towards resolution or compound differences and push the interaction further along the downward spiral of negative conflict.

Metaphors come in all shapes, colors, and sizes
What contributes to the powerful attributes of metaphors are the fact that they can be easily overlooked by both the person using them as well as the listener. Similar to other elements of nonverbal communication, they are subconscious and are effected by (and can be effected by) each other.

 For example, review the previous sentences and see how many metaphors you can catch (By the way,"catch" is another).  In James Geary's "I is An Other", he describes metaphors as shedding light into a person's emotions, attitudes, and current perspective.  If my opinion holds any weight, I highly recommend his book.

Consider when describing a conflict, does it:

  • Drive you mad
  • Wasting your time
  • Moving towards resolution
  • Building an agreement
  • Getting below the surface

As a conflict coach, negotiator, and mediator, your choice of metaphors can help guide the process while at the same time, noticing the metaphors used by your clients, parties or counterpart can give you valuable insight.

Angela Dunbar wrote a wonderful article on "Using Metaphors with Coaching."  In the article (read the PDF version here), she further describes the value metaphors offer: 

As a tool for coaching, the client's metaphors give you an insight into their unique perception of their situation and their goals. When the client tells you that they can 'see light at the end of the tunnel', that is what they are experiencing. There is light for them, and they are in a tunnel. They will unconsciously 'know' much more about their situation from this metaphoric viewpoint. They are very likely to know in which direction the light is, how far away it is, and where the light comes from. They will know about the structure of the tunnel, how it feels and looks, how narrow the passage, and whereabouts they are in relation to the tunnel.

Next time your are involved in a conflict, will you be able to structure your use of metaphors to your benefit?  Will you be able to discern the metaphors used by others to move towards resolution?

Let me know!

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No 'Golden Bridge', $200 MILLION Wasted

In William Ury’s popular book Getting Past No, there is an important section titled “Building  A Golden Bridge” for the other negotiating party.  In essence, having an offer available that the other side will love to agree with.  There are four key elements to creating this win-win situation that I detailed in a previous blog post [here]. 

However, before detailing each, I want to point out unfortunately we are reminded of situations where people, or in this case the U.S. government, has great intentions but overlook (or ignored) a key part of the conflict resolution process- getting buy-in from the people involved.

From the (underline added by me):
BAGHDAD -- U.S. auditors have concluded that more than $200 million was wasted on a program to train Iraqi police that Baghdad says is neither needed nor wanted.The Police Development Program_ which was drawn up to be the single largest State Department program in the world – was envisioned as a five-year, multibillion-dollar push to train security forces after the U.S. military left last December. But Iraqi political leaders, anxious to keep their distance from the Americans, were unenthusiastic. 
A report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, released Monday, found that the American Embassy in Baghdad never got a written commitment from Iraq to participate. Now, facing what the report called Baghdad's "disinterest" in the project, the embassy is gutting what was supposed to be the centerpiece of ongoing U.S. training efforts in Iraq. 
"A major lesson learned from Iraq is that host country buy-in to proposed programs is essential to the long-term success of relief and reconstruction activities. The PDP experience powerfully underscores that point," auditors wrote in a 41-page summary of their inspection. An advance copy was provided to The Associated Press.

The U.S. had great intentions in helping the Iraqi police receive state-of-the-art training (perhaps similar to the deal in Haiti) however they proceeded wastefully prior to getting a “yes” from the very people they wanted to help. 

The four elements offered by Ury to build a “golden bridge” includes:
  1. Have everyone involved in building/writing the agreement.
  2. In this case, the U.S., by involving the key stakeholders would have allowed them to find out what the reasons were that was leading them to avoid agreeing to the deal.
  1. Look beyond obvious interests.
  2. The obvious in this case is they need training, but the not-so-obvious is still unknown- what are their other interests?
  1. Saving face.
  2. As you already most likely are aware now, each of these are interconnected. The big difference could have been a joint effort, and then a joint press conference announcing a training that was designed together and is funded by the U.S. government.
  1. Keep it simple.
  2. No, I do not (nor does Ury) suggest simple in the sense of a hastily put together “bridge” or deal but rather simple in terms of not lumping everything together. Taking things step by step would have prevented in this case the process from progressing until the buy-in was achieved.

How often can you reflect during a mediation, negotiation, or coaching session where you might think of a great solution and offer them the “golden bridge” to cross to a perfect solution?  Self-determination, collaboration, and joint-problem solving must first be acknowledged and then legitimately be utilized.  

A major benefit to conflict resolution practices is, although it might take longer sometimes, including people in the process helps them build the great deal (or golden bridge) because they were part of the process.
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NYT: Mediation & Arbitration Are The Same

According to a recent New York Times- "the newspaper of record"- mediation and arbitration are one in the same.  I came across this information on the very popular and very informative New York Dispute Resolution Community Listserv.  The listserv as a side note has +2,000 members and is not limited to New York area people.

Here's the article title and snippet:

Mediator Halts City’s Plan to Overhaul 24 Schools

9:05 p.m. | Updated An arbitrator on Friday halted a central element of the Bloomberg administration’s plans for closing and reopening 24 schools, saying its method for overhauling the staff at those institutions violated labor contracts.

The listserv being the listserv, has already generated many comments, one stating:
My understanding is that the person who writes the article does not write the headline / title.  I read misleading headlines all the time.  It is the headline writer who made this mistake and hopefully, you can get the NYT to write a correction (not that anyone reads them).  Getting a letter to the editor published would reach far more people.

Another, stated:
We should take a step back before hauling the Times into language court.  It might say its use of “mediator” is not misleading at all.  It would be right.

Of course,  “mediation” doesn’t include arbitration under the definition favored in the dispute resolution field.  But arbitration does qualify as “mediation” under some current and respectable alternative English definitions.  (See, e.g., Encarta World English Dictionary (online):  “Mediation.  . . . adj.  Involving or depending on an intermediary or intermediate action” . . .thesaurus: “Meanings:  Arbitration (n).”  See also The American Heritage Dictionary:   “Mediation.  . . . [Acting through, involving or dependent upon some intervening agency” . . . Synonyms: . . . “arbitration”.)

We could prefer that the Times use the word as we do.  But we can’t fairly accuse it of misleading when its usage is linguistically correct, even if it doesn’t align with our preference.

My response to the above comment is saying rain and hail are the same.  According to's thesaurus they are synonyms so is alright to interchange the two?  It lists under synonyms for rain the following words (but not limited to): rainstorm, monsoon, sleet, heavy dew, hail, flurry, pouring, sprinkling and cloudburst. 

Would anyone here freely interchange the two- specifically in an academic paper or article?

If that is the case, why use any of theses words at all: mediation, conflict coaching, negotiation, or arbitration?  We might as well just pick one since they are all forms of ADR, right?

Obviously I am joking (note I am not using a pun, parody, mummery, hoodwinking, sport, horseplay, or using a one-liner yet all are listed as synonyms), but to defend the use of mediation in the title when it clearly means arbitration only contributes to confusion.

At least I think so.

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Mediators Instead of Police?

A new report, ordered after last year’s student protests on the UC Berkley campus resulting in the pepper-spraying of nonviolent student protesters that received global media coverage, has resulted in 50 recommendations over 133 pages.  The report details recommendations on how to prepare and respond for similar situations in the future.

A recommendation that stands out among the others is, according to the

Among the 50 recommendations, the report concluded that campus administrators should be trained in de-escalation techniques that can be used instead of sending in police.

Note that although the title of the article states “Mediators, Not Police”, the article simply mentions using administrators trained in conflict resolution as a step to be used prior to involving the police.

The use of the term “mediator” is misleading depending on how one defines what a mediator is, as most would include the wording “neutral” as part of the mediator’s role.  If the mediator is also an employee of the University, could they then also be neutral?

If the answer is yes, why not then have mediator/police officers respond as well?

Approaching this from a conflict resolution professional’s perspective, the recommendation does not have to necessarily be an “or” situation but rather an “and.”

Why not have staff trained, AS WELL as specific police personnel trained in these skills to be able to engage protesters in appropriate situations?  Yes, they can serve as mediators is the loose sense of the term as they can help both sides (police/administration and the student protesters) realize each others’ reasons behind their positions while then opening up more options. 

This is in contrast to what is often seen as the win-lose, lose-win, or lose-lose situations that can often arise during these emotional and potentially volatile moments.

I make this suggestion not just based on theory but also from experience.  As a current PhD student studying mediation and nonverbal communication, while also having a Masters in Negotiation and Dispute Resolution, I also have first hand experience of these situations where the suggestion of having police personnel trained in these skills works.  It really does.

Serving in the NYPD for almost ten years, and currently as a detective in the Community Affairs Bureau, has had me and my fellow officers literally placed on the frontline of high emotionally charged situations including protests where training in conflict resolution skills has work time and again. 

Why has it worked?  Two primary reasons:

1    1:  buy-in from the NYPD executives believing that using these skills as a critical and necessary stage in policing works.
2    2: Training: these skills only work if those using them know how and when to use.

Of course there are other relevant factors contributing to this success, including the Community Affairs officers wearing different colored shirts identifying their unique role, however the above two standout as necessary.

Part of generating understanding through the use of communication, especially in these situations, includes realizing the police are not there to be against you but rather to work with you and ensure everyone’s safety.

Hopefully the University of California will consider this and others options when developing new response procedures.

Read the article [here]. 

As always, this article represents my personal views and not that of any organization I am a member of or employed by.
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Seeing is Believing & Learning

Considering my research area is based on primarily nonverbal communication and mediation, when I am presenting and offering workshops and trainings, it is not just words I rely on to try and help others understand the value and important role nonverbal communication has on our daily interactions.  This includes both our professional and social interactions.

Sketchnoting and infographics are two examples of how information can be shared and retained when you are at a workshop, public talk or even a meeting.  Sketchnoting and infographics display information differently and in contrast to solely rely on writing words.

Think about your role as a mediator or conflict specialist, and if you use drawings or graphics or even simply different colors to either make a point or raise the significance of something or to illustrate an issue.  Visual graphics can help you and others.
Consider how boring and how easy it is to lose focus while watching a PowerPoint presentation that is full of only words and bullet-points.  Now consider how much more appealing it becomes when different colors are added and use varying fonts along with graphics or pictures.

Now take that mindset and think about how boring your notes can be.  Instead of just taking notes during your next situation where you are required to, or your next presentation, try sketchnoting and using an infographic.

Read the rest of the article [HERE].
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The Wheel of Conflict

The PhD research I am conducting is exploring the role of nonverbal communication and mediation.  Mediation, in addition to being a law enforcement detective, is my profession and I have been engaging in it through as a professional and volunteer mediator, trainer, and consultant for numerous years.  (read more about my research here).

When I am helping others who are involved in conflicts and disputes, I often refer to the Wheel of Conflict like I did at a recent mediation skills training at Robina Hospital on the Gold Coast, Australia.  Christopher Moore and Bernie Mayer developed the Wheel of Conflict and it describes various contributors to conflicts and disputes arising, persisting, and increasing.

The five elements of the wheel of conflict

The wheel of conflict includes structure, emotions, history, communication, and values. Each is described below, and just like nonverbal communication cues and elements, the do not often exist in a vacuum but rather often work in a gestalt like manner.

Read the rest of this article [HERE] at
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First Impressions & Thin Slices

If first impressions are so important in a variety of interactions and professions, what role could it play in mediation sessions?

These first impressions are based on, and often are accurate yet done subconsciously, nonverbal communication cues and elements.  Consider:
Did you shake hands of both of the parties when you first met them?
Did you smile?
How were you dressed?
How did you arrange the room?
Was your seat closer to one party?

These are just a few questions to ask yourself how the mediation session begins ever before it 'begins'.  I think these nonverbal communication cues and elements, specifically during the initial encounter of the parties are critical to the rest of the session.  How important do I think this is?  I am doing my PhD research on it!  (see a three minute video and/or Prezi on my research HERE).

Interested in reading more about first impressions and thin slice methodology?

I invite you to read my latest article at [HERE].  Below is a snippet:

Thin slice methodology is an important term to understand when it comes to wanting to be effective communicators, especially with nonverbal cues and elements.  Firstly, let me be clear that the term 'thin slice' has nothing to do with the width of a slice of pizza!
No- NOT this type of 'slice'!
What thin slice methodology does refer to is observing a small selection of an interaction, usually less than 5 minutes, and being able to accurately draw to conclusions in the emotions and attitudes of the people interacting.  These observations are,  often surprisingly to many people, very accurate compared to self-ratings and ratings based on the entire interaction.  This holds true even when based on observing only a few seconds of the interaction with the first moments of the interaction being the most relevant (Ambady et al, 2000).  5 second clips have been reported to be just as accurate as 5 minutes clips (Ambady & Rosenthal, 1993).

Read the rest [HERE].
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Twitter Chat: Mediators Beyond Borders & International Conflict

Join us for our next twitter as we conclude "March is Mediator's Beyond Borders Month at"

We will be discussing various aspects of MBB and international peace and conflict, as well as ideas and suggestions on where mediation and other conflict resolution professionalism can help.

Join co-hosts Jeff Thompson and Jason Dykstra at this months twitter chat which will include special guest MBB Treasurer and EC member Prabha Sankaranarayan.  Each month the twitter chat goes for 1 hour.  It is fun and action packed.

Meet other MBB members and learn more about MBB, technology, and other dispute resolution ideas.  We will be discussing various aspects of MBB and international peace and conflict, as well as ideas and suggestions on where mediation and other conflict resolution professionalism can help.- all in tweets!  

The #ADRhubChat is the hashtag used.

More on twitter Chats here:

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