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March 2017

Wait: The Magic of Mediation

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It’s a common mediation experience.  You are sitting with two disputants, keeping a conversation alive by avoiding inflammatory words and topics, when one or both of the parties come down from their initial positions to reach an agreement.  Though they are common enough, these moments are referred to as “mediation magic.”  The mediator does not know exactly what he or she did, but it worked.

This occurrence may be explained by an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology described here.  Researchers conducted a series of studies on the effects of priming either action or inaction on whether subjects changed their minds on an issue.

The outcome of these studies are that people are more likely to change their minds when primed to inaction (e.g., wait, slow, calm) and more likely to maintain their current opinions when primed to action (e.g., go, energy, motivation).  The researchers surmised that being prepared to act brings existing opinions to the forefront of the mind, while being prepared to wait allows people to better scrutinize their ideas.

This lesson is also reflected in wisdom on creative problem-solving.  This is why the first rule of brainstorming is to suspend judgment (action)–when participants move toward action, they hinder their ability to think in new and different ways.

How can these lessons be used by mediators?  First, they indicate that you should not motivate participants to act.  Asking the parties, “What are the two of you going to do about this?” will draw out their existing positions.  Meanwhile, encouraging the parties to be calm, wait, listen, and take a break if necessary, will give them the breathing room to reconsider their thinking.  Though action is necessary for the mediation to be productive, disputants are often already motivated to not be sitting across the table from an adversary, and resolution is one option for satiating the natural tendency toward conflict-avoidance.

Thus, a winning mediation strategy involves keeping the participants present in the conflict while encouraging them to be patient and wait.

Announcing the Topics of the 2017 OMA Conference

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On May 19, 2017, the Ohio Mediation Association will hold its first multi-session Annual Conference.  Different speakers in the morning and afternoon will allow for multiple perspectives, more information, and a better experience for the audience.  Our morning presenter is Dr. Tanya Menon, a notable researcher on the psychology of negotiation, and our afternoon presenter is Jerry Weiss, a mediator who is an experienced practitioner and lecturer.

Dr. Tanya Menon

Dr. Menon’s presentation is entitled “Using Questions to Encourage Collaboration.”

Because well-crafted questions are a key tool for facilitative mediation, Dr. Menon will provide exercises and analysis on the many uses of questions in negotiations.

First, questions can exert influence without exerting power.  Dr. Menon will begin her presentation with a multimedia illustration on effective questioning that includes best uses of open-ended vs. close-ended questions and how to use questions to empower opponents in positive directions.  She will also discuss psychological principles of persuasion, choice as a double-edged sword, and the power of positive and negative language.

Next, questions can hurt or hinder our ability to bridge perspectives in order to solve problems.  In this segment, participants will engage in an interactive communications exercise that will demonstrate the conversational traps that arise from perspectives that are subtly, yet importantly, different.  This exercise will be a challenge for communications professionals, and it will also remind participants of the struggles that disputants experience at the mediation table.  Dr. Menon will again discuss pertinent theories in the psychology of conflict resolution.

Finally, Dr. Menon will present new ideas on using questions to generate creativity.  Concepts beyond standard brainstorming will be presented and explored.  These exercises will allow disputants to consider their problems in more flexible angles and allow mediators to guide the generation of more options for parties to consider.

Jerome Weiss

Jerry Weiss is a civil mediator who maintains an eye for the emotional component to negotiations and an openness to the transformative potential of mediation.  Though Jerry remains one of the longest full-time mediation practitioners in Ohio, he has remained active as a lecturer, serving as an adjunct law professor and delivering nearly 60 presentations on mediation across the US, Canada, and New Zealand.

Jerry’s presentation is entitled “Heart, Mind, and Soul: Insights from a Career of Reflective Mediation and Tools for Reinvigorating the Practice of Mediation.”

Jerry will be packing a career’s worth of practical insight into a three-hour presentation.  His lectures will involve a mix of practical tools, personal anecdotes, useful research, thoughts on the inner workings of mediation, and a variety of frameworks that Jerry has found to be useful in his career as a mediator.  Jerry sees many mediators taking a rote, overly-methodical approach to disputes.  He will present the reasons and methods for empowering the emotional core of mediation.

Jerry’s presentation will touch on a wide variety of topics, all aiming to improve your mediation practice.  His presentation will end with a lengthy armchair discussion and Q&A.  As a dedicated and reflective practitioner, an experienced teacher, and long-time mediation advocate, we are sure that Jerry will be able to provide participants with much insight.

To register for either or both of these sessions, visit our registration page.  We hope to see you on May 19th!