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Debriefing the 2017 OMA Annual Conference

Thank you to everyone who attended our 2017 Annual Conference or made this event possible.  Both speakers were well-received, registrants participated wholeheartedly in activities, and had intense participation in our lunchtime discussion of mediator credentialing.  Our only regrets are that we sold out the room (next year we will find a larger venue) and ran out of time to discuss mediator credentialing (there is much yet to be said on the issue).

But, for those of you who participated, below is a debrief of the Conference:

Dr. Tanya Menon’s “Using Questions to Encourage Collaboration”

For our Keynote speaker, we reached outside of the ADR community and found new insights in the lecture by Dr. Tanya Menon of the OSU Fisher School of Business.

Using a brilliant example of a famous political negotiation, Dr. Menon described how questions can be a highly effective tool of persuasion.  Though mediators cannot apply this type of persuasion directly against one disputant, we can use these types of questions on both parties together (e.g., “How can we better focus this conversation on the interests of the children?”) or to coach individual parties in caucus (e.g., “How could you communicate that to the other side in a way that would persuade them to agree with you?”).

Dr. Menon also made a point that seems to contradict the commonly-held idea in mediation that parties should use “I” statements rather than “you” statements.  Dr. Menon argued that “I” is the least persuasive word in our language.  Though “I” statements avoid making attributions while defining the conflict, Dr. Menon pointed out that persuasion is all about “you.”  Perhaps, an effective mediation should begin with “I” statements and then transition to “you” questions.

Also, we want to thank our attendees for fully participating in the Murder Mystery activity conducted by Dr. Menon.  This was a difficult exercise, and we had a limited amount of time to do it.  The activity was a valid reminder that people tend to assume that everyone else has the same information, when that it rarely the case.

Jerry Weiss’s “Heart Mind and Soul: Insights from a Career of Reflective Mediation and Tools for Reinvigorating the Practice of Mediation”

Then, in the afternoon, we had Jerry Weiss present our Distinguished Practitioner Lecture.

Jerry was able to convey his wisdom about mediation with a variety of anecdotes from his career in civil mediation.  I certainly appreciated his thoughts on using a lengthy introduction to set a positive tone for the mediation, the role of uncertainty in his valuation of legal positions, and his overall aim to bring people into civil interaction until they humanize each other and develop hope in a resolution.  Jerry’s advice on delaying the exchange of numbers, eliciting meaning from numbers, and demanding a variety of numbers-based proposals should be useful to any mediator who faces a positional negotiation over a fixed pie.

I only wish that we had included a role-play performance by Jerry so that attendees could observe a distinguished mediator at work.  Maybe next year!

Awards and Distinctions

Finally, we gave a number of awards at the Conference to people who deserve further recognition.

First, the 2017 Better World Award went to Representative Keith Faber for legislating mediation as a public policy tool in Ohio.  Mediators need the support of our government officials, as most disputants approach these power-based forums before they are pushed into negotiation-based processes such as mediation.  By providing inexpensive mediation for public records disputes, Rep. Faber’s SB 321 is a welcome policy for the mediation profession and an example for other lawmakers to follow.  Furthermore, Rep. Faber maintains a private practice that is largely dedicated to mediating civil disputes.  In a brief statement to attendees, Rep. Faber described his use of mediation skills as a leader and commented that mediation work saves lives.

Also, we awarded our first annual Outstanding Volunteer Award to Linda Norris for reviving the Newsletter, creating flyers to promote the Conference, working on the Credentialing Proposal, and maintaining all of the functions of OMA Secretary.

Thank you all for attending.  We hope to see you next year!

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