Beware of Cognitive Errors

"Attribution errors occur when we attribute behavior or some other quality to a person's character or disposition rather than to situation or environment--in other words, stereotyping. Our assumptions can blind us to the real causes or triggers of behavior.

Anchoring errors occur when we make our final diagnosis based on the direction our original diagnosis steered us in, closing our minds to other possibilities--which means our final diagnosis may be wildly inaccurate.

Confirmation bias, well known to mediators, is the very human tendency to seek out data that supports our assumptions and discount data that contradicts them."

For active links to related resources, see this Diane Levin post from which the foregoing was quoted.


Lend an Empathetic Ear

Richard Salem writes:

"Empathy is the ability to project oneself into the personality of another person in order to better understand that person's emotions or feelings. Through empathic listening the listener lets the speaker know, "I understand your problem and how you feel about it, I am interested in what you are saying and I am not judging you." The listener unmistakably conveys this message through words and non-verbal behaviors, including body language. In so doing, the listener encourages the speaker to fully express herself or himself free of interruption, criticism or being told what to do. It is neither advisable nor necessary for a mediator to agree with the speaker, even when asked to do so. It is usually sufficient to let the speaker know, "I understand you and I am interested in being a resource to help you resolve this problem."

As Tony Alessandra notes:

"William Ury, in his book, GETTING PAST NO, makes the point that every human being has a deep need for his or her feelings to be recognized. Knowing this can help tremendously in a difficult negotiation by creating a climate for agreement.

Ury counsels that it's important to acknowledge both the factual point, and the feelings of the other person. He uses the example of an employee approaching a boss. The employee says: "I just found out Dale makes two thousands dollars more a year than I do for the same job." Trying to explain why Dale makes more money, even if the reason is a good one, only makes the employee angrier. Instead, you must acknowledge the fact and the feelings first: "You think we're taking advantage of you and you're angry. I can understand that. I'd probably feel the same way."

That isn't what an angry person expects. By acknowledging the employee's feelings, you've helped him calm down. His next statement might be: "Well, why shouldn't I make as much as Dale does?" That shows he's ready to hear your explanation."

Empathy begins with listening. Richard Salem continues:

"Among its benefits, empathic listening

1. builds trust and respect,
2. enables the disputants to release their emotions,
3. reduces tensions,
4. encourages the surfacing of information, and
5. creates a safe environment that is conducive to collaborative problem solving...

The power of empathic listening in volatile settings is reflected in Madelyn Burley-Allen's description of the skilled listener. "When you listen well," Burley-Allen says, "you:

1. acknowledge the speaker,
2. increase the speaker's self-esteem and confidence,
3. tell the speaker, "You are important" and "I am not judging you,"
4. gain the speaker's cooperation,
5. reduce stress and tension,
6. build teamwork,
7. gain trust,
8. elicit openness,
9. gain a sharing of ideas and thoughts, and
10.obtain more valid information about the speakers and the subject.

To obtain these results, Burly-Allen says, a skilled listener:

1. "takes information from others while remaining non-judgmental and empathic,
2. acknowledges the speaker in a way that invites the communication to continue, and
3. provides a limited but encouraging response, carrying the speaker's idea one step forward."

Click on the above links for more information.


Business Facilitation ToolBox

The Business Facilitation Toolbox is as the name suggests a toolbox from the Global Facilitators Network with useful articles, presentations you can download to make your workshop preparation easier, a place to get new ideas and generally a one stop shop for what you might need as a facilitation professional. Free Registration is required to download materials.

Topics covered include:

Games and Energisers
Models and Processes
Workshop Preparation
Decision Making Strategies
Hints and Tips
Using Flip Charts
Negotiation Techniques
Problem People
and much more

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Core Concerns Lead to Personal Conflict

Autonomy or the freedom to make decision's for oneself is one of five "core concerns" research identifies as critical in creating personal disputes. "The other core concerns are appreciation, or having actions acknowledged; affiliation, being treated as a colleague; status, feeling that others respect one's standing; and having roles and activities that are fulfilling. Cross one of the needs and conflict arises. Respect them, and [resolution] ...is around the corner...

Principled negotiation is a strategy that seeks to move both parties away from polarizing and usually entrenched positions, and into the realm of interests. It asks how both parties can get their interests satisfied while keeping their relationship strong. Negotiating well means neither party need feel cheated, manipulated, or taken advantage of."

So states this Psychology Today article. To get from here to there, the article suggests:

"Sit Down
This signals to the other person that time will be spent to hear their side. Never ask someone to talk if there isn't enough time to listen.

Find Common Ground...
Move In
Leaning in to the conversation indicates interest. Head nods also help in letting the other side know their thoughts are being followed...

Keep Your Cool...
Be Brief...
Forget Neutrality
Trying to control your emotions usually backfires...Instead, mine the situation to find whatever positive emotions can be brought to the table...

Avoid Empty Threats...
Don't Yield
Caving on important issues may seem noble...but it ruins a relationship...Instead, look for compromises. Compromise is like stretching. Stop doing it and pretty soon there's no way to bend at all..."


Bridging the Last Gap

"It's three o'clock in the morning. You’ve been negotiating or mediating since 9 a.m. and everybody is exhausted. Each side has made more concessions that it really thinks it should have had to, and the gap between the parties has narrowed to millimeters. But there it has stuck, and will stay stuck unless you do something new. Every sophisticated negotiator or experienced mediator has a personal answer to this problem, a private stock of a few gambits, often tried and sometimes successful. But John Wade has the longest list we have ever seen, 16 techniques in all. Not one of them works all the time, but together they can materially improve your batting average."

Read all about it in Chapter 54 of Wade's The Negotiator's Fieldbook found via this post from mediator blah...blah....


Characteristics of Effective Facilitators

"Effective [small group activity] facilitators are flexible. They modify their small-group activities before and during use.

Effective facilitators are adaptive. They modify their small-group activities along six critical tensions.

Effective facilitators are proactive. Before using a small-group activity, they modify it on the basis of the characteristics of the participants and the purpose of the activity.

Effective facilitators are responsive. They make modifications during the small-group activity to keep the different tensions within acceptable ranges.

Effective facilitators are resilient. They accept whatever happens during the small-group activity as valuable data and smoothly continue with the activity."

Read more in this article from thiagi.com


Commercial Mediation Manual

Bill Warters writes:

"Implementing Commercial Mediation was prepared by the World Bank Group's Small and Medium Enterprise Department in 2006. Using case studies, diagnostic and assessment tools, and stakeholder-specific marketing approaches, this manual provides strategies to overcome the challenges of building alternative dispute resolution programs in different national settings. The Task Manager was Alejandro Alvarez de la Campa. You can download the entire toolkit (PDF, 3.4MB), or choose one of its six chapters as noted below:

Introduction: the manual, meant for development professionals, starts with a description of its contents, applications, and limitations of ADR. (PDF, 60KB)

Chapter 1: defines individual ADR processes with attention to the features that distinguish them from conventional dispute resolution. (PDF, 103KB)

Chapter 2: provides a framework for assessing the feasibility of beginning ADR projects, using country and project-specific criteria. (PDF, 118KB)

Chapter 3: offers guidelines for designing ADR projects, centers and assessment tools, and building local partnerships. (PDF, 153KB)

Chapter 4: addresses implementation, with guidance on creating ADR-friendly environments, working within local legal contexts, and selecting cases for mediation. (PDF, 811KB)

Chapter 5: discusses why, when, and how to perform assessments that take into account resources used and outcomes achieved. (PDF, 674KB)

Chapter 6: presents lessons learned in developing ADR projects, highlighting the challenges of creating demand and sustainability. (PDF, 325KB)

The annexes: contain resources to assist program designers and managers, with descriptions of ADR procedures, case studies of projects in various country contexts, sample contract language and agreements, model codes of ethics for mediators, and a list of additional Web resources. (PDF, 3.4MB)."

Please refer to the referenced post for active links to the resources.