Gini Nelson\’s Engaging Conflicts

March 31, 2006

Those “Other” Conflict Specialists — Attorneys, Attorney-Mediators and Non-Attorney Mediators — No Conflict Here!

Filed under: Attorneys and Mediators - No Conflict Here!,Business — Gini @ 1:38 pm

I'm passionate about Bernard S. Mayer's critique of the dispute resolution field given in his 2004 book, Beyond Neutrality: Confronting the Crisis in Conflict Resolution. If you have read it, you've guessed by now that it inspired this blog. I'm rereading it and will bring it into the blog from time to time, as I find Bernie's points so … engaging.

Among many critically important points, two are especially relevant here. He declared that the emperor has no clothes, i.e., that the field of conflict resolution is in crisis. That has as a consequence what I think is true (I may be mistaken) — that most non-attorney mediators are not wildly successful business people, in the sense of making a lot of money. Hence the "Business" category within the blog (which I promise will be helpful to attorneys, too. Face it, most attorneys learned nothing about having a successful business when they went to law school). I'm passionate about entrepreneurs (I am one) — I want us small business people to thrive.

Bernie, who is not an attorney, also raised to the level of public discussion the private grumblings some non-attorney mediators make about attorneys arriving on the dispute resolution scene. I'm an attorney, so I'll help raise to the level of public discussion the private grumblings some attorneys make about non-attorney mediators. Attorneys, attorney-mediators, non-attorney mediators — we are all here on the field to stay. In terms of business success and survival, it may get bloody. I hope this blog can help us all learn to "play together" better.

I'll share this blog category from time to time with others exploring how we can play together better. David B. River has been a full-time mediator, trainer and researcher since 1995, and is currently completing a Masters Degree in Dispute Resolution with the University of Massachusetts. He is not an attorney. His article, In Pursuit of Justice: Lawyers and Mediators Negotiating Identity, has just been published in Vol. 5 No. 1, Winter 2006 issue, Family Mediation Quarterly. Here's an excerpt (a link for the full article follows at the end):


As mediation becomes mainstream, there is a growing conflict between legal professionals, who traditionally resolve disputes, and mediators, who are bringing mediation to conflict areas that were previously handled by attorneys. The growing dispute is evidenced by an increasing number of lawsuits brought against mediators by state bar associations on grounds of “unauthorized practice of law.”

The popular reasons given for the conflict only partially explain its causes. Rubin and Levinger point out that “conflict over one set of issues is often confounded with, or obscured by, conflict over issues at a different level” (1995, pp.15-16) and in the case of mediators and attorneys, the most visible level of discussion is to define what is and isn’t the practice of law and who is entitled to discuss the law with people in conflict. Mediators claim that lawyers bring these lawsuits against mediators in order to protect their business interests and lawyers claim that mediators step into legal territory without legal training or ethics to guide them, leaving people with unjust or otherwise negative outcomes.

A much richer understanding of this struggle for definition is possible through the lens of identity and resource competition. The advent of mediation as a tool addressing conflicts that were previously handled by attorneys has blurred the distinctions of who is capable of addressing conflict, broadened the models for dispute resolution, and called into question the idea that adversarial approaches lead to the best outcomes for people in conflict. The success of mediation, drawing people who might otherwise have hired attorneys, is forcing attorneys to look at the assumptions about who they are, what their work accomplishes, and, in some cases, to transform.

On the other hand, mediators form a new profession with many different ideas, styles, practices and ethical codes. Under threat of lawsuits from the legal profession, mediators keep silent about how they discuss legal issues with clients, what forms best practices, and what distinguishes a cooperative approach to the law rather than a competitive one.

The tendency of identity conflict to escalate and define who is “in,” who is “out,” and therefore who is in an advantaged position with respect to resources hampers the development of both professions and keeps the focus away from the kinds of questions and research that would allow both professions to advance.

Here's the article:


March 29, 2006

Conflict, Stress and the Free “RealAge” Test

Filed under: Health, Conflict and Stress — Gini @ 11:38 pm
Michael F. Roisen, M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. are frequent guests on the talk show circuit with entertaining and informative programs delivering clear, science-based recommendations for immediately improving our health and the quality of our lives. They are associated with RealAge, Inc., which identifies itself as "a consumer-health media company and provider of personalized health information and management tools." The website offers many health tools, including a highly-personalized on-line exam to determine your "RealAge", defined as "the biological age of your body, based on lifestyle, genetics, and medical history. Depending on how well you take care of yourself, your RealAge might be years younger — or older — than the calendar indicates as contrasted with your chronological age."
Reducing stress is one of their "Top 12 Ways To Make Your RealAge Younger." They conclude that "[i]n highly stressful times, your RealAge can be as much as 32 years older than your calendar age. By building strong social networks and adopting stress-reduction strategies, you can erase 30 of those 32 years of aging caused by stress." For more information about stress and stress strategies, and to take the free on-line RealAge test, go to the following website, clicking where highlighted (the excerpt is from the website):

taking the patented RealAge test for free. Once you know your RealAge, you’ll receive personalized recommendations, health information, and solutions to help make your RealAge younger. Science is increasingly showing that certain health choices can slow and perhaps even reverse the rate of aging. Even choices made late in life make a difference. For example, people who exercise early in life, but quit, may show no longevity benefit. In contrast, people who start exercising in their 50s and 60s, or even later, show considerable benefit.

P.S. Here's what they say about the science behind their work:

Is RealAge scientifically valid?
RealAge Answer:
RealAge is not new science; RealAge is a way of interpreting and presenting already established science. We rely on the most up-to-date, high-quality scientific studies in every field relevant to preventive medicine. All health information we use has been published in well-respected, peer-reviewed journals and is widely accepted within the scientific community.RealAge experts reviewed the scientific literature, looking at those health behaviors and choices that affect mortality risk, or, as we like to say, rate of aging. Every RealAge action step we suggest for each person at the end of the RealAge test has been shown to affect the rate of aging in several scientific studies. All of the studies used are human studies.

P.S.S. A simple search at their website (using only one search term, “stress”) came up with five pages of related articles – here’s the link to the saved search:

Why Speak of Spirit and Conflict In the Same Breath?

Filed under: Spirit — Gini @ 7:51 pm

What’s so engaging about conflict and spirit? First, most people get solace and direction in stressful times through their religious or spiritual beliefs; information that supports or enriches those beliefs (including practice tools) will strengthen that resource when facing conflict.

Second, some people are stressed because of questions about religion and/or spirituality that they think arise out of science. But most of us don’t know much about science … what is it? More to the point, how does science help explain our impulses towards religion and spirituality, and how we chose to practice them (including explaining why those impulses can turn to violence and conflict in some circumstances)? Can the areas of science that relate to religion and spirituality help prevent, reduce, contain or resolve conflict?

Some people may experience conflict when confronting an insistence that there is only one way, or even just a best way, to experience and practice religion and/or spirituality — and what they know gives insufficient solace, or is different. Others may watch with confusion how some forms of religion are changing, as we see especially in the United States in the perhaps parallel growths of more fundamentalist mega churches, and post-modern quantum mysticism. Can science help here?

Finally, how some practice their religion is itself increasingly the source and cause of stress, exclusion and violence in the world, including in the United States, from terrorism in the name of a god (including 9/11 and the bombing of abortion clinics) to fundamentalist political activism and political regulation in response to fears about religious divisiveness (e.g., recent US fundamentalist activism and some countries’ banning of headscarves and other religion-identifying clothing).

All of us are confronted by these new realities. Understanding better why people’s religious beliefs can drive them to actions that are considered extreme by many, can itself help reduce the stress of living in a world subject to those actions; and may help in developing additional tools for working towards solutions.

Sometimes, one can fear that these are the days of “the new religious wars,” and that the advances in critical thinking exemplified in part by the best of science will be thrown over and out — but this won’t happen. Really, the vast majority of people do trust science, and don’t believe all the tenets of their religions literally — most happily fly in airplanes (they trust science) and do not kill people of opposing religious beliefs. We can celebrate and be excited by the opportunities to learn more about science, our humanity, and spirituality.

First, Know Yourself, and Know That Conflict Is Part Of Business Success!

Filed under: Business — Gini @ 5:45 pm

What's so engaging about conflict and business success? Think of what I call the psychology of business success — managing conflicts with clients and managing difficult client situations are major components in success. Here's a quick example (without the statistics, which I don't have at my fingertips at the moment, but I can still make the point): even in a conflict as serious as a medical malpractice situation where somebody has been seriously, physically harmed, how the conflict was handled on the individual, personal level is one of the key factors that determines whether a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed. A patient who likes her doctor is much less likely to sue, than one who is indifferent to her doctor, or dislikes her doctor.

I believe that both effective conflict management and small business success are based on the following:

(1) knowing yourself and knowing how you are with other people — both your strengths and your weaknesses;

(2) knowing that other people often are normally and authentically different from you, and that they will hear you better and value your perspective more when you know to speak and present to them in the ways that matter to them (because of their differences from you), rather than primarily in the ways that matter to you. It's easiest to speak to and be heard by someone who is like you — but, really, we aren't all alike, and the differences matter!

3) having the skills and techniques the task at hand requires (e.g., active listening and reading nonverbal body language in conflict management, and doing or properly delegating such business skills as marketing and sales, financial management and human resources, in business success); and

(4) focusing on the relationship with the other person (in conflict and in business, and sometimes in both!), which in some ways brings it around back to #1, because your best relationships will develop when you know yourself and how you are with other people, well.

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