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Happiness and Conflict at Work

Often when we are faced with a conflict, happiness is not what we feel. We may feel angry, frustrated, sad, disappointed, upset, furious, or other negative emotions, or some combination of many negative emotions. Perhaps the “best” emotion we experience in the midst of an argument is something along the lines of,

“Hah! I’m winning!”

…Well, that’s a kind of satisfaction, but it is probably not the same happy, contented feeling you get when you are laughing with loved ones, for example, or even while collaborating in a positive, team atmosphere at work, school, or while volunteering.

Yet conflict and happiness are not necessarily polar opposites.

Scientists have spent decades studying what happiness is, the effects of happiness and pro-social emotions and actions, and how we can have happier lives. According to researchers Emiliana Simon-Thomas and Dacher Keltner, what happiness looks like at work will include moments of laughter and joy,...

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Mediator Tips: Active Listening

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.

Psychiatrist Karl Menninger, 1893-1990

Recently, I’ve spoken to several small business owners, salespeople, and fellow mediators and professional facilitators about how the skills used in mediation translate to so many other arenas of life. The most important one, I think, is listening well. Great listening skills can help pretty much all the time: at work, in friendships, while parenting kids of any age, and when talking to neighbors, clients, friends, loved ones… pretty much anyone.

We all have a basic need to be listened to, to be understood. Listening to understand helps you comprehend, sympathize, and identify with the other person. In conflicts, and often throughout life, only when a person feels that their story (or point of view) has been ...

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Mediation: Voluntary Really Means Voluntary

Mediation is a voluntary process for parties and mediators. Yes, you read that right. Mediators have an ethical responsibility to ensure all parties feel equally able to negotiate, and the parties do so in good faith. If a mediator has any doubt, they ought to end the mediation.

You may be thinking “But I’m paying you!” Yes, you are. You’re paying for the services of a mediation session (or sessions). As a trained professional mediator, my expertise includes paying attention to the parties and their ability to represent themselves in the process and negotiate on equal (or near-equal) footing. My expertise also includes making ethical determinations about whether the parties are operating in good faith.

The flip side of this is that any time a party feels uncomfortable, they have the right to end the mediation as well. Of course, feeling uncomfortable can happen for a great variety of reasons, and mediators will try to feel you out – usually one-on-one...

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Gratitude at Work

It’s November, so you may have seen friends posting “I am thankful for…” daily posts on your favorite social media platform. Perhaps you do it yourself. Perhaps you think it’s appropriate around Thanksgiving, and it’s a touching, positive practice. Or, perhaps you think it’s just a schmaltzy, boring, or useless practice – one that has no place in your life.

The truth is, expressing gratitude has been correlated with a host of benefits – most notably, people who express gratitude tend to be happier, healthier, and less stressed. The field of positive psychology has found many reasons people should practice gratitude, and many ways to practice gratitude.

But all of this is about your personal life, right? Wrong! Imagine if you had a less stressed-out workplace, with healthier coworkers who were generally happier than they are now. Gratitude may be the key!

In the workplace, gratitude practices can include:

  • Give gifts in person.

    ...
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Mediate. Facilitate. Vote.

core beliefs voting Nov 03, 2018

I believe in the power of story-telling and listening. Stories are a natural, influential way to communicate. Of course, when stories are not listened to - not paid attention to - not understood, they lose their power. Listening with an open mind is a necessary partner to story-telling.

I also believe in a representative democracy, like the United States where we’re based and where I have always lived. An essential building block of representative democracies is that the best policies are created when everyone has a say in who leads the government.

Politics is an essential part of governing, because of the nature of our democratic society. If politics is all about elections, then it’s all about who is in charge of every law and regulation, from Social Security to the presence of a stop sign on your corner.

In both mediation and facilitation, listening is a core component to success - and a necessary input toward a resolution. In our society, voting is the main way...

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The Power of Graphic Facilitation

On Friday morning, I spent nearly 3 solid hours drawing. On my feet. With fancy markers. This is not my normal.

I’m a word person. I’m into language and reading. In my spare time I love crosswords and even word search puzzles. I rarely draw. And these days I’m also rarely on my feet for three hours unless I’m the one running a workshop!

So what was going on Friday morning? The Mid-Atlantic Facilitation Network’s workshop, Drawing for Graphic Facilitation, by Brian Tarallo of Lizard Brain Solutions. When you teach, it’s important to get people to do what they’re learning so they retain it. So, shortly after introductions, Brian got us all up and drawing - stick figures, symbols, shapes, connectors, callouts, containers, and more. Trust me, it was not high art… for most of us, anyway!

The first thing we did was draw a symbol that captured how we approach facilitation. Being forced to draw, in one minute, in a tiny space, this is what...

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What to Know Before You Mediate

mediation process Oct 16, 2018

Mediation is a great way to resolve conflicts, and it can work well in a wide variety of settings. Here’s just a small list:

  • Workplace issues amongst coworkers

  • Performance management issues

  • Conflict between co-owners of a business

  • Civil matters like property ownership or damage disputes

  • Business-to-business conflicts about work quality

  • Family decision-making, such as help to make decisions essential to writing a will or financial planning

While mediators generally do not want to know much about the dispute in a specific case until they know all parties have agreed to mediation, it can be helpful for parties to understand some basics about mediation.

Impartiality

  • The mediator is an impartial third party. The mediator should have no interest in how the conflict will be resolved. If you feel like a mediator may be biased, speak up and ask them about it.

  • This is also why a mediator may ask you to stop telling them about your case early on - in initial phone...

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How We Mediate

Mediation is a form of dispute resolution, meaning: If two people or businesses have a disagreement, a mediator will help them find a resolution. Mediation is typically categorized as a form of alternative dispute resolution. As in, mediation is an alternative to using lawyers and the legal system. So, instead of suing a person or company, a mediator can help people find a mutually acceptable resolution to their problem.

Bonus: Mediation is also quicker and cheaper than the courts.

The main ways in which mediation is different from using lawyers and judges are:

  • Mediation is confidential. Courts are typically public.

  • Mediation is voluntary. Courts generally impose consequences if a party does not show up.

  • Mediation is all about self-determination - in other words, the parties create their own solutions. In a court, a judge decides for the parties.

Often, mediators are attorneys who recognize the fact that their unique skill set is not actually best suited to all cases. So...

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Make Your Meetings Useful

Ever hear someone complain that they can’t get anything done because “I’m in meetings all day!”

Hanging out with friends is one thing – no one really wants a plan or an agenda if you just want to spend time with people you like. But work is different. Everyone has the same goal (or complementary goals) – to do a good job, to make money, to provide a service, to sell to customers. Work meetings should move everyone closer to the goal, not farther from it.

So how do you make your meetings useful?

  • Know your purpose.

    Notice I did not say “topic.” Anyone can have a topic. That’s just the thing we’re talking about. In contrast, “purpose” implies a goal. There is a reason that people need to have an in-person conversation about, well, whatever the topic may be. What is everyone trying to accomplish together? How will this meeting make it happen? That’s your goal.

  • Only invite necessary people.

    I’m sure...

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