We invite everyone with an interest in dispute resolution and conflict management to a fun and dynamic day of wide-ranging ideas to add to your conflict resolution toolbox. Keynote speaker Cinnie Noble from Toronto headlines a faculty presenting on diverse topics that will be of interest to mediators, arbitrators, negotiators, litigators, coaches, collaborative divorce professionals, facilitators and others interested in resolving conflict. More details...

Monday, May 26, 2014
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Games Session/Wine & Cheese
Faculty of Law at Allard Hall, University of BC, Vancouver

Thank You to Our Volunteers!

Thank you to everyone who offered their time, energy and expertise to help plan and deliver the Dispute Resolution Conference: And Now For Something Completely Different. Everyone had a fun and interesting day and came away with new tools and ideas to use in their dispute resolution practice.

Dispute Resolution Conference 2014

How Reality Television Teaches Conflict Resolution Skills

Sharon Sutherland

This article first appeared on the CoRe Clinic blog in February, 2014 and summarizes some of the topics that Sharon Sutherland will be covering on Monday, May 26 at the Dispute Resolution Conference: And Now for Something Completely Different...

At last week’s CoRe Speaker event, Wendy Lakusta and Sharon Sutherland offered their ideas about the ways in which reality television can teach positive conflict resolution skills. Wendy and Sharon focused on four areas of interest:

  • Good examples of both negotiation and mediation skills;
  • Psychology lessons;
  • Lessons on cultural awareness; and
  • Lessons gained by staging/competing in a reality show.

Our speakers emphasized that they had struggled to limit their examples in all categories, and found that in developing their presentation they came across startling numbers of other possibilities. In essence, despite any questions about the “reality” of reality television, the genre does present a wide range of examples of human nature in conflict.


Good examples

Wendy and Sharon highlighted a few shows that provide examples of good negotiation skills on a regular basis, and a few that offer glimpses of good mediation skills. In particular, Canadian Pickers and Pawn Stars were discussed as shows that showcase negotiations in every episode. Sharon complimented Canadian Pickers as a show in which the stars engage in creative negotiations, but never forget that they are involved in an iterative negotiation. While they might be able to take advantage of an unwitting seller, the “pickers” always seem to recognize that televising themselves taking advantage of sellers is not the best way to build trust for future deals. Instead, they engage in creative negotiations that demonstrate “expanding the pie” and “bundling” strategies to ensure deals that account for both parties’ interests.

As a contrast, Pawn Stars showcases negotiators who do seek to “win”, but do so within a framework that meets an entirely different (and typically unspoken) interest of the vendor: the vendor knows exactly what they are getting into and may even know they are being taken advantage of while agreeing to a deal, but they are also getting to appear on their favourite television show. Wendy pointed out the large number of articles and online analyses of Pawn Star negotiation lessons, and highlighted the observations of John Greathouse on the “teachable moments” the show offers each and every episode.

Psychology Lessons

Wendy and Sharon then led the group through discussion of the psychology lessons for conflict resolution professionals that can be taken from reality television. Sharon suggested that Survivor alone could provide an entire course in cognitive barriers to negotiation. While Sharon selected just a few examples for the purposes of the talk, the topic could easily lend itself to a much longer discussion. One of the most amusing examples was the cognitive dissonance edit of comments from participants in the first season. Anyone who watched the first season – and millions did – will recall the seemingly bizarre disconnect between the people who formed an alliance (and eventually became the final four) and the people who persisted in believing that no one would align to win the game because it was “unethical”.

Wendy then discussed the potential to study high conflict personalities in many reality tv series. While there may be limited value to simply watching for bad behaviour, there are both excellent examples of people dealing effectively with others’ bad behaviour and opportunities to gain a better understanding of the triggers that might lead to high conflict behaviour. Wendy identified Amazing Race‘s season 23 winners Jason and Amy as exemplifying good decisions in not engaging with high conflict couple Tim and Marie despite considerable provocation when Tim and Marie stole their cab. Instead, they chose to “keep their enemies closer” and managed their own anger in order to avoid being sidetracked by the other couple’s high conflict style.

Cultural Awareness

The considerable controversy surrounding Big Brother, season 15, and the racist and homophobic comments made by several house guests opened up an interesting discussion of race, in particular, in social media and more traditional journalism. Wendy and Sharon noted that the careful editing by CBS of episodes that aired the racist remarks to ensure that they included some form of critical discussion (usually through other house guests), ensured that such comments were not simply aired unchallenged. While the time allotted for the speaker event did not allow for a meaningful deconstruction of even a single example of the blindness of privilege or the impacts of race, gender, age, sexuality and other identities on human interactions, it was clear that many shows offer examples that would lend themselves to such analysis.

In the linked version of their Prezi, a particularly fascinating tribal council in Survivor is shown. This segment offers a rich discussion starter for issues of race, privilege, and class assumptions coupled with critique and questioning of assumptions by the show host, Jeff Probst. It is easy to imagine showing this short scene and using it as an educational tool to discuss these issues at the length they deserve.

Learning by Doing

Finally, Sharon made a few brief comments about the making of the two CoRe Challenge fundraisers that were carried out in 2005 and 2006. The experience of making a reality television program was a fascinating learning experience, and led both Sharon and Wendy to comment that the job of the editor in such shows is not dissimilar in some ways from the role of the mediator. In both roles, one works with the words of others – often in conflict – and seeks to edit and reframe the comments with a specific purpose in mind. That purpose may vary: reality television editors will have different purposes one from another, and mediators may be much more focused on reducing conflict than capturing its essence for dramatic effect. Nonetheless, editing is a key task in shaping both the program and the mediation, and it is possible to enhance our reflections on the mediator’s role by watching carefully the effects that are created by editing in reality television. We may believe that our editing is much more benign, but it behooves us to acknowledge the degree to which we affect outcomes through our own editorial processes.

Graphic Recording

Avril Orloff

Graphic recording is one of the best tools I know for enriching and deepening the group experience. Each chart evolves in real time, as the presenters and participants speak. I listen for key concepts, along with nuances and thematic connections, and capture them in words and images on large sheets of paper. As people see their thoughts take concrete shape, they become increasingly engaged and inspired. Ideas take on dimension and colour, thematic dots are connected, and the big picture begins to emerge - both figuratively and literally. The dynamic visual “maps” that result are treasured artifacts that are referred back to repeatedly and shared with others, planting seeds for still deeper insights and ongoing conversation.


Avril OrloffAvril Orloff is a graphic facilitator who helps people see what they're saying by literally "drawing out" their best thinking. Working in real time, she captures key ideas as they emerge and translates them into images to create powerful visual maps that spark people's imagination and animate insightful conversation. One of Canada's senior visual practitioners, Avril has put her visual thinking skills to work to animate meetings, conferences, workshops and other gatherings for a wide range of clients in all sectors. Avril also creates custom graphics for clients who want to present information in a compelling and engaging way, and teaches workshops in graphic recording. Whatever the context, she is happiest when she can help people navigate complex issues and chart a clear path forward in the most enjoyable, creative and fun ways possible.

Carrie Gallant and Bettina Rothe: Empowered and Embodied Leadership

Neuroscience has shown us that intelligence lies not just in the brain—intellectual approaches address only 1/3 of our brains.

Explore how your three centres of intelligence guide your success in leadership, conscious communication, and influence during this highly interactive session.

Keynote speaker Cinnie Noble will also conduct a conflict management coaching workshop at the CLEBC Dispute Resolution Conference on May 26th. Cinnie will discuss the use of reflective questions as one coaching tool in helping people find their way through conflict. Here's a sample.


Cinnie Noble

The words “woulda coulda shoulda” often seem to be used in the aftermath of being in conflict when we are kicking ourselves for something we said or did or didn’t say or do. The following description provides a pertinent explanation: “For many people, there is a clear distinction between what actually happened and what they wished would have happened in a given situation. Sometimes, people realize a number of options they could have or should have taken instead of the action they actually took. This feeling of regret or second-guessing is summed up in the expression woulda coulda shoulda.

It is easier in hindsight to consider what may have been a more productive or constructive way to manage a conflict. The time and energy wasted with self-blame replete with woulda coulda shoulda language can be all consuming. Commonly, our recriminations also add to continued tension between the other person and us. Even criticizing ourselves for things we did not say or do when we had the opportunity creates discomfort for those who listen to our plaints.

Why do some of us engage in woulda coulda shoulda recriminations? Previous ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog topics suggested a number of reasons such as unresolved issues, lack of reconciliation, and continuing emotional investment in the matter. Low self-esteem and guilt also contribute to this state of reacting. These and other reasons and combinations of them vary from situation to situation and do not exist in all the conflicts in which we participate.

When self-blame prevails though, it is an opportune time for us to assess the wouldas couldas shouldas of the situation - to check out the reality of what we wished we had said or done. This week’s questions aim to help readers conduct such an exercise with yourself.


Considering a conflict situation about which you continue to blame yourself for some aspects, what do you think you “shoulda” said instead or differently from what you did?

What is the action you “coulda” taken?

What information, if you had it, may have helped you with the “woulda” part of the situation?

In what other ways are you blaming yourself about this particular interaction?

What do you think the other person “shoulda” said or done instead or differently?

What is the action you think she or he “coulda” taken instead?

What information may she or he have benefited from that “woulda” changed the course of her or his reaction?

In what ways does the woulda coulda shoulda self-blame keep you engaged in the dispute?

How much do you want to stop blaming yourself on a scale of 1-5, 5 being very much and 1 being not at all?

If you answer less than 5 in the above question, what does self-blame accomplish that you do not want to let go of – at least yet?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?

This discussion first appeared on the ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog - http://www.cinergycoaching.com/blog/

Welcome Message from Colleen Cattell, QC

Game Play and Collaboration

Sharon Sutherland

The “And Now for Something Completely Different” Conference offers a unique look at cultural influences that affect our approaches to collaborative practice. As one aspect of that exploration, we will have two events related to games: a games table at our afternoon “walk about” session (details tba in a follow-up post) and a Games event with wine and cheese following the formal presentations of the day. Both sessions tap into a central question of the conference – why is culture change around dispute resolution so very difficult?

For anyone who might be interested in an even more hand-on session on games, we will be drawing on work coming out of the CoRe Jolts Game Jam taking place at UBC Law this coming weekend – May 9-11. There is still space available to participate in this free event! Read CoRe Jolts’ description below for more details.

CoRe Jolts is very excited to be hosting a unique Game Jam aimed at the creation of collaborative tabletop games! Join us at UBC Faculty of Law on May 9-11!

Did you grow up playing only competitive games like Monopoly or Risk? Were "cooperative" games just the didactic and usually dull games elementary school teachers assigned? Certainly I grew up understanding games to be purely competitive and received (and internalized) a cultural message that individualized competition is good. That assumption was so much a part of my experience of games (and sports, and school, and...) that it remained an unconscious value influencing everything about the way I approached legal practice and mediation. And I am certain that a majority of my colleagues grew up with the same messages that individualized competition is natural, and the only possibility. As gaming scholar Carly A. Korucek notes, "models of play that aren’t based on competition among players...are obscure."


Obscure though they may be, models of play that depend on team-based competition (against the game) and group problem solving have the potential to test the cultural norms of competition and to offer opportunities to practice skills that might just help in conflict resolution settings. And, when designed well, they can offer unique (and fun) challenges to players who have to adapt their learned gaming approaches and make strategic choices based on different criteria for winning. Imagine creating games that can be utilized directly in a mediation or a four-way meeting to change the dynamic of competition to one of collaborative problem solving. Or games that allow families to practice problem solving as a fun - rather than didactic - activity. That's what we want to create this weekend!

You don't need to be some combination of mediator/gamer/designer to join us. We want to have a wide range of people who can contribute different ideas to self-selected teams. If you think it would be fun to develop a game like this, and you can commit the time to work with your team, then we want you. All ages and backgrounds welcome! There is no fee to attend, and lunches will be provided on Saturday and Sunday.

If you'd like to join us, check out additional details at http://corejolts.wordpress.com/game-jam/ or email us at coreclinic1@gmail.com. Register here.

Read more about collaborative games at CoRe Jolts!

BC’s ‘Generations’ of Mediators


Kari Boyle Kyra Hudson Shawn Johnston Sterling Nelson Paul Taberner

Kari Boyle

Kyra Hudson

Shawn Johnston

Sterling Nelson

Paul Taberner

Kari Boyle and Sterling Nelson will lead a panel discussion on “generational” differences in the experiences and understanding of dispute resolution professionals entering the field at different points in the development of mediation in BC. Supported by the results of a survey administered by Mediate BC, the panel will discuss such questions as:

  • can we define cohorts, or “generations”, of mediation practitioners and compare them in terms of early motivations, practice areas, and mediation activity?
  • how could possible differences align with the major developments in BC’s mediation history?
  • what can this information tell us about where the practice of mediation is heading in BC?

The larger Mediate BC survey will to gather, for the first time, data on mediation trends in volume, type and “success” of mediation in the province. The results will create a rich resource to assist in promoting mediation business.

If you are a practicing mediator please take approximately 15 minutes to complete the survey.

Begin the Survey

Response deadline: April 30, 2014

Your responses can be anonymous and will be kept absolutely confidential. The questions seek global responses and are not case specific.

Social and Emotional Interactions in Online Dispute Resolution

Darin Thompson

As online dispute resolution (ODR) becomes more common, we should expect ADR practitioners and academics to explore its potential risks and drawbacks. A common criticism relates to the shortcomings of technology-facilitated communication as it relates to emotion.

This criticism holds that ODR can’t support the same levels of social and emotional interactivity available through face-to-face (F2F) processes. A growing body of literature suggests ODR is somehow inferior and even potentially harmful in this regard.

ODR certainly can pose challenges for mediators accustomed to non-verbal cues like body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice in F2F sessions. But the broad rejection of ODR’s capacity to support the social and emotional aspects of conflict resolution misses some key points:


  1. ODR and F2F are, quite simply, different. The ‘better’ or ‘worse’ dynamic is unproductive and fails to reflect the creative and procedurally flexible ideals ADR was originally known for. In many cases, ODR processes don’t try to emulate F2F processes, seeking instead to create new potential, new techniques and new avenues to address unmet demand in the conflict resolution context.
  2. Technology is a socially rich medium that absolutely can ‘push our social buttons.’ Research shows we rely heavily (and subconsciously) on interpersonal social norms to guide our interactions online - even if we’re interacting only with a computer. We can become angry or jealous toward computers, and can be flattered by them too. The ADR community should broaden its perspectives and recognize that we do interact socially through technology – even if it’s different than F2F.
  3. People are good at making technology ‘work’ for them, even when it’s not used for the intended purpose. The internet was created by the US Military and universities for specific purposes, but we use it today for just about everything from banking, to dating, to sharing millions of cat videos on YouTube. People will make the internet work for ADR too. The F2F vs ODR dichotomy will be forgotten in the future.
  4. ODR’s perceived emotional shortcomings will constrain mediators more than users. At least one small study showed that where 72% of mediators found the lack of nonverbal cues to be a problem, 70% of users felt they were able to overcome the dynamic.
  5. ODR can offer benefits for managing social interactions. Different communication channels can make it easier to accommodate high conflict personalities. F2F won’t always be the preferred method.
  6. Sometimes, ‘good enough’ processes are best. We use Skype or text messaging because they are convenient, cheap and often the best ways to meet our communication needs. Even if ODR can’t replicate the emotional context of F2F, it can still be used appropriately for dispute resolution.

Looking ahead, technology will be used more and more for resolving our disputes, whether or not we agree that ODR is capable of handling social interactions and emotion. While it may be different than F2F, ODR nevertheless offers a range of benefits waiting to be discovered by the broader ADR community.

Making the Implicit Explicit: Lessons for Mediators and Negotiators from Outside the DR World

Sharon Sutherland

One of the most exciting aspects, for me, of the May 26th CLE Dispute Resolution conference is its inclusion of speakers from a wide variety of practices beyond traditional mediation and negotiation practice. In speaking with these presenters, I have been struck by the resonance of one particular theme throughout so many different sessions – the notion that conflict resolution, theatre, graphic facilitation, gaming, psychology, teaching and learning, and development of new tools and techniques for conflict resolution all involve a process of “making the implicit explicit.”

What do I mean by that phrase? As a former graduate student in Drama and Theatre Studies, I learned that term in the context of academic studies into the work of Augusto Boal and other theatre professionals focusing on tools for participatory democracy, and in learning about sociometry (a quantitative method for measuring social relationships) and sociodrama (a method of utilizing dramatic enactment and exercises to address social relationships, conflict and values). In these contexts, I learned theatre exercises designed to illuminate barriers to social change and to explore group dynamics in a visual and physical way rather than through intellectualized discussion. That these theatrical influences might have something to contribute to our understanding of mediation and negotiation has been a topic of considerable interest to me over the years, and I am excited to have the chance to introduce a few ideas from sociodrama, in particular, in the introductory session of the conference. I am even more excited, however, to see how these ideas play out across a wide range of presentations.


For most of us, it is readily apparent that interest-based mediation training is designed quite specifically to prepare the mediator to make the implicit in a conflict explicit to one or more parties in order to assist them in resolving their issues. Active listening skills such as paraphrasing and reframing are intended to name underlying values that may not be consciously recognized, let alone explicitly stated. We learn that helping parties to state the values and interests that inform their decision-making shifts the discussion from positions and allows for party-driven problem-solving. Similarly, acknowledging emotions is a mediator’s tool that makes the implicit explicit and often allows individuals to feel better understood and supported in the process of conflictual discussions. Drawing on other practices that aim for the same result – explicating individual interests, group dynamics, emotions and barriers – seems like a natural way to broaden our skill set as mediators or negotiators as well as to re-examine our tried and true techniques to see if they might benefit from reflection through an alternative lens.

In speaking with our other presenters, I have realized how deeply this idea of making the implicit explicit infuses other sessions, too. Perhaps I would not have identified this theme if I were not already thinking about my own session, but with that frame of reference in mind, it is extraordinary how many of our sessions provide new ways to make explicit the implicit understandings and norms of our practices. Some sessions that leap out to me as building on this specific role of the conflict resolution professional are:

  • Keynote speaker Cinnie Noble’s sessions on conflict management coaching which draw on her brilliant work in assisting individuals to understand their own approaches to conflict and to become much more conscious of the choices they make in conflict;
  • Kyra Hudson’s and Jim Sibley’s session on Collaboration in Competitive Culture which allows us to explore the ways in which we learn teamwork and to understand why it so often fails and what is required in order to make it work effectively (making explicit the actual workings of team work!);
  • Carrie Gallant’s and Bettina Rothe’s exploration of Embodied Leadership and its reliance on understanding more explicitly how our brain and body work together in the communication process; and,
  • Kari Boyle’s and Sterling Nelson’s panel exploration of generational trends in mediation development in BC and the use of quantitative research to extrapolate patterns that may guide us in the ongoing development of this practice.

All of our other sessions also push us to be explicit about our understandings of dispute resolution and to explore our reasons for the assumptions we make about the practice and about our approaches. As a consequence, I am looking forward to the wrap-up session and wine and cheese social much more than I usually do as opportunities to hear from participants about insights they may have gained simply because throughout the day they have been encouraged to make the implicit aspects of our work explicit.

The 'Fear Factor' and Conflict

Cinnie Noble

As with the participants who performed stunts on the reality show called “Fear Factor”, many of us are outside of our comfort zones when we are in conflict. Unlike the contestants though when we are in conflict many of us do not experience conflict as sport, and we also lack their apparent boldness. This article expands on the notion of ‘fear factor’ when it comes to engaging in relational conflict and processes designed to facilitate the way through them.

Common Fears

In my conflict management coaching practice, clients often share a range of fears about their experience of conflict, and about participating in an ADR process or managing their situations on their own with coaching. Loss is one of the fears. This may have to do with the fear of losing face, the relationship, control, and what they want as an outcome. Other common fears are of reprisal, and of letting themselves and others down.


It is usual for clients to also fear the possible emotional repercussions. These are often related to previous experiences with conflict, not only what they are feeling about their current situation. That is, some people have histories of being unable to regulate their emotions, or have been continually frustrated with their inability to express themselves when upset. Or, in the past (and possibly in their present situation) they have been overwhelmed by the other person’s reactions to them. Clients in these circumstances may be inclined to shut down, give in, accommodate, and try to avoid conflict altogether.

On the other hand, some people are habitually combative and confrontational. For these clients there may be fears about repeating such reactions in the current situation, and facing negative consequences that have typically followed previous interactions.

Apprehensions of the nature described above - and more - are often combined with self-limiting beliefs about the general ability to engage in conflict effectively. These and a host of contextual factors contribute to the ‘fear factor’ for some of our clients, and as a result their openness and willingness to participate in processes meant to assist them are compromised before they begin.

This article first appeared on Mediate.com - August 2013. Read the full article.