Mediator Education Program

Being HUMAN in the Practice of LAW

Human Dynamics and Conversational Intelligence are two of the challenges of law practice not taught in law school.  Basic neuroscience tells us that conversations affect the brain and impact our conversations with others. Our course Being HUMAN in the Practice of LAW addresses this omission in law training. Being HUMAN in the Practice of LAW is 6 hours in total, in 3 modules of 2 hours each. As an opportunity for lawyers to complete these courses while business is disrupted, we are offering two time options for the interactive livestream modules on 3 Tuesdays beginning  May 12 or on 3 Wednesdays beginning May 20. During this program, as lawyers and paralegals you learn to close the gap between intention and impact.  Build your capacity to inspire trust, develop understanding, create a productive workplace, and improve your cross-cultural communication.  Apply the concepts in your own practice environment. Taught by Tracy Quinton, an expert on getting people to work together to achieve results, and Kathryn Munn, a seasoned mediator, arbitrator, facilitator and lawyer. This program will be valuable to every lawyer and paralegal who has clients, and every lawyer and paralegal who works with an assistant, clerk, partner, or associate. Learn more and register here.  Image1 Image1 This course is accredited by the Law Society of Ontario for Continuing Professional Development.     This program contains: 3 hours and 50 minutes Professionalism AND 2 hours and 10 minutes of EDI Professionalism Tuesday Option Tues May 12 At 9 To 11 am; Tues May 26 At 9 To 11 am; AND Tues June 9 At 9 To 11 am Or Wednesday Option Wed May 20 At 2 To 4 pm; Wed June 3 At 2 To 4 pm; AND Wed June 17 At 2 To 4 pm KATHRYN MUNN, LL.B., Cert. ConRes., C. Med., C. Arb., IMI Certified Mediator is a mediator, facilitator, arbitrator and lawyer. Through her firm Munn Conflict Resolution Services based in London, Ontario, she has specialized in the prevention, management and resolution of conflict for more than 25 years.   Kathryn is a thorough, creative and persistent professional who adapts her approach to fit each situation. TRACY QUINTON, Organizational Strategist and founder of the Quinton Group, bringing 35 years of seasoned experience in the collaborative creation and execution of results-driven strategies; the results which take clients beyond their limiting expectations.  She works with leaders and teams to elevate the quality of conversations, and creates positive change within organizations by providing the framework and practices to listen, engage, architect and influence in the moment and share the future in all situations. Learn more and register here.

Do I Have What It Takes To Be A Mediator?

What are the qualities that contribute to being an effective mediator?  Recent conversations with people considering careers as mediators, brought me back to this topic.

There is a great deal written about what skills are needed by a mediator to be effective.  Those skills are learned in courses which teach mediation, such as the courses offered by Munn Conflict Resolution Services.

If I want to assess the personal traits I need to work as mediator, that subject has not had as much attention by authors.

How do I know if I have what it takes to be a mediator?

After more than 20 years teaching mediation courses and more years as a mediator, here’s my checklist of seven essential mediator traits.

  • Adaptability
    • A mediator needs ability to build genuine rapport with many different people. Without feeling trust people will not open up to reveal what they truly need.
    • The mediator adapts to what the people want rather than trying to impose an outcome on them.
  • Objectivity and self -control
    • The mediator must always remain objective and never jump to the side of one of the disputing people, even in a private conversation with them.
    • The mediator must resist any temptation to try to manipulate people.
    • The mediator must be able to manage their own emotions. Getting angry right back at them is not effective.
  • Tenacity/ Perseverance
    • If the mediator were to quit when people say they can’t agree, very few mediations would result in an agreed outcome.  There is usually a way around any impasse and the mediator needs to stay focussed on the way forward, not the barriers.
  • Demeanour
    • An organized and confident professional manner is necessary to reassure people that the mediator can help even when the situation is difficult.
  • Analytical ability
    • The mediator needs to be constantly alert to what is happening with each person in the room, with the overall meeting dynamics, and how the mediator’s intervention is affecting the people.
    • Sometimes called intuition, the mediator needs to be able to discern what people need despite what they say and their legal positioning.
  • Creativity
    • Creativity is the spark that can help people to find new ideas for solutions, and to be willing to keep talking to build those ideas into a practical agreement.
  • Patience & Tact
    • It takes patience and tact to maintain rapport with people and at the same time be able to help them assess ideas that may be very emotional or challenging.
    • Also patience and tact are needed to keep listening and building understanding between people who do not believe it is possible to resolve their situation.

In addition to this list of seven personal qualities,  the mediator needs knowledge about the subject area of the mediation at least to the level of understanding the nuances of the conflict.

If you ticked off most of these boxes, consider taking a mediation course.   Maybe you have a new direction for your career.

Build your mediation skills in spring 2020!

Register now for the course Fundamentals of Mediation at Munn Conflict Resolution Services in beautiful London, Ontario. 

Early Registration Discount ends Friday, February 14!

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – March 25, 26, 27, 30 and 31, 2020 – 5 days – 40 hours.

Recognized by

  •  the ADR Institute of Ontario
  • the Law Society of Ontario.

Click here for full details about our Mediator Education Program.

Give The Gift Of Your Advice – Or Not!

Ever been asked for advice by a friend or family member? Or seen a friend struggling with a bad situation and felt you could help them with some advice?  Then you gave your advice and they didn’t follow it. Or worse, they seemed hurt or offended by what you said.

Along with the pleasures of celebrating with friends and family, holiday gatherings often provide potentially risky temptation to give advice to the people we care about.

This year, if you feel tempted to give advice or even if you are asked for advice, consider the following ideas to leave them smiling with your response.

First of all, recognize that it’s not just about them.  Giving advice feels good.  According to a study published in 2018 in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, giving advice increases the adviser’s sense of power because of the perception that the adviser influences the other person’s behavior. 

A recent article on this topic in the New York Times summarized three factors identified by researchers  that determine whether input will be taken to heart.  “People will go along with advice if it was costly to attain and the task is difficult (think: lawyers interpreting a contract). Advice is also more likely to be taken if the person offering counsel is more experienced and expresses extreme confidence in the quality of the advice (doctors recommending a treatment, for example)”.    Very often the advice we are  asked for in social situations is expected to be free and may be outside our area of expertise.

The third factor about acceptance of advice as identified by researchers is the influence of emotion.  People are less likely to be influenced by advice if they feel convinced about what they’re going to do, (example:  I’m going to stay with the no-good partner no matter what),  or they’re angry ( such as: I’ll text her now while I’m good and mad).   Holiday gatherings with additional inputs such as alcohol make it even harder to manage the effect of emotion.

So how does a caring friend handle giving advice?

  1. Assess: What does the person want? 

Make sure that the person is inviting your advice.  Sometimes they just want to be heard.

In the days when I was a new lawyer with recent and limited expertise for which people sought my advice, I had a family member struggling with a physical health problem.  Whenever I saw the person she talked for a long time about her condition.  I responded with helpful advice about what I thought she could do to alleviate her suffering.  Years later when I reflected about our relationship, I realized that she was not seeking advice.  She wanted me to listen to her.  Just that.

If you’re not sure whether your advice is being sought, ask.   “Would you like to hear some of my ideas?  When is a good time? “    

Be ready to take “no” for an answer.  If you persist in giving advice after their response is no, it becomes more about exercising your power than helping them.

  1. Clarify: What advice would they like? 

Ask exactly what they want to know that you can help with.  Then to make sure you understand, repeat back to them what you heard and check that with them. 

Improving your understanding of the context also helps to ensure that your advice is useful.  Ask what the person has already done about the problem so that you can focus on different ideas.  Consider what the person hopes as an outcome and if it is not clear, ask them.    

  1. Look inward: Am I qualified to give this advice?

Consider your own expertise.  Even if you are a close friend or family member you may not have the qualifications to give the advice.   If you have the expertise, go ahead and advise.  If not, identify the bounds of your expertise and keep your advice within that.  For questions where you do not have the qualifications, help them find someone else who is able to provide the advice.  Make sure that you are putting the advice-seeker’s needs first.

  1. Speak from experience

Be friendly and reassuring.  Start by mentioning what they have done well in handling the situation so far.  Avoid using a preachy tone and judgmental words like  “should” and “should not”.

Advice is usually received best when you speak from your own experience.  “When I was in a similar situation here’s what worked for me.” 

It may be helpful to frame what you say as  “ideas” or “thoughts” rather than talk about advice. This creates an atmosphere of collaboration rather than the adviser working on, and exercising power over, the advice-seeker.   

  1. Offer support

After discussing the problem and ideas about how to handle it, don’t expect them to follow everything you said.  Let them know it’s your expectation that not everything discussed may be a fit for them.    A positive way to close the advice-giving conversation is to ask what pieces of the discussion they will use  to take action.  Help them to identify a course of action and include what, if any, continued role they see for you.   Always respect their autonomy. It is up to them to decide whether you checking back with them in future would seem overbearing or supportive. 


Using these ideas to support the advice- seeker can help both adviser and advice-seeker feel empowered and positive. 

What great holiday gift for both of you!


Struggling  with conflict?

Build your conflict resolution skills in  spring 2020!

Register now for the course Fundamentals of Mediation at Munn Conflict Resolution Services in beautiful London, Ontario. 

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – March 25, 26, 27, 30 and 31, 2020 – 5 days – 40 hours.

Recognized by

  •  the ADR Institute of Ontario
  • the Law Society of Ontario.

Early Registration Discount ends Friday, February 14!

Click here for full details about our Mediator Education Program.


Give Better Feedback Even When You’re Not In Charge – 5 Tips

How challenging it is to give feedback which improves the situation!  This reminder came during my recent work with a workplace conflict made much worse by unskilled feedback. 

What causes many of us to shy away from providing feedback to help ourselves and our co-workers to do better?   Even more challenging is to encourage better feedback in your organization when you are not in charge. 

According to Roger Fisher and Alan Sharp in Getting it Done:  How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge, our reluctance to provide feedback is because we lack the skill to do it well.  

First of all, not all feedback is alike.  There are at least 3 different purposes in giving feedback – to encourage the recipients, to help them improve their skills, or to help the organization make decisions about promotion, training or firing.

  • APPRECIATION is expression of gratitude or approval of another’s effort. It is an expression of emotion, designed to meet an emotional need.
  • ADVICE (or COACHING) consists of suggestions about particular behavior that should be repeated or changed. It focuses on the performance, rather than judging the person.
  • EVALUATION is ranking the subject’s performance in relation to that of others or against an explicit or implicit set of standards.

Evaluation is very frequently used in school environments and in workplace performance review processes.   Whether the test score is A or C,  the job performance is rated “meets expectations” or not, the emotions involved in receiving your evaluation – good or bad — drown out the value of the coaching provided at the same time.   The person being evaluated usually does not absorb the advice provided along with the grading.  The two objectives are at cross-purposes and we need to use them more strategically.

Here are 5 suggestions to improve your feedback.

  1. Separate the Kinds of Feedback 

Offer different kinds of feedback at different times.  At the very least if the situation requires 2 or 3 of the purposes such as during a performance review, provide a clear signal when you are switching from appreciation or coaching to evaluation.

  1. Express Appreciation to Motivate

When should you offer appreciation? Always.

In the words of Roger Fisher and Alan Sharp,

It’s always a good time to spend a moment boosting someone else’s mood, and thus boosting their productivity. The cost is low: it takes only a minute to drop by someone’s office and say, “I’m grateful for your hard work.”

Because the need for appreciation is an emotional need, the most direct way to communicate appreciation is by mentioning your subjective feelings.

  • I was happy with your work.
  • I am proud to work with you.
  • I feel confident that you can handle problems in the office when I am away.
  • I am impressed with how hard you try.

This is more of a challenge if you are not happy with their work.  It is not helpful to fake positive comments.  They will pick up on empty flattery and your purpose of motivation will not be achieved.

Find something positive to acknowledge.   Maybe they tried hard but the bad results were not within their control.  It is more difficult to find a positive when the effort and the results both are not good.  Someone facing a failure from a job performance that should have been better,  will not appreciate comments to rub in the failure.  Their emotions may be improved and they may be more motivated by an expression of empathy.

  1. Offer Advice to Improve Performance

When the purpose of the feedback is appreciation, the comments are directed toward the person.  In contrast, for feedback focused on giving advice or coaching, the comments should be about the person’s performance, the specific behavior that the person could choose to do or not do. Coaching feedback is focused on the performance, and not the person; how to improve the work, not how to improve the human.

Start by asking questions to make sure you understand what the person was trying to do.  Also ask the person when would be a good time to discuss your suggestions and whether there is a particular aspect of their performance on which the person would like your feedback. Before giving your advice, it can also be very useful to ask the person for their thoughts about their performance and how it could be improved.

The two categories of coaching feedback are to reinforce what worked well and offer suggestions about what could be done differently. Make sure the advice is specific and clear and not just a broad “Good job” or “That didn’t work”.    Remember to notice successes and point those out so that the person is more likely to repeat them. 

As with children, we adults find it easier to concentrate on what we should do rather than what we should not do.  Therefore it is more effective to frame your comments in the positive – “Do more of X,” rather than, “Do less of Y”.

Your advice about what could be done differently will seem less threatening after you have identified what has worked well.  Try to limit your suggestions for change to a maximum of 2 or 3 at one time.  The person is not likely to remember a list of 20 changes that you suggest.

  1. Evaluate Only When Needed

By now it should be clear that not all feedback is evaluation.  Usually evaluation is not the best way to improve performance. Reserve evaluation for occasions when it is a necessary part of decisions about human resources like promotion, or firing.

If we are offering feedback about what worked well and what could be done differently, we do not need to provide an evaluation of the person’s work compared with others or with a scale.  A broad comment like telling someone they are the best or worst in the group is not helpful in communicating what they need to do to improve or to build on what they are doing well.   

Occasionally evaluation is needed as a tool to encourage improvement if appreciation and advice have not been sufficient.  Evaluation may be needed to give somebody a “kick in the pants” — to encourage them to try harder

  1. Encourage Feedback When You Are Not In Charge

Back to the person who is not in charge and who would like to improve the skills and assumptions about feedback in their organization.   First, offer appreciation to peers, subordinates, and those to whom you report.   They will likely be grateful for this.

Volunteering to coach your boss could be risky in some organizations.  A better strategy is to request coaching from others in the hierarchy, especially those who report to you.  This demonstrates that you are willing to listen to observations about your performance and helps to create a positive atmosphere for coaching in general.  Then make sure to listen carefully to what you can learn from the feedback.


Finally I am going to take my own advice. If you have feedback about the Common Ground Blog please contact me.  What is working  well?  What should be done differently?

Still curious?  Here is a recent post in the Farnham Street Blog on this topic

 Build your conflict resolution skills this fall.

Last opportunity for 2019 course fees!

Register now for the course Fundamentals of Mediation at Munn Conflict Resolution Services in beautiful London, Ontario. 

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – October 30, 31, November 1, 4, and 5, 2019 – 5 days – 40 hours.

Recognized by

  •  the ADR Institute of Ontario
  • the Law Society of Ontario.

Early Registration Discount ends Wednesday, September 25!

Click here for full details about our Mediator Education Program.

Learn to Embrace Workplace Conflict

Conflict in a workplace is unavoidable. The ability to deal effectively with conflict is an important skill for everyone in a workplace and is essential for leadership.

Trying to avoid conflict is the least helpful method for dealing with workplace conflict. Rarely does conflict disappear when ignored.  It is much more likely to escalate, to blow up a small problem into a much larger event.

“The ability to recognize conflict, understand the nature of conflict, and to be able to bring swift and just resolution to conflict will serve you well as a leader – the inability to do so may well be your downfall,” according to Mike Myatt in an article for

The failure to be able to resolve workplace conflict can lead to a loss of productivity, and block creativity and collaboration.   Another frequent consequence is the departure of talented employees who choose not to stay in an uncomfortable environment where they may experience bullying or a poisoned atmosphere. 

Recently I was working with two leaders of a well-established small business. The leaders were struggling with long-standing conflict between them.  As in many conflict situations, communication problems played a big part in the conflict.  Lack of information, unclear communication, different interpretations of information were all mixed up in the turmoil. 

Without sufficient information both leaders were making assumptions. Then all of that was escalated by an increasingly heated emotional climate as each focused on blaming the other rather than resolving the conflict. 

Both leaders had good intentions and wanted the company to succeed. The stakes were high. Their unresolved conflict was causing negative ripples amongst employees and customers, and significantly interfering with the company’s stability.   

The situation can be even more difficult if the participants in the conflict are trying to manipulate or mislead the others.

As a leader do not let yourself be caught in destructive crossfire of conflict in your workplace.

Develop the skills to be use conflict as an opportunity for growth and leverage differing opinions to stimulate the innovation and development of your team.

Build your conflict resolution skills this fall.

Join the course Fundamentals of Mediation at Munn Conflict Resolution Services in beautiful London, Ontario.

Early Registration Discount ends Wednesday, August 21!

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of MediationSeptember 25, 26, 27, 30, and October 1, 2019 – 5 days – 40 hours.

    • Recognized by the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Law Society of Ontario.
    • Early Registration Discount ends Wednesday, August 21!

Click here for full details about our Mediator Education Program.


Read the full article by Mike Myatt here

The Workplace Seven – 7 Ways to Gain Respect in the Workplace

Behaving with respect for others and being treated with respect seems simple and common sense. In extreme situations it may be easy to identify harassment, discrimination, workplace violence, or other human rights violations which could indicate a lack of respect in the workplace. Closer to the dividing line it is not so easy to distinguish respect from a lack of respect.

Recently I worked with a team in which there were complaints that some employees were not following the “respect in the workplace policy”. I was reminded that we cannot control anyone else’s behaviour.

We can control our own behaviour and make sure our actions merit respect in the workplace.  A common example is that when we hear gossip from others we can choose not to participate and disengage politely from joining future personal chat about people who are not present. The situation got me thinking about ways to gain respect in the workplace.


Seven Ways to Gain Respect in the Workplace

1.  Every day that you work demonstrate your unique value as an employee.

Each employee was hired to bring their unique talents to the workplace. Just like a professional athlete you need to bring your A game to work every single day. You gain respect from peers, supervisors and customers when you consistently make your full effort to complete each task in your job. 

2.  Smile. Stay positive and focused whether it’s a time of celebration or challenge.

A warm smile will take you a long way. When you are celebrating an achievement at work of you or your company, a smile communicates the positive moment better than words. Even when you are on the phone your customers or co-workers can “hear” your smile.

It is more challenging is to keep smiling and maintain a positive attitude when things go wrong. When there is adversity, the employee who stays focussed and brings their full strength to the job gains respect.

3. Be patient with your peers and yourself.

Recognize the strengths of you and your colleagues and make allowances for the weaknesses.We are all human and none of us is perfect. Show consideration by recognizing the strengths of others and being patient with their weaknesses.   Each of your fellow employees was also hired to bring their unique skills to the workplace.

Remember to be patient and forgiving with yourself, too. Compassion for yourself is a base from which you can extend compassion for others. Sometimes we tell ourselves negative messages that we would never say to someone else. That frustration with ourselves can spill over into our communication with others.

4. Go beyond the call of duty whenever you can.

Be the person who will stay late to finish a project or cover someone else’s duties when there is an emergency. While you need to follow the basic outline of your job, your willingness to do more than is expected will be rewarded with respect from your co-workers and others in your organization.

5. Know your limits. Don’t overwhelm yourself.

This is the shadow side of number 4. While you need to collaborate and do more than is expected in your job, it must be balanced with fulfilling the basics of your job. If you accept a workload which is too heavy, you may find yourself overwhelmed and not able to accomplish what you need to do.   Set boundaries for yourself so that you are consistently able to do your best.

6.  Listen to others.

Explain your point of view with care so they can understand you.Use your active listening skills to hear others and really understand what they are saying. Then after they have been heard, they will be more willing to listen to your perspective. Take the time to explain your ideas with care so that it is easy for others to understand.

7.  Collaborate with others. Build your skills as a conflict resolver.

There may be times when you need to work with people, even people you don’t like, in other departments and other layers in your organization. Accept that conflict will happen and be ready to work on finding a collaborative resolution that will work for everyone involved.


Struggling with conflict? Build your conflict resolution skills this fall!

This fall join the course Fundamentals of Mediation at Munn Conflict Resolution Services in beautiful London, Ontario.

Early Registration Discount ends Wednesday, August 21!

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of MediationSeptember 25, 26, 27, 30, and October 1, 2019 – 5 days – 40 hours.

    • Recognized by the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Law Society of Ontario.
    • Early Registration Discount ends Wednesday, August 21!

Click here for full details about our Mediator Education Program.

To Caucus or Not To Caucus in Mediation?

Caucus-only mediation has become increasingly popular in many mediations for business, insurance, even more personal situations such as estate and workplace disputes. Recent research shows that the caucus-only mediation approach has negative consequences.  As an experienced mediator, that research conclusion was not a surprise to me.

During a caucus, the disputing parties are in separate rooms, and the mediator moves back and forth between the rooms, communicating their negotiation messages.  When caucus is used for most or all of the mediation, the disputing parties are rarely in the same room, hardly talk with each other or may not even see each other.

Caucus is contrasted with joint session where everyone meets in the same room. Sometimes the mediation starts with a joint session where the mediator explains the guidelines of the mediation. After that the representative for each party may have an opportunity to briefly outline their party’s perspective in an opening statement. Sometimes the opening statements and even the beginning joint session are omitted and the parties spend the whole mediation in separate rooms.

Caucus-only mediation shifts power away from the people in the dispute to the mediator. This has negative consequences which wipe out much of the value that mediation can provide for the participants.

My experience over more than 22 years has shown me that mediation is more likely to resolve the conflict and more likely to result in a durable resolution, if the parties spend a high proportion of the mediation in joint session. It turns out that researchers have reached conclusions along these lines.

The report I read recently is a study of the court- connected mediation process in Maryland, published in January 2016. The study considered the effectiveness of various mediation strategies in reaching agreement. The study also measured attitudinal shifts of the participants toward each other and their belief in their ability to work together, over the short term (immediately after mediation) and longer term (3 to 6 months later).

The study found that in the short-term the greater the percentage of time participants spend in caucus, the more likely the participants are to report:

  • the mediator controlled the outcome,
  • the mediator pressured them into solutions,
  • the mediator prevented issues from coming out,
  • less satisfaction with the mediation process and outcome,
  • less satisfaction that the issues were resolved with a fair and implementable outcome,
  • increased sense of powerlessness,
  • increased belief that conflict is negative, and
  • increased desire to better understand the other participant “presumably because they did not better understand the other party as a result” of the mediation.

In the long-term, the study found that the greater the percentage of time participants spent in caucus the more the researchers observed:

  • a decrease in participants’ consideration of the other person,
  • decreased self-efficacy (belief in one’s ability to talk and make a difference),
  • decreased sense that the court cares about resolving conflict from the time before the mediation to several months later, and
  • greater likelihood of the participants returning to court in the 12 months after mediation for an enforcement action.

Another finding was that the percentage of time spent in caucus had “no statistically significant impact (positive or negative) on reaching an agreement”.

Recommendations for more effective mediation:

The recommendations from the researchers were:

  • Encourage mediation “practices that focus on eliciting participants’ solutions and reflecting back to participants”.
  • Discourage mediation “strategies that are heavily focused on caucus and [mediators] offering their own solutions and opinions”.

When selecting a mediator, my recommendation is to:

  • Choose a mediator who is able to proceed with the mediation mainly in joint session using an approach which invites the participants to express their interests and ideas for solution.

My recommendations for lawyers and representatives:

  • Help your clients understand the benefits of joint sessions.
  • Help your clients accept that conflict, though uncomfortable, is better managed than avoided.
  • Help your clients develop strategies to listen  and express themselves effectively in the mediation.

My recommendation for using mostly joint sessions changes if there are special circumstances such as a safety risk which can be managed by using only caucus.

Although participants may feel more uncomfortable in joint sessions, my experience and this research confirms that avoiding the discomfort of conflict does not work as well for the participants.

While they may be able to reach an agreement using caucus, it is likely less effective for the participants in the short and long term. Mediation creates an opportunity to have the difficult conversation that is most effective for the resolution needed by the participants.

Nothing will lower your credibility faster than avoiding conflict.

–Morris Shechtman, 2003

Read the full report here.


Build your conflict resolution skills this spring.

Register for the Mediator Education Program at Munn Conflict Resolution Services this spring in beautiful London, Ontario.

Early Registration Discount ends Monday, Feb 11!

If you are considering becoming a professional mediator, our schedule gives you the opportunity to complete sufficient training to apply for the Q. Med. designation this spring.

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – March 20, 21, 22, 25, & 26 – 5 days – 40 hours.

    • Recognized by the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Law Society of Ontario.
    • Early registration discount ends Monday, February 11 !

Course # 2 – Mediation Beyond the Basics – May 6, 7, & 8, 2019 – 3 days – 21 hours

Course # 3 – Advanced Mediation – June 3, 4, & 5, 2019 – 3 days – 21 hours


How Not to Be Stupid

How not to be stupid is a subject that is smart to think about. Stupidity is not lack of intelligence but a symptom of intelligence being overridden in a complex environment.

A recent post by Shane Parrish in the Farnam Street Blog describes an interview with Adam Robinson (@IAmAdamRobinson) who developed a definition of stupidity as “overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information”.

In other words, if something is crucial, it’s very important. If it’s conspicuous, it’s easily available and probably I already know it. Therefore it is stupid if I overlook or dismiss very important and easily available information which I already know. That stupidity can cause errors. If I am driving and make an error in changing lanes, it could lead to death or injury of me or someone else.

In his research Adam Robinson identified 7 factors which cause errors. These are

  1. being outside of your circle of competence, or outside your normal environment,
  2. physical or emotional stress, or fatigue,
  3. rushing or a sense of urgency,
  4. fixation on an outcome, or doing a task that requires intense focus,
  5. information overload,
  6. being in the presence of a group, where social cohesion comes into play, and
  7. being in the presence of an authority or expert, even if you are the expert.

Alone, each of these factors influence us powerfully to make mistakes. When the factors are piled together there is a dramatic increase in the odds that “you are unaware that you’ve been cognitively compromised,” according to Adam Robinson.

For example when I am driving, if I am in a hurry to get where I’m going and I am talking on the phone through the car’s bluetooth, I am much more likely to make a driving error.

Sometimes the stupidity is engineered purposely to defraud or manipulate. Sometimes it’s used for a more benign purpose, such as a magician providing entertainment.

Not being stupid is important. The third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind cancer and heart disease, is automobile accidents. Another chilling statistic is that “210,000 to 440,000 people die every year in the United States from hospital error.” I think the statistics for Canada are similar.

How can we avoid being stupid?

For me, I am going to try not to be stupid by being particularly aware of the risk of error when one or more of those 7 factors are happening.

For example, that means deferring decisions until I am rested, and not rushed. When I’m mediating, it means using the meeting time efficiently and avoiding a last-minute temptation to rush the details into a written agreement.  It means hanging up the phone when driving, if the traffic is unusual or I don’t know the area.

But often minimizing or eliminating the 7 factors isn’t possible.

When I am working – or driving – in circumstances where unavoidably one or more one of the 7 factors are occurring, it comes down to being alert to my tendency for errors and trying to make sure I do not overlook or dismiss information that is crucial and right there in front of me.

How will you avoid being stupid?

Read the full article by Shane Parrish here.


Would you like to develop your conflict resolution skills?

Register for the Mediator Education Program at Munn Conflict Resolution Services this spring in beautiful London, Ontario.

If you are considering becoming a professional mediator, our schedule gives you the opportunity to complete sufficient training to apply for the Q. Med. designation this spring.

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – March 20, 21, 22, 25, & 26 – 5 days – 40 hours.

  • Recognized by the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Law Society of Ontario.
  • Early registration discount ends February 11 !

Course # 2 – Mediation Beyond the Basics – May 6, 7, & 8, 2019 – 3 days – 21 hours

Course # 3 – Advanced Mediation – June 3, 4, & 5, 2019 – 3 days – 21 hours


The Gift of Being Wrong

As a special gift at this year-end, let’s give ourselves the freedom to be wrong. Get unstuck from the pressure of being right. Go ahead and make mistakes.

Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.

– Peter T. McIntyre


Long before modern self-help writers, St Augustine is credited with the observation: “ Fallor ergo sum”, I err therefore I am.


For many of us, our schooling has taught us that being wrong is a bad thing and that success in life comes from never making mistakes. Very often learners in schools are penalized for mistakes, and not encouraged to embrace the learning that develops from those mistakes.


This always-being-right bias can leave us blind to our own errors, until it’s too late to fix the problem. Think of the cartoon coyote chasing the road-runner off the cliff, running out into the air, and not falling until he looks down and realizes he’s no longer on solid ground.


"Our love of being right is best understood as our fear of being wrong."
― Kathryn Schulz


Kathryn Schulz is the author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. In her TED talk on being wrong she summarized the 3 assumptions we make when someone disagrees with us.


  1. The Ignorance Assumption: “… The first thing we usually do when someone disagrees with us is that we just assume they are ignorant. You know, they don’t have access to the same information we do and when we generously share that information with them, they are going to see the light and come on over to our team.”
  2. The Idiocy Assumption: “When it turns out those people have all the same information and they still don’t agree with us we move onto a second assumption. They’re idiots. They have all the right pieces of the puzzle and they are too moronic to put them together.”
  3. The Evil Assumption: “When it turns out that people have all the same facts that we do and they are pretty smart we move onto a third assumption. They know the truth and they are deliberately distorting it for their own malevolent purposes.”

Turns out that when someone disagrees with us, the wrong is that we think the other person is wrong. Our ego is so busy trying to protect us from being wrong, that we completely lose the idea of  objectively analysing which of us is right, or wrong, or whether each of us is somewhat right and somewhat wrong.


"The secret to being wrong isn't to avoid being wrong!   The secret is being willing to be wrong.  The secret is realizing that wrong isn't fatal."
Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?


Then  we treat the other person as if our wrong assumptions are right, thus damaging and even ending relationships, not because they disagree with us, but because of this pattern in our own heads.  


"For a scientist, this is a good way to live and die, maybe the ideal way for any of us – excitedly finding we were wrong and excitedly waiting for tomorrow to come so we can start over."
Norman Maclean


For 2019, I invite you to join me in a challenge to take off the blinders and embrace being wrong. Usually the people who disagree with us are not ignorant, stupid, and evil. They are people like us who can be wrong even if we are right.

Use Your Power!

When I talk to people involved in a conflict, often both tell me they feel powerless. It is a very common perception.

There are many sources of power. A few examples are: formal authority, institutional, expert information, access to resources, procedural, moral and personal power. As a mediator, I am alert to the use of power between my clients and I can help them use their power more effectively.

Use of power is a method of resolving conflict. Many of us use the power of unilateral action at an early age when we grab the toy we want from another toddler. Later in life we learn other conflict resolution methods that are rights-based and interest-based.

In addition to unilateral action, another method of power-based dispute resolution is authoritative command. The manager can resolve workplace conflict by deciding the outcome, assigning work, or transferring someone to another position. While authoritative command may seem efficient, it may not be fair, just, or ultimately effective in resolving the conflict.

Power is not static. During a relationship or during a negotiation, power shifts from one person to the other. Power is not a fixed commodity which someone can give us or take from us.

If my company is experiencing conflicts with the landlord of our rented premises, I could use my power to take unilateral action. Although the landlord has power to set the lease terms within the limit of the applicable laws, I have the power to move my company to another location, and even buy a building to avoid future landlord conflicts.

The risk is that I may lose customers who are used to the old location, and possibly create an opportunity for another entrepreneur to locate in my old premises and offer competition to my products or services. That option tilts power to the landlord.

If my business is one-of-a-kind, not reliant on customers coming to the location, or the old location is hard to rent, the power dynamic shifts in my direction.

When we are involved in a conflict it is helpful to analyse our power relative to the other person. Ask, What power do I have in the situation? As in the examples above, the manager or the landlord has power, and at the same time the tenant or the employee has power also.

One of the most effective strategies is to shift from “power over” to “power with”. If I try to use my power to make you do something you would not otherwise do, it is going to be difficult. If I choose to use my power to work with you to solve our mutual problem, I am much more likely to be successful in getting a full, long-lasting resolution.

Would you like to develop your conflict resolution skills?

Register for the Mediator Education Program at Munn Conflict Resolution Services this fall in beautiful London, Ontario.

If you are considering becoming a professional mediator, our schedule gives you the opportunity to complete sufficient training to apply for the Q. Med. designation in 2018.

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – September 26, 27, 28, October 1 & 2, 2018– 5 days – 40 hours.

Recognized by the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Early registration discount ends August 22!

Course # 2 – Mediation Beyond the Basics – November 14, 15, & 16, 2018– 3 days – 21 hours

Course # 3 – Advanced Mediation – December 3, 4, and 5, 2018– 3 days – 21 hours


Mediator Education Program