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Association for Conflict Resolution - Chicago Chapter

  • 08 Dec 2015 9:28 AM | Joe Dillon (Administrator)

    On October 1, 2015, the Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County held a seminar to discuss a summary of Public Act 99-90 (SB-57).

    Below you will find  a 3-part video of the presentation. Materials from the presentation may be found here:






  • 24 Nov 2015 5:12 PM | Joe Dillon (Administrator)

    On November 3, 2015, Divorce Coach and Equitable Mediation Services Co-Founder Cheryl Dillon shared with ACR Chicago her tips and tricks for mastering interactions with emotionally charged and highly demanding clients.

    In her presentation she asked us to think about life at work and at home and how in virtually every moment of our lives, we are in relationships with clients, co-workers, significant others, friends, family as well as ourselves and how these relationships can either bring us much joy or a great deal of pain and tension.


    Given that so many of us interact with emotionally charged clients on a regular basis, it’s often the latter, I would say!

    She explained if we leave these “energy drains” unaddressed, they can result in stress and burnout which will negatively impact many other aspects of our lives. Even the relationships we want to have and enjoy. I'm sure we can all think of a friend or family member we try to avoid because they're constantly complaining!


    Cheryl then shared with us the principles of Energy Leadership™ and how we could master interactions with emotionally charged people in our lives by knowing what energy level they were, what energy level we were and how to "meet them where they are" by speaking their energy "language." I know I for one walked away with a number of practical tips on how to speak with my clients and I know others did too.


    You can learn more about Cheryl and Equitable Mediation by visiting their website or calling her at (877) 732-6682.

  • 19 Oct 2015 10:45 AM | Joe Dillon (Administrator)

    Written by Louis Marlin  from JAMS and originally appearing on the JD Supra Business Advisor.

    October 12 kicked off the 2015 ABA Mediation Week. This year’s theme is “Mediation: Successes, Challenges, Trends and the Next Generation: Looking to the past, present and future.” Lawyers and mediators understand both the challenges and rewards of helping parties in conflict reach an agreement by getting past differences in positions, by understanding each other’s perspectives better and by finding ways to get their important interests met while staying true to their values and belief systems.

    Following is an interesting perspective that touches on that subject.

    Attorneys benefit from a unique educational experience that trains us to look at problems and challenges from all sides. We learn to think like lawyers, being able to examine issues dispassionately, seeking to find solutions for the benefit of our clients no matter what side of a dispute we are on.  In fact, when representing a client, we frequently try and consider what the opposition would do to defeat us as a method of planning our strategy.

    However, in the world of litigation, this broader “two-sided” view of issues and disputes, while helpful, is frequently only one tool used by attorneys. Litigators are, by definition, advocates, and when it comes to trials, mediations and arbitrations, their job is to steer the proceeding or discussion to a view of the dispute that puts their client in the most favorable light possible.

    Importantly, the ability to view both sides of an issue returns to the fore when a lawyer moves from the position of advocate to becoming a “neutral” – as a judicial officer, arbitrator or mediator. Making this transition – moving back to the mindset of taking a holistic view of a problem – requires a conscious effort to shed the sword of advocacy for the cloak of neutrality. Neutrality after years of advocacy means accepting the challenge of taking a fresh look at issues that are presented and disputes which require resolution.

    The task is not a simple one. It requires the effort of distinguishing between the knowledge one has on a subject from the bias one may have for one side or the other. Having recently undertaken this transition myself, I have found the following considerations to be helpful in this process:

    1. Read the mediation or arbitration briefs carefully. Serving as a neutral in connection with a dispute involving an area of law with which the neutral is very familiar invites “skimming” the briefs. This can easily result in having the neutral’s bias creep into the proceedings.
    2. Ask questions. If a party’s position or argument is unclear, it is the neutral’s obligation to seek clarification. In mediations, both sides are entitled to the neutral’s full and complete understanding of their respective positions.
    3. Limit your decision. In regard to trials and arbitrations, a neutral’s decision should be crafted to fall within the four corners of the dispute presented, and no further.
    4. Know your role. While a neutral may well serve the role of trier of fact in an arbitration or trial, that role is much different in a mediation. The neutral must keep foremost in his/her mind that the role of a mediator is to help move the parties to a mutually acceptable resolution, and that taking a hard and fast position for one side or the other will ultimately result in a lack of credibility that will hamper the neutral’s effectiveness.

    Actively working to prevent bias from impacting decisions and actions is the key to transitioning from attorney to credible and effective neutral.

  • 01 Oct 2015 10:03 PM | Joe Dillon (Administrator)

    From the Mediator's Monthly Newsletter

    Written by Ross Edwards

    Research has shown that, when people's sympathetic nervous system is activated –the "fight or flight response" – they essentially become incapable of thinking clearly, acting skillfully, or making clear-headed choices; not conducive to resolving conflict. Skilled mediators who observe a fight or flight response during mediations reduce or eliminate it before proceeding.

    There are many ways to accomplish this. Spending a minute or two deeply and consciously breathing often does the trick, if the disputant is receptive to it. As does taking a short break and getting some space and fresh air. Some mediators believe that, a disputant getting "triggered" can be a good cue to separate the parties and start caucusing. While having the parties talk to one another is valuable, as is feeling and expressing anger, fear, and discomfort, this is less true when one is locked in a fight or flight response, especially if the other disputant senses a competitive advantage.

    Mediators too need to be aware of their mind states when mediating disputes. We are not immune to these feelings. We cannot serve disputants and help them peacefully resolve their conflict if we don't feel some degree of peace in our hearts and minds. These practices are just as important to mediators as to disputants.

    But these lessons are not just relevant to mediated disputes; they apply to all conflict. Making a conscious decision to not engage in argument or any type of adversarial discussion while "triggered" will ensure you don't say or do something you will later regret, and will make it more likely that your needs, and the needs of the other person, will be met. So next time you feel your heart racing at the outset or during an argument, do yourself a favor and take a break.

  • 01 Oct 2015 10:02 PM | Joe Dillon (Administrator)

    From the Mediator's Monthly Newsletter

    Written by David Steiner

    One of the hardest things in facilitative mediation is holding back information that might be useful to the disputants. As facilitative mediators, we state that we are neutral, impartial and do not give advice, but sometimes we know things that could help break through obstacles to a resolution. We are trained in these cases to elicit the information by asking questions. In a recent landlord-tenant dispute, l found myself in this position.

    I am a landlord, and I know that the Chicago ordinance is clear about how security deposits should be returned to tenants. The landlord in the case I was mediating had not returned his tenant's security deposit for over two years. He insisted that he wanted to, but the tenant did not leave a forwarding address and he wanted to agree with her about the amount that he would withhold for fixes to the apartment.

    The tenant wanted her money back and didn't agree with the cost of the fixes. She insisted that he reimburse the entire sum. She brought the case before the court because she desperately needed her money for an impending surgery.

    In parsing out the needs and interests of the disputants, I learned that the landlord really wanted to be fair and felt he had an uncooperative former tenant. He was happy to be in court because he wanted a chance for justice to prevail. He said he couldn't return the security deposit until they agree on the amount. His tenant also wanted justice. She felt as if she left the apartment in the same condition she received it. She didn't agree with the fees he wanted to deduct, and she needed the cash. For her, justice was important but getting her security deposit would be enough. She didn't care whether she got her money back in front of a judge or at the mediation table.

    Ed Sacks, a veteran mediator and champion of tenants' rights often teaches: "It's not your mediation. Let the disputants lead." I thought about Ed as I sat at the table. A miniaturized version of him sat on my shoulder whispering in my ear, "If they want justice, let them go before the judge." But another voice in my head, my father, who taught me about being a landlord said, "If this guy goes in front of the judge, he'll be fined for not returning the security deposit."

    I was perplexed. I knew it wasn't my job to advise the parties, so I asked what the judge would say if she heard that he hadn't given back the deposit. They both speculated, so I asked, "Is there something that can help us better understand the law on this matter? Is there a lease?" Of course, I knew that the lease would reference the ordinance that explained how security deposits are to be returned. However, the disputants were so set in their concept of justice that they didn't want to look at the law, as articulated in the lease. They couldn't agree on an amount of security deposit to be returned, so they went back to court.

    Thus, the mediation didn't resolve the dispute. And, as I had predicted, the court fined the landlord.

    The judge later asked me why I didn't explain to the landlord the consequences of his decision. So, I again explained that – in the facilitative mediation model – that's simply not what we do as mediators. We help disputants define and communicate their needs and interests, but ultimately, whether they compromise is their choice alone. They wanted the court's ruling, and like it or not, that's what they received.

© Association for Conflict Resolution — Chicago Chapter

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