Podcast – How do engineers prepare for mediation?

 Civil Engineering, Conflict Resolution, Mediation  Comments Off on Podcast – How do engineers prepare for mediation?
Apr 112016
 

Civil Engineeering

Podcast – How do engineers prepare for mediation?

How does an civil engineer prepare for mediation? With over 750,000 downloads of the Engineering Career Coach’s podcast, I was honored to be interviewed regarding the use of mediation in civil engineering and construction disputes by Chris Knutson, P.E.

The link to the podcast:

Web Down Load

 iTunes link

It was a wide ranging interview and all that we talked about couldn’t be included in the podcast. Therefore the following is a more detailed question and answer:

What sort of civil engineering or construction disputes typically go to mediation? What type of disputes would you say aren’t right for mediation and are better handled through litigation?

Let me answer that in a roundabout way.
In Fresno, California there is a court sanctioned program to mediate between the victims of crimes and the criminals. It is called a Victim Offender Reconciliation program. It is used to determine sentencing.
A friend of mine is working in maximum security women’s prison teaching mediation techniques to the women sentenced to life so that they can mediate disputes within the prison.
Last year I mediated a case in which the underlining dispute was murder.
None of these have anything to do with engineering, but I don’t see any engineering dispute more difficult to resolve. I routinely deal with these types of disputes: employment, contract, professional liability, construction defect, and environmental issues.

How many parties can participate in meditation? Are each represented by their own counsel?

The simple answer is that all of the stakeholders in the dispute should be present. More specifically, each stakeholder’s decision makers should be present.
The key purpose of mediation is for you and your opponent to tell their story as to why we are here at mediation. Everyone needs to see the other side; to listen to them; and to be heard by them. Don’t forget that body language also communicates aggressiveness or sincerity in finding a solution. All sides need to see and make a connection with each other. Communication is key to finding a solution.
Others that may attend the mediation are the experts. They can be present to give analysis so that each side can judge the credibility of the others experts. You might also have financial accountants and tax advisers depending on the nature of the dispute. In more complex cases you might have computer simulations. Basically anyone who can assist your attorney in convincing the other side to your point of view should be part of your team.
Usually, each side has legal representation. Do not forget insurance representatives. Make sure to involve them.
Other candidates for attendance:
• Insurance adjustors
• Cumis counsel
• CEO and/or HR Director
• Silent partners in business
• Investors
• Overseas stakeholders

How does a firm, or an individual, prepare for a mediation?

There are four major steps in preparation for mediation.
Preparing yourself, your Expectations and Realities.
• You need to recognize that mediation may be your “best and only day in court.”
• What do you intend to communicate at the mediation session?
• Determine the goals, needs and interests.
• Determine the Risks v. Benefits – emotional and economic.
• Determine “Best alternative to a negotiated agreement.” and “Worst alternative to a negotiated agreement”.
• Develop different “settlement scenarios”.
• Finally – recognizing the other side’s interests.
Preparing your attorney
• Defining the issues with them
• Make sure you both understanding the facts and the law.
• Prepare a decision tree analysis, if helpful.
• Find out how your attorney wants to show case you. This is important if the other side has never met you.
Preparing the Opposition Attorney, Adjuster, CEO or Other Decision-Makers/Stakeholders
• Don’t burn bridges! Be polite and collaborative. Seek a “win-win” solution.
• Recognize that they are key players, have egos and have to justify any settlement with their bosses.
• Make it easy for them to give you what you want. Don’t hide anything.
• Provide all decision-makers with enough information well before the mediation session. Tell them what you want and why you want it.
• Send copies of the mediation brief and other information to them with the request that it is sent to the adjuster and/or other stakeholders.
Preparing the Mediator
• Educate me!
• Be willing to engage in pre-session teleconferences. Remember mediation is a process, not an event.
• Make sure that the right people attend.
• What discovery issues still remain unresolved?
• Who do you want the opposition to bring to the mediation? The mediator may not be aware of the silent stakeholder or cumus council.
• Consider site visits and other pre-session preparation. And that the mediator may talk to the adjustor, other stakeholders or witnesses.
Ken_Strongman_003smAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator. He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment. He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.
© 2020 Ken Strongman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or repost without permission.

I’m tired of being called a Mediation Neutral.

 Conflict Resolution, Mediation  Comments Off on I’m tired of being called a Mediation Neutral.
Apr 052016
 
neutral

Mediation Neutral

I’m tired of being called a Mediation Neutral.

Most Mediators describe themselves as being a neutral.  It doesn’t help that the courts and clients expect us to be neutral and describes us as such.  But mediators in Europe have difficulty with the description.

In the German Language the term for neutral most closely translates back into English as ‘null’.  So translating it back to English, to be a null means a Mediator as a neutral is without value, effect, consequence, or significance. Further more a Mediator amounts to nothing and is nonexistent.  In math when a variable has no value, it is considered to be null. Having a null value is different than having a value of zero, since zero is an actual value.

No wonder Europeans have had difficulties with the term neutral.  I am much more than a zero let alone a null.  The German term used to describe what a Mediator does is a better description of what I do without speaking German.  Their term encompasses the following ideas:

  • I’m parcel to everyone equally.
  • I’m acting for everyone and in everyone’s best interest.
  • I advocate for a just solution to the dispute.
  • I’m attentive to all the interests of the parties.

This concept is better idea of what I am as a mediator.   I am not a potted plant just sitting there all day hoping that a solution pops up.  I work hard with the parties to find a just solution in a timely manner.

Thanks to my Mediation Society Colleagues, Bruce Edwards, Patrice Prince and Dana Curtis for sharing this idea.  They attended the International Summer School on Business Mediation in Admont, Austria this last summer.

Ken Strongman, MediatorAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

© 2016 Ken Strongman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or repost without permission.

Mar 282016
 

Civil Engineeering

Podcast – Mediation in Civil Engineering and Construction: What is the role of engineers?

Recently, I was interviewed by Chris Knutson, P.E., regarding the role of engineers in mediation of civil engineering and construction projects. It was a lively interview considering that he is in Stuttgart, Germany while I’m in California.

Here’s the link to the podcast:
Web Down Load

iTunes link

The interview covered a wide rage of topics. The following is a more detailed question and answer:

What is the current legal landscape confronting engineering firms in today’s industry? Is there more or less litigation?

Most, if not all professional service contacts now contain clauses requiring mediation. All construction contracts that I’ve come across also contain clauses requiring mediation. For larger projects, dispute resolution boards are created at the signing of the contract agreeing on a process of mediation. A dispute resolution board is composed of at least three mediators selected by the parties of the contract to become familiar with the project and to provide mediation services for any dispute arising in the course of the project.
Aside from the contract, if there is a dispute that is litigated, the courts will encourage mediation. Though mediation is voluntary, the courts encourage mediation by saying, “Why don’t you try to mediate this case and come back in six months.”
Mediation doesn’t stop there. I do appellant mediations as part of my mediation practice. The appeals court will send the case back to mediation even after the parties have gone through a trial and have received a judgement.

What is mediation in the context of engineering design and construction? How is it different from litigation or arbitration?

1. In litigation you are going to the government i.e. the courts. A judge and jury that have no engineering exposure or experience will decide the case. This will occur after the project is complete. Your lawyers will control everything. You as the engineer will have little control over the outcome. You will do the litigation on their time schedule. It can easily take years to reach a resolution.
2. Arbitration I compare to private judging. You as the engineer do have a say in the naming of the arbitrators. The big advantage over litigation is the timing. It is much faster than litigation since the arbitrators are hired because they are able to hear the case on your schedule. The disadvantage is that as in litigation you have little control over the outcome. And there is no right to appeal the result.
3. In mediation you help to craft the solution and you can mediate at any time there is a dispute. In litigation and arbitration the project must be complete or the contract must be in breach before you can litigate or arbitrate.

What are benefits to the parties who participate in a mediation?

The best benefits to the parties with mediation is that they control the process and the outcome. It is significantly faster than litigation and considerably more economical than litigation.
Ken Strongman, MediatorAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator. He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment. He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.
© 2020 Ken Strongman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or repost without permission.

If I, as mediator, give my opinion in a dispute, doesn’t that mean I am biased?

 Arbritration, FAQ, Mediation  Comments Off on If I, as mediator, give my opinion in a dispute, doesn’t that mean I am biased?
Mar 152016
 
FAQ_Mediation Mendocino 03 opinion

Is an opinion bias?

 

If I, as mediator, give my opinion in a dispute, doesn’t that mean I am biased?

Absolutely not!  I as mediator form opinions on many issues for many reasons.

One of the primary things I do as mediator is to help you to evaluate the pros and cons of your position in a dispute and provide you with the information you need in order to make an educated decision about resolution. My opinion is critical to this process and will likely be based on the totality of the information from both sides, not merely that of one party. Although because of confidentiality, I may not be able to disclose the information to you, having an opinion from an unbiased source, based on such information may be very helpful to you in making choices.

Ken Strongman, MediatorAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

© 2020 Ken Strongman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or repost without permission.

Podcast – How to use Mediation in Civil Engineering with the Engineering Career Coach

 Civil Engineering, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, Speaking & Training  Comments Off on Podcast – How to use Mediation in Civil Engineering with the Engineering Career Coach
Mar 072016
 

Civil Engineeering

Podcast – How to use Mediation in Civil Engineering with the Engineering Career Coach

I am excited to present my podcast interview with the Engineering Career Coach. With over 750,000 podcast downloads, they sought me out to explain how mediation is useful in the civil engineering and construction fields.

Here are the links to the podcast:

Click on the following –

Engineering Career Coach (Web Download)

ITunes

Here are some key points discussed in this episode of The Civil Engineering Podcast:

Differences between Mediation, Litigation and Arbitration

  • Mediation – You come together to craft the solution to the problem with the help of a mediator (may take 1-3 months)
  • Litigation – You go to the court and have a judge or jury solve your case (based on the court’s time schedule usually takes 5-6 years to come to resolution)
  • Arbitration – A private judging with arbitrators making the final decision and there’s no appeal (you have control over the time schedule)

Five major steps for engineers in the preparation of mediation:

1. Prepare yourself, your expectations, your realities, and your intent. Know what you want to communicate. Know what your goals needs and interests are in a solution. Do a risk benefit analysis of where you’re at in the process. Understand where the best and worst alternatives to negotiate a settlement would be. Develop some settlement scenarios: what can you live with, think outside the box. Recognize that the other side has interests, goals and needs as well.
2. Prepare your attorney. Define your issues with them. Prepare a decision tree. Find out how the attorney wants to represent and showcase you.
3. Prepare the opposition – their attorney, their adjusters, their decision makers.
4. Provide the decision makers all the information of what is really going on, and send copies of the mediation brief to other parties.
5. Prepare the mediator – educate the mediator.

Qualities of a good mediator:

1. Able to build trust and confide in quickly
2. Excellent interpersonal skills
3. Patience and sense of humor
4. Creativity in solving problems
5. Able to think outside of the box
6. Willing to do everything that he/she can to assist a settlement
Finally, almost all disputes are initially communication issues, but mediation can help get the communication going again and help to keep your project back on track.

Ken StrongmanAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

© 2020 Ken Strongman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or repost without permission.

How do you persuade someone if you think you are right and they are wrong?

 Arbritration, Conflict Resolution, Mediation  Comments Off on How do you persuade someone if you think you are right and they are wrong?
Feb 232016
 

Ken Strongman xc03 persuade

Persuade they are wrong.

Persuasion is the process of changing minds. Persuasion is an everyday part of human discourse. It is used by salesmen, parents, teachers, and many others – basically all of us. Persuasion in mediation is a two-way street. Long before you try to influence another to moderate their demands or consider the other side’s point of view, chances are good that they will have tried to convince you to their position.

It’s my experience in order to be an effective mediator, I must engage in various forms of persuasion. I do not engage in coercive or manipulative persuasion practices by which pressure brought to bear on reluctant participants to get a settlement. I do use a range of potential mediator interventions to help the parties resolve deeply held or competitively bargained differences .

How do you change someone’s mind if you think you are right and they are wrong?

We normally resort to the following: “You are, I’m afraid to say, mistaken. The position you are taking makes no logical sense. Just listen up and I’ll be more than happy to elaborate on the many, many reasons why I’m right and you are wrong. Are you feeling ready to be convinced?”

No matter the subject, this is the approach many of us adopt when we try to convince others to change their minds. It’s also an approach that often leads to the person you are trying to persuade to harden their existing position. Research suggests there is a better way. It is a way that involves more listening, and less trying to beat your opponent into submission.

Yale researchers, Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil suggested that in many instances people believe they understand how something works when in fact their understanding is superficial at best. They called this phenomenon “the illusion of explanatory depth”. They began by asking their study participants to rate how well they understood how things like flushing toilets, car speedometers and sewing machines worked, before asking them to explain what they understood and then answer questions on it. The effect they revealed was that, on average, people in the experiment rated their understanding as much worse after it had been put to the test.

What happens, argued Rozenblit and Keil, is that we mistake our familiarity with these things for the belief that we have a detailed understanding of how they work. Usually, nobody tests us and if we have any questions about them we can just take a look. Psychologists call this idea that humans have a tendency to take mental short cuts when making decisions or assessments the “cognitive miser” theory.

Why would we bother expending the effort to really understand things when we can get by without doing so? The interesting thing is that we manage to hide from ourselves exactly how shallow our understanding is.

This is a phenomenon that will be familiar to anyone who has ever had to teach something. Usually, it only takes the first moments when you start to rehearse what you’ll say to explain a topic, or worse, the first student question, for you to realize that you don’t truly understand it. Teachers often say to each other “I didn’t really understand this until I had to teach it”. Inventor Mark Changizi quipped: “I find that no matter how badly I teach I still learn something”.

How “Explain yourself” can be used to persuade others.

A research team, led by Philip Fernbach, of the University of Colorado, reasoned that the phenomenon might hold as much for political understanding as for things like how toilets work. They hypothesized that people who have strong political opinions would be more open to other viewpoints, if asked to explain exactly how they thought the policy they were advocating would bring about the effects they claimed it would.

Recruiting a sample of Americans via the internet, they polled participants on a set of contentious US policy issues, such as imposing sanctions on Iran, healthcare and approaches to carbon emissions. One group was asked to give their opinion and then provide reasons for why they held that view. They got the opportunity to put their side of the issue, in the same way anyone in an argument or debate has a chance to argue their case.

Those in the second group did something different. They were asked to explain how the policy they were advocating would work. They were asked to trace, step by step, from start to finish, the causal path from the policy to the effects it was supposed to have.

The results were clear. People who provided reasons remained as convinced of their positions as they had been before the experiment. Those who were asked to provide explanations softened their views, and reported a correspondingly larger drop in how they rated their understanding of the issues.

Therefore listening to detailed explanations regarding how their idea will work will soften their position at the very least.

**Why the picture of Cross Country runners?  It takes a lot of persuasion to get them to the finish line. 

 Ken Strongman, MediatorAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

© 2020 Ken Strongman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or repost without permission.

Don’t be afraid of anger – angry people can’t lie.

 Conflict Resolution, Mediation, Speaking & Training  Comments Off on Don’t be afraid of anger – angry people can’t lie.
Feb 092016
 

don't be afraid

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t be afraid of anger – angry people can’t lie.

The first step to resolve any conflict is to defuse anger.  But do not be afraid of anger.  An angry person can’t lie because anger is a primitive emotional response.  To lie, you must control your emotions and turn on your intellect.  So when someone is angry, whatever they are telling you contains some truth.  Beware that this does not stop good actors.  A good actor merely appears to be angry as they try to control the situation

There are several reasons for anger:

To vent. An angry person needs to let off steam and release the anger that may have been brewing for a long time.  To resolve the conflict you need to allow this to happen, but try to control it by reframing their issues. 

To get the listener’s attention. An angry person wants to know that you are paying attention.  Use good listening skills to demonstrate that you are paying attention.

To be heard. An angry person wants someone to listen to their point of view.  To resolve the conflict, you need to acknowledge the feelings you hear so that the speaker knows you appreciate how angry they are.

To be understood. An angry person wants someone to appreciate how they feel.  Therefore try to empathize with their experience so that they feel you understand the situation, and acknowledge their ‘right’ to feel the way they do.  This does not mean that you should agree with their justification.  You do want to remain neutral in the conflict and not pick sides.

**For the last decade I’ve been involved with leadership development of tomorrow’s leaders.  Using my expertise, I am training the youth leaders in conflict resolution.  This blog is adapted from my training materials. 

 

Ken StrongmanAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

© 2020 Ken Strongman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or repost without permission.

How are you going to deal with them after the dispute?

 Preliminary Tasks for a Mediation  Comments Off on How are you going to deal with them after the dispute?
Feb 022016
 
Philmont Scout Ranch Deal

Deal with the future

The resolution of a dispute does not just occur on the day of the mediation.   Each participant to mediation needs to prepare their own strategy for negotiation in the settlement.  Based on my experience as a mediator, these are a collection of tasks each participant needs to complete and to discuss with their council and the mediator before the mediation.

These tasks and the discussion with the mediator are confidential.   They are confidential under both Attorney Client privilege and under mediation confidential provisions in court rules, statutes, and standards.

Task #4: How are you going to deal with them after the dispute?

In the previous task, you were asked to describe what you wanted life and/or business to look like five years after the dispute has been resolved.   This task is more focused on how you are going to deal with your opponents five to ten years after the dispute is resolved.

The easy answer to this question is that ‘I never want anything to do with them again.’  If the dispute is an automobile accident then that might work as an answer.  But if your opponents are commercial suppliers, customers, fellow businesses in a limited market, employees or employers, neighbors, and even family, the question becomes a lot more challenging.

I have mediated boundary line and other disputes between neighbors.  It becomes a lot more difficult to resolve when both neighbors realize that they will still be living next door to each other for possibly decades.  I have also mediated disputes with family owned business.  They had to take into account the likelihood of having to sit down for Thanksgiving dinner with each other.  There were also the unintended impacts on other family relationships that were not in dispute.  Commercial enterprises need to evaluate the publicity of the dispute and the possible need for an on going business relationship now and in the future.

Carefully list and count the costs regarding different solutions to the dispute.  Might there be a better settlement that reduces future conflict.  Also evaluate the costs of litigating the dispute to its conclusion on the future relationship to your opponents.

Ken Strongman, MediatorAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

© 2020 Ken Strongman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or repost without permission.

What if you truly disagree upon with your opponents?

 Preliminary Tasks for a Mediation  Comments Off on What if you truly disagree upon with your opponents?
Jan 262016
 
What Points Do You Disagree

What Points Do You Disagree?

Tasks for reaching a mediated settlement to a dispute

The resolution of a dispute does not just occur on the day of the mediation.   Each participant to mediation needs to prepare their own strategy for negotiation in the settlement.  Based on my experience as a mediator, these are a collection of tasks each participant needs to complete and to discuss with their council and the mediator before the mediation.

These tasks and the discussion with the mediator are confidential.   They are confidential under both Attorney Client privilege and under mediation confidential provisions in court rules, statutes, and standards.

Task #7: What If you truly disagree upon with your mediation opponents?

In Task #6, you were asked to search for some potential common ground you might have with your mediation opponents to help facilitate a voluntary agreement to settle this matter.   Now you need to flip the question around and come up with the significant issues that you disagree upon.

Strangely enough this will help the mediator to focus the mediation session upon the real and lasting issues of the dispute.   Then everyone can focus on the task at hand to develop together a voluntary agreement to resolve the dispute.  For example, breach of contract might be agreed upon, but whether it is a major or minor breach is the true disagreement.  Likewise, there might not be a disagreement on liability but it is the measure of damages that is the true dispute.   Even then, there might be considerable agreement.

Review these disagreements with your attorney and confidentially with the mediator.

Ken StrongmanAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

© 2020 Ken Strongman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or repost without permission.

How do you persuade someone if you think you are right and they are wrong?

 Arbritration, Conflict Resolution, Mediation  Comments Off on How do you persuade someone if you think you are right and they are wrong?
Jul 132015
 

Ken Strongman xc03

Persuasion is the process of changing minds. Persuasion is an everyday part of human discourse. It is used by salesmen, parents, teachers, and many others – basically all of us. Persuasion in mediation is a two-way street. Long before you try to influence another to moderate their demands or consider the other side’s point of view, chances are good that they will have tried to convince you to their position.

It’s my experience in order to be an effective mediator, I must engage in various forms of persuasion. I do not engage in coercive or manipulative persuasion practices by which pressure brought to bear on reluctant participants to get a settlement. I do use a range of potential mediator interventions to help the parties resolve deeply held or competitively bargained differences .

How do you change someone’s mind if you think you are right and they are wrong?

We normally resort to the following: “You are, I’m afraid to say, mistaken. The position you are taking makes no logical sense. Just listen up and I’ll be more than happy to elaborate on the many, many reasons why I’m right and you are wrong. Are you feeling ready to be convinced?”

No matter the subject, this is the approach many of us adopt when we try to convince others to change their minds. It’s also an approach that often leads to the person you are trying to persuade to harden their existing position. Research suggests there is a better way. It is a way that involves more listening, and less trying to beat your opponent into submission.

Yale researchers, Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil suggested that in many instances people believe they understand how something works when in fact their understanding is superficial at best. They called this phenomenon “the illusion of explanatory depth”. They began by asking their study participants to rate how well they understood how things like flushing toilets, car speedometers and sewing machines worked, before asking them to explain what they understood and then answer questions on it. The effect they revealed was that, on average, people in the experiment rated their understanding as much worse after it had been put to the test.

What happens, argued Rozenblit and Keil, is that we mistake our familiarity with these things for the belief that we have a detailed understanding of how they work. Usually, nobody tests us and if we have any questions about them we can just take a look. Psychologists call this idea that humans have a tendency to take mental short cuts when making decisions or assessments the “cognitive miser” theory.

Why would we bother expending the effort to really understand things when we can get by without doing so? The interesting thing is that we manage to hide from ourselves exactly how shallow our understanding is.

This is a phenomenon that will be familiar to anyone who has ever had to teach something. Usually, it only takes the first moments when you start to rehearse what you’ll say to explain a topic, or worse, the first student question, for you to realize that you don’t truly understand it. Teachers often say to each other “I didn’t really understand this until I had to teach it”. Inventor Mark Changizi quipped: “I find that no matter how badly I teach I still learn something”.

How “Explain yourself” can be used to persuade others.

A research team, led by Philip Fernbach, of the University of Colorado, reasoned that the phenomenon might hold as much for political understanding as for things like how toilets work. They hypothesized that people who have strong political opinions would be more open to other viewpoints, if asked to explain exactly how they thought the policy they were advocating would bring about the effects they claimed it would.

Recruiting a sample of Americans via the internet, they polled participants on a set of contentious US policy issues, such as imposing sanctions on Iran, healthcare and approaches to carbon emissions. One group was asked to give their opinion and then provide reasons for why they held that view. They got the opportunity to put their side of the issue, in the same way anyone in an argument or debate has a chance to argue their case.

Those in the second group did something different. They were asked to explain how the policy they were advocating would work. They were asked to trace, step by step, from start to finish, the causal path from the policy to the effects it was supposed to have.

The results were clear. People who provided reasons remained as convinced of their positions as they had been before the experiment. Those who were asked to provide explanations softened their views, and reported a correspondingly larger drop in how they rated their understanding of the issues.

Therefore listening to detailed explanations regarding how their idea will work will soften their position at the very least.

**Why the picture of Cross Country runners?  It takes a lot of persuasion to get them to the finish line. 

 Ken Strongman, MediatorAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

© 2020 Ken Strongman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or repost without permission.