Thursday, June 12, 2014

Family Fights & Fighting Fair: How to Peacefully Resolve Conflict Family Fights & Fighting Fair: How to Peacefully Resolve Conflict and

Lynda Martens is a therapist and Blog Contributor. Please read about how she recommends to deal with family fights, from a problem solving perspective.
I have often thought of making this into a flow chart…think of it as such.  The process starts with the question… “Whose problem is this?”  at the top of the page.  If it is something that has you upset, it’s your problem.  If your partner is upset about something, it’s their problem, and if both of you are upset, then it’s shared.  The important part of starting with this question is that everything that happens after this…your role in the process…depends on whose problem it is.  Many problems are made worse when we forget this simple step and act as though the problem is ours when it’s not.

Step 1 The person with the problem will need to determine the size of the problem, in order to determine whether it is something that needs discussing.  Try to put problems into a basket!!!
Step 2: for the person without the problem:  If the problem is your partner’s…all you really have to do is listen openly so that you can understand.  Make this your only goal to start.  Put away the defending and the “yes…buts’”.  Don’t say a word until you believe that you understand and calmly restate what their concern is.  You can ask questions if you don’t get it.  An example… Person A says “When you say you’re going to take out the garbage and you don’t…I get frustrated with how it builds up. It smells bad.”  Listen, then maybe ask “Do you mean that you expect me to do it every week or that you want to know whether I realistically have time, and if I don’t…I should say so?”  And so on until it is understood.  The listener can remember that there is no expectation that miracles will happen…the speaker just wants to be heard most of the time.  Nothing needs to be fixed necessarily…just heard. has everything you need to try to have a peaceful discussion with someone else. It's free, so sign up today!
Step 3: for the person with the problem:  Okay, back to the first question…if the problem is yours, and you have determined that it is in basket B… State the problem calmly, without accusatory tones or words (avoid words like “fault… never…always…blame”).  Avoid swearing, yelling, name calling, put-downs (you won’t… and shouldn’t .. get heard if you do this).  Try a formula of “When you ____, I feel ___ because ____.” Family Fights & Fighting Fair: How to Peacefully Resolve Conflict and
Remember that no one causes your emotions.  The problem is a problem because your personal reaction defines it as such… someone different may be more tolerant of certain behaviours.    Simply state the problem.  You don’t need to drive it into the ground.  They heard you and your words have more power if they are simple and clear.  If there is something specific you expect them to do that is serious (think basket C) you can make clear strong statements about your expectations…but no threats.  But remember, you can’t make them do anything, so focus on your clear and respectful delivery, and not your expectations.  Any time your goal is about getting someone else to do something differently, you’re in for trouble.
Step 4:  If the Problem is Shared:  This is the tricky part.  You both are upset and both trying to be heard.  Often times, a problem starts out as one person’s and becomes shared and more complex when the expression of the problem becomes part of the problem (“Sure I forgot the garbage again, but did you have to overreact like that and dump it all over the yard?”)  If you have followed the steps above, fewer things will fit into this category.  But if you’re already there…it’s a process of taking turns speaking and listening.  Think of it as two separate problems and treat it as such, using the process above.  Put yourself back in that sandbox and remember to share the time and take turns listening… if you want to be heard, you have to listen too. Free Trial: Case Management, Digitized Agreements, Secure Messaging
Some general DON’TS:  
  • Don’t tell your partner what to do.  Commands are not respectful.  
  • Don’t attack.  
  • Don’t roll your eyes or get sarcastic (Oh…okay well I’ll do the garbage every freakin day then…how’s that?”)  
  • Don’t bring up the last twenty times they did the same thing, or the time they insulted your mother and you’ll never forget it…it’s called ‘kitchen sinking’ to bring up past problems.  
  • Keep it to the present situation.  
  • Don’t tell all your friends about the issues in your marriage.  
  • Don’t bring things up when you’re about to sleep and it’s dark.

Some general DO’S:  
  • Do find out when it’s a good time to discuss a problem.  
  • Do keep it brief.  No long lectures.  
  • Do scale the problem first…”this is a 2 out of 10, so it’s not a biggie…” This helps shrink a problem before you even talk about it.  
  • Do take a time-out if you feel you’re going to explode (time outs are not about ditching the issue though…state where you will be and how long it will be before you will be ready to discuss it.  
  • Do address very small items in front of the kids so they can see you resolving it, but save the biggies for private talks.

Know your partner and yourself and what you both need.  Talk about your conflict resolution process and what things work and don’t for both of you.  Check out blogs and websites about "fighting fair", "family fights" and "fighting families", like this one.  And do consider consulting with a therapist if the pattern is stuck and your wheels are spinning.
Search: #Family-Fights, #Family-Fighting, #fighting-families, #Divorce, #Family-Mediation

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Peer Mediation in Schools Peer Mediation in Schools
Today, we are told that lawyers need to shift and expand their roles from warriors to conflict resolvers. In fact, conflict resolution skills are not only necessary for lawyers, but they are needed as part of our basic tool box as social human beings. Conflicts are part of our daily life, whether it be at work, in our families, our institutions, our social circles, or at school. So why not learn those skills from an early age? One interesting way to do this is through peer mediation programs in schools.
Start your own peer mediation program with It only takes minutes to get your customized directory page listed, and case management system in place. With a bit of training, you can help improve community and school relations with peer mediation. Peer Mediation in Schools
Programs for peer mediation in schools started appearing in the United States in the 1970s and are now quite widespread. In Canada, several programs exist as well by now. One notable example is the project by Institut Pacifique in Quebec. This community-based organization offers schools with a turnkey program, which includes materials, guides and initial training for teachers and follow-up support in order to implement their program, called Vers le Pacifique. The program is aimed at preschool and primary school levels, and it consists of two steps. Before implementing the peer-mediation program per say, the first step requires the school to offer conflict resolution workshops to the whole student body, in order to educate and develop the awareness of all students to peaceful methods of conflict resolution. Those workshops are given over a full school year. During the second year of the program, the peer-mediation program is implemented. Students from grades four to six are chosen according to a well-crafted process to be trained as mediators, and they rotate to act as mediators in the school yard for minor conflicts between their peers.

This program by Institut Pacifique was the object of longitudinal studies by professors at the University of Montreal. Those studies found that after two years of implementation, the students exposed to the program developed improved sociocognitive abilities such as managing emotions, identifying the causes of a conflict and proposing solutions. After three years of implementation, a significant decrease in aggressive behaviour on the part of students was observed. Constant efforts to promote and support the program are needed, however, for the impacts to last through time.

It is important to note that these programs do not just aim to teach skills and techniques; they help build a positive vision of conflicts. Children learn to use dialogue as an alternative to aggressive behaviour or passivity in the face of disputes, and they also experience the positive impacts that can come from this dialogue and collaboration. Accepting conflicts as part of the human experience and harnessing them in a constructive way is a challenge that we must all step up to.

Did you experience peer mediation in your school growing up? Does your children’s school offer such program? If not, why not look into which local organisation could offer it in your area?
Start your own peer mediation program with It only takes minutes to get your customized directory page listed, and case management system in place. With a bit of training, you can help improve community and school relations with peer mediation.
Note: A review of school mediation programs in Québec was published as part of a collection of articles on the intersection of mediation and youth published in Europe. Full reference: « La médiation en milieu scolaire au Québec : un portrait », dans Médiation et Jeunesse, Mineurs et médiations familiales, scolaires et pénales en pays francophones, sous la direction de Jean Mirimanoff, Belgique, Larcier, 2013. Contributor:
Léa Préfontaine holds a bachelor in civil law and common law from McGill University. Prior to her legal studies, she also completed a bachelor in business and a masters in economics. She will be an articling student at the Protecteur du citoyen (Québec Ombudsman) starting in June 2014. Léa is passionnate about dispute resolution and access to justice.

Search: #Peer-Mediation-in-Schools, #starting-a-peer-mediation-program, #mediation-clinic, #community-mediation, #kids-conflict-resolution, #peer-mediation-and-conflict-resolution, #peer-mediators, #peer-mediators-FAQ, #fights-at-school, #community-mediation-case-management

Friday, June 6, 2014

Moving on - Letting go of the past Moving on, Letting go of the
Lynda Martens, WabiSabi Therapist is a Blog Contributor. Please read about how she recommends how to "move on". From the perspective, you might have been asked to attend mediation. This article is worth a read to help you gain perspective before the session. In addition, it might be useful after the session.
We sometimes get stuck in angst or resentment about something painful that happened in the past.   It could be anything from an argument with a sibling or a betrayal of trust, to a lost love or the death of a loved one.  Fixating on the past keeps us from fully living in the present…and it doesn’t change the past. We also don't feel a sense of inner peace.
Although you can’t change what happened, you can change the way you think about it and the amount of energy you devote to it.  You can learn to move forward.
Here are a number of questions that might assist you in moving past whatever it is that happened… Moving on, Letting go of the past.

  • Are you avoiding an emotion?  Sometimes we fear that the intensity of an emotion (like feeling abandoned, shameful, unimportant or powerless) will devour us or incapacitate us, so the stuckness helps us avoid that feeling.  Can you be brave enough to feel the pain/loss/shame of what happened and move through it?  Is it possible that letting yourself feel the emotion will be less devastating than you fear?

  • Are you stuck asking yourself ”why?”…  Sometimes things happen that make no sense to us and we spend years trying to figure it out.  “Why” questions are not easily answered…so they’re generally useless.   Ask yourself whether you need to know why in order to move on.  Is it possible to accept that you will never know why?  Can you accept the powerlessness of not having your questions answered?  Is not knowing why reason enough to keep you from moving forward?  Ultimately, you decide your own WHY…you get to come to whatever conclusion you want.  Try to come to a conclusion that isn’t harmful to you!!
  • Do you blame yourself for what happened?  Sometimes when bad things happen we think it’s our “fault”, and our stuckness is about not feeling deserving of moving on to a happier place.  Can you have compassion for your imperfection and any mistakes or decisions you made?  Can you let others take responsibility for their own decisions and part in the situation?  Does punishing yourself make anything better for anyone?

  • The fear of something recurring can keep us from getting past events that were hurtful.  When someone does something that hurts us, we do deserve to have it made better, if we are in a relationship with them.  We can’t make that happen, but we can ask for what we need from them.  Avoid constantly bringing up the mistake or the hurt…this  can actually erode any trust that is attempting to be rebuilt.  For example…your loved one breaches a trust and you fear that it will happen again.  You are unsure if you can trust them again.  There is no answer to that question “can I trust them?”.  Trust is a decision…an act…a verb.  You either choose to trust them or not.   So, while the past should inform us about what someone is capable of, if you want a relationship to work, it is necessary to forgive and move on if we want that person in our lives. Also, see the blog about What to talk about in a relationship.

  • Did something happen that you continually replay in your head?   Did you suffer a trauma and are having flashbacks or body memories?  This situation can be assisted by a qualified therapist.  Memories are important and should be honoured and listened to for what they have to teach us, but a therapist can help you work with the memory to add elements of control and healing.

  • Forgiveness.  Sometimes we stay stuck because we can’t ‘forgive’.  Do you think that forgiveness is about saying something someone did is “okay”? It doesn’t have to be…we can choose to view forgiveness as a decision not to “let someone off the hook”, but to simply stop carrying around all the hurt and resentment.  Forgiveness is about deciding that carrying around the hurt doesn’t help; it’s about accepting that we cannot alter what happened. Visit to learn how to initiate a conversation about forgiveness with a loved one.

  • Sometimes we get stuck in the past because we keep recreating it.  We can’t get past someone’s  hurtful behaviours because they are still happening… that person is still in our lives.  When they happen again, we feel flooded with all the old emotion about the hundreds of times we felt that way.  If we can’t get past something (like disrespect) because it keeps happening, then the question becomes what are we still doing in that relationship?  We can’t always have emancipation from family members, and here we can only accept people for the flawed being they are if they ignore our please for change.  But most of the people in our lives are there because we let them be…we choose who to surround ourselves with.  If someone cannot respect you, how can you at least respect yourself?

Visit to learn how to initiate a conversation about moving on with a loved one. Also, visit Lynda Martens, WabiSabi Therapist to ask for services and read her blog.
Search: #moving-on, #finding-peace, #finding-myself, #finding-happiness, #letting-go, #moving-forward, #being-a-lawyer-sucks, #when-to-leave-the-legal-profession.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How to fix a Relationship - What to talk about and WabiSabi Therapist: How to Fix a Relationship

Lynda Martens is the Wabisabi Therapist and a contributor to the Mediate to Go Blog. Please read her insights about trust, and how to fix a relationship.

“Do I say something or not?”
“How come I can’t decide if this is a big deal or not?”
“It seems small, but I’m really upset”
When you are upset about something your partner (or friend or family member) does, it can be helpful to “put it in a basket” as a way or guiding your decision about how to handle it.
BASKET 1…  is a large basket with three things inside… the little stuff, the stuff you know they cannot change (and was there from the beginning), and the stuff that is not your business.  The socks on the floor, the noise when they brush their teeth, the crumbs on the counter, the love handles, the smelly feet, their personal finances, their job, their body…all the stuff that we ignore because we want our little stuff ignored too.  If we harped about basket one stuff all the time, we’d be constantly bickering.
Basket 1 is the stuff we say nothing about.  If you are very upset about a basket 1 item, then this is “your stuff”.  It’s your own emotional trigger…your kryptoniteyour pig, your problem.
BASKET 2… Is the stuff that’s big enough to talk about, but not big enough that you can tell someone what (or what not) to do.  The stuff your partner does that affects you enough that you want to say something because you want them to know you and your sensitivities.  When you address a basket 2 issue you are saying “I care about us enough to want to make this better”, and “I trust that you care enough to listen to this”.  Basket 2 issues do not have to dissolve into an argument.  They can be delivered simply and without a lot of words.  Try “When you_________, I feel ________.”  You are informing your partner about how their actions affect you.  You are not blaming them for your emotions or criticizing them.  Keep a calm voice and deliver the information clearly without a million words.
Sign-up for to get free advice on how to have a conversation with someone about an important issue.
BASKET 3… This basket is where you put the big ticket items…the stuff you absolutely have to have in a relationship.  When you don’t get these things, you can use strong language like “That’s not okay with me.” or  ”Don’t do that.”  This is the only basket where you get to tell someone what to do.  Save it for things like honesty, fidelity, respect.  ”Don’t lie to me”  ”I won’t talk to you if you disrespect me.”
Are you putting things in the wrong basket?  If you are silent about basket 3 stuff, you are doing yourself a disservice.  If you are ranting about basket 1 stuff, you are doing other people a disservice.  Think about it.  :)
Here’s another related blog about sorting this out. Also sign up for a free account to use our conflict self-resolution features!
Search: #how-to-fix-a-relationship

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Principles of Restorative Justice

Provinces in Canada have been experimenting with new approaches to justice for several decades, through programs on restorative justice. What is restorative justice? This article introduces the basic principles of that approach. 

It might be useful to start by contrasting the current system of retributive justice with restorative justice. While the former is about establishing guilt and punishing the offender, leaving little place for the victim who is treated as a simple witness, the latter focuses on problem solving, looks at possibilities for repairing the harm done, and gives a central role to the victim. We suggest that the three main principles of restorative justice include the  acknowledgement of the victim, the restoration of their positivity and reestablishment of their feeling of safety. Canadian aboriginal communities have used restorative justice techniques throughout their cultural history. Principles of Restorative Justice
While in practice there are various approaches and processes, here are 8 principles of restorative justice that provide further insights into restorative justice (adapted from this list by Correctional Service Canada): 
  1. Understanding the impact of the harmful behaviour: Appropriate response to crime requires the focus to be on the harm caused by crime and the full effects of the criminal behavior. Crime is not seen only as a legal issue (breaking the law). The process of restorative justice provides space to address damage to individuals, their property, their relationships and their communities. There is also an acknowledgement of harm created by the criminal justice process itself.
  2. Inclusion: All people affected by the crime are engaged in the restorative justice process, including the victim, offender, their individual support people and the community.
  3. Accountability: The process of restorative justice allows the offender to take responsibility for the harm created by their actions, directly to those harmed, including recognition of what occurred and corrective actions to address the harm done, to the degree possible. Through the hearing of all points of view, the community also has an opportunity to see its role in contributing to the crime. 
  4. Safety: This aspect is defined as 1) the need to restore a sense of security to those impacted by the crime and 2) the need to create processes of restorative justice that are safe, respect the rights of participants and address power imbalances.
  5. Transformation: The long term goal of restorative justice is to provide opportunities for healing, personal growth, reparation of harm and restoration of positive relationships.
  6. Voluntary: Participants can choose whether to participate and can also make choices to influence the process design.
  7. Humanistic: Restorative justice is based on values of respect, compassion, dignity, honesty, openness, and growth. Fairness and equality/equity are also essential, as well as taking into account the multicultural issues.
  8. Interaction: Communication, either direct or indirect, between those impacted by the crime is typically required.
  9. Holistic: These processes take into consideration and value the full breadth of each individual participant as well as the larger context in which they function. This includes appreciation of the physical, psychological, mental, emotional, spiritual and social context surrounding each person as well as the environment.
Interestingly, neuroscience seems to offer evidence that supports the implementation of these principles in our justice system. In this TED talk, The neuroscience of restorative justice, Daniel Reisel discusses his research on how we can help the brain re-grow morality. He explains that “the brain is capable of extraordinary change, way into adulthood”. He studied the brains of repeat offenders and psychopaths, for whom the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for feeling empathy, is very small, and he suggests that restorative justice meetings could help stimulate the growth of the amygdala and thus reduce the potential of a repeat offence.  While people with this condition might be considered the extreme, the fact that the brain can change when exposed to the right stimulation provides hope that restorative justice may have a positive impact on individuals and communities.
Start your own restorative justice program with It only takes minutes to get your directory page listed and case management system in place. With a bit of training, you can help contribute to justice in your community.
Some links about restorative justice: Contributor:
Léa Préfontaine holds a bachelor in civil law and common law from McGill University. Prior to her legal studies, she also completed a bachelor in business and a masters in economics. She will be an articling student at the Protecteur du citoyen (Québec Ombudsman) starting in June 2014. Léa is passionnate about dispute resolution and access to justice.

Search: #The-Principles-of-Restorative-Justice, #restorative-justice, #crime-prevention, #helping-victims, #helping-offenders

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Active Listening Techniques Active Listening Techniques, Body Language
Listening is one of those skills that can always use improvement.  Having our feelings validated is one of our greatest psychological needs, so by working on your active listening skills, you are bound to improve your conflict resolution skills and even your relationships.

How is listening related to conflict?  If you harness the power of listening, you will be better able to transform conflict so it takes a more constructive path (versus a destructive and escalating one).  If you help the person you are in conflict with to feel ‘heard’, you can create a turning point that will allow both of you to discuss underlying needs and interests at the root of the tension between you. In addition, active listening can increase the level of trust with another person, so that if miscommunication is to occur in the future, it might be easier for each person to give the other the “benefit of the doubt”. Please see the blog on Building Trust and blog on How to Fix a Relationship.

Visit and sign up for a free account to learn how to actively listen to anyone in your life. will even email you free advice and how to have a dialogue!

Active listening is not rocket science but it does require some work.  Follow these guidelines:
  1. Send Signals: Listening involves you and the other person.  It’s more than ‘hearing’ their words.  It requires that you send signals indicating that you heard what they said. Use verbal prompts to show that you are listening (“Okay, I hear you”, “Tell me more…”).
  2. Truth is Perspective: Each person has their own version of the truth, so focus your discussions on how each of you perceive and feel about a given issue
  3. Paraphrase: Use paraphrasing by repeating their idea in your own words (“So, you are telling me that…”), then do a perception check by asking if you understood them correctly
  4. Body Language is Key: Listen with body language through maintaining eye contact, mirroring their facial expressions, leaning towards them, facing them and using an open body posture by keeping your arms uncrossed. As the above quote details, body language is commonly more important than what is stated verbally, so as an active listener, you must pay a great deal of attention to the body language of the person you are communicating with. Studies have revealed that between 65% and 95% of communication is done non-verbally. Feel free to ask someone questions if they appear upset in some way, if they are not verbalizing it. You can say something like, “I get the impression you are upset because of your reaction. Do you want to talk about it?” Even if they are not ready to open up and state their feelings, they have been made aware of their reaction and might be open thereafter. They are also made accountable to their reaction.
  5. Space for Silence: Sometimes silence is the best medicine.  If you don’t know what to say, just be there with them
  6. Eliminate Distractions: Set aside time to talk and get rid of all distractions
  7. Listen First, Deliberate and Speak After: Don’t prepare your response while they are speaking.  Trust that you will remember your ideas and prepare your response when they are done 

Avoid these common listening traps:
  • Responding to someone by speaking about yourself. This is officially called an asyndetic response.  Consider asking whether the speaker would like to be listened to or prefers advice.
  • False time-outs.  During heated debates when emotions are running high, people may decide to take some time to cool down.  However, we often make the mistake of taking too short of a break even though we have not physiologically calmed down.  Take at least 20 minutes to calm down from an argument. 

Try these tips and see if your conflicts and even relationships start to change.  Remember that you also deserve to be listened to.  If you feel as if someone isn’t ‘hearing’ you, ask them if they understand what you’ve expressed and don’t be scared to ask them for what you need (“Can you please look at me when I am speaking with you? Can you please make eye contact with me?”).

Let us know how it goes.  We’re listening!

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Conflict Resolution Family - 5 Tips

Conflict Resolution Family - 5 Tips Conflict Resolution Family - 5 Tips to Supportive Communication Introduction to Resolvin...