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The Gate's Open

Posted By Christine Tauzel, New York State Agricultural Mediation Program Director, Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Updated: Monday, October 16, 2017

Cows, horses, pigs, sheep, goats, lamas - what will an animal do when the gate’s left open?  The stories; funny, frustrating, heart- warming or sad would fill the page.  Most animals think it’s an invitation to go right on through!

What happens to a discussion or argument if the “conversation gate” is open?  Often more information comes out, feelings, beliefs or values are expressed more clearly and these become the foundation for “going through” to a better understanding and perhaps agreement.

 So if the gate is jammed and people are stuck saying the same things over and over, how can it be cleared?  Try experimenting with a simple tool known as “open ended questions”.

In a conversation, an open ended question invites the speaker to provide more information. It encourages the speaker to add details, explain why they think a certain way, describe how they see a situation, correct misunderstandings and to offer their own ideas.

In contrast, a closed question can limit an answer to one word or even just a grunt!

Can you identify the open ended and closed questions in these pairs? If someone asked you these questions, how would your answers be different?

“Who’s going to plow the field on the flat?”  OR   “What are the plans for the field on the flat?”


 “Why did you do that??!!!???”  OR   “Can you tell me what happened?”


 “Did you go to the movies with your friends last night?” OR “What did you decide to do last night?”


Are there times and places for questions with simple, direct answers?  Absolutely.  However, if you want to open the conversation gate and get “unstuck” try using open ended questions. See how far it can take you. 

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Farewell and Fairness

Posted By Robert Stankus, Special Education Mediation Program Manager, Thursday, October 12, 2017

NYSDRA has begun “Blogging by the Alphabet” by addressing issues relevant to our membership in alphabetical order.  I agreed to tackle the letter “F” for two reasons. 

First, I have announced my retirement from NYSDRA and a farewell post seems in order.  Farewell is “an exclamation used to express good wishes on parting” so it is appropriate that I say farewell as I leave the staff of NYSDRA.

Second, fairness is a critical concept to NYSDRA.  Fairness can be defined as “impartial and just treatment or behavior without favoritism or discrimination”.

We at NYSDRA believe in neutrality of dispute resolution practitioners and in full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest, in order to avoid even the appearance of unfairness.  We should never abandon those principles.  Furthermore, we should strive to expose and weed out those who attempt to corrupt dispute resolution principles in order to avoid litigation or deprive people of their right to due process and justice.

Much is being written these days about arbitration and the belief that it is being used in ways that deprive people of their rights, like the right to due process.  This is being done in some private contractual relationships that consumers may enter into unwittingly.

Some contractual dispute resolution clauses are fair while some others seem to go out of their way to make the processes burdensome and inaccessible.  Dispute resolution clauses which waive the customers’ right to proceed in court, their right to a jury trial, and their right to participate in a class action when coupled with burdensome or unfair dispute resolution provisions usually result in consumers who are frustrated and discouraged from accessing dispute resolution to solve disputes.  Imagine being a consumer going to an arbitration over a dispute with Company X and finding out the arbitrator is an employee of that very company.  Do you think you will believe the dispute resolution process is fair?

These draconian consumer contract provisions do deprive people of their right to due process and are inherently unfair.  The pursuit of justice by consumers is frustrated and may ultimately be denied.

One of my many parting wishes for NYSDRA is for success in its continued commitment to the fairness of the processes in the services we provide.  I hope NYSDRA will be able to provide leadership in a struggle to keep our dispute resolution processes (including arbitration and mediation) as fair as fair can be.


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Empathic Listening

Posted By Claudia Kenny, NYSAMP Statewide Director, Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Empathic listening - what exactly is this? And how do you do it?

When I think of empathy I think of it as an active state, a choice and something of a practice, something we can learn to get good at.  There are some different components of empathy that we can practice and that can help us learn to be empathic listeners.

Practicing presence- Be present for another person by resting attention on what they are saying.  Sometimes this is referred to as listening from the heart.  To be able to listen from the heart you need to be present or rest attention with self as well. Resting attention with self and other requires letting go of thinking. 

Silent Empathy- This is thinking about and understanding another’s experience from their frame of reference.  Sometimes referred to as standing in another’s shoes.  You can practice silently guessing some of their values and deeper needs and trying to understand what is most important to them as you listen.

Following vs. leading- We listen to where the speaker wants to go with the conversation and try not to lead them to where we think they ought to go. 

Focus on connection rather than an outcome - Empathic listening is not about fixing, changing someone or making anyone feel better or solving a problem.  It is about understanding and connecting to another’s experience. 

Reflecting back understanding and meaning in a way that allows the speaker to feel heard.  This could be by using some of the same language they used almost word for word. It could be choosing some of their thoughts or feelings to reflect back. It also could mean guessing some of the needs or values that might be important to them in the situation.  You do not need to agree with them to show that you understand and respect their internal frame of reference.

Finally we can practice loving kindness by suspending judgement or holding each person in respect- knowing that they are doing the best they can and wishing the best for them. 

Any of these skills can be practiced individually and together they form the active state of empathic listening.  Try to consciously practice empathic listening in your next mediation or other interaction and see how it changes the interaction for both you and those around you.


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Disability Etiquette for Mediators

Posted By Shari Greenleaf, Special Education Mediation Program Coordinator, Tuesday, September 12, 2017

     Molly Misinformed is a mediator awaiting the arrival of the parties to a dispute.  She is full of anticipation and geared up to help her community members solve an issue causing conflict.  As the parties enter the mediation room, Molly sees that one person is sitting in a wheelchair and has a dog with a red vest on.  Molly wants to help this person so she stands up and begins pushing the wheelchair to the table.  She then reaches down and pats the dog while saying very loudly, “Your dog is so cute.”  While still standing Molly decides to engage in small talk and says, “So, why are you in a wheel chair?”

     Clearly, Molly is indeed misinformed and is need of a lesson on how to respond appropriately to a person with a disability.  Community mediation needs to serve all members of the community, including people with disabilities and all mediators should be well-versed in disability etiquette.

     People with disabilities are people first; they deserve the same dignity and respect as all members of our community.  The most important rule in disability etiquette is don’t make any assumptions about the person with a disability and (as much as possible) interact in the same way you would with anyone else.

Basics of Disability Etiquette

1.       When you meet a person with a disability, greet them and offer to shake hands as you would with anyone else.  A person with a prosthetic limb may shake hands with their left hand instead of their right hand; but they will let you know how they want to shake hands.

2.       Offer to help and provide accommodation but wait to hear whether or not the person with a disability needs assistance.   Accept a refusal to help gracefully as each person knows what assistance or accommodation they need or do not need.  Pulling a chair out may seem kind but it is not helpful if the person was counting on holding onto that stationary object for balance.

3.       Do not speak loudly, more slowly or dumb down your language unless the person with a disability asks you to do so.  It is disrespectful to shout at people with disabilities or talk to them like they are children.

4.       Be respectful of physical contact with a person with a disability.  Do not touch their bodies, their wheelchair or their service dog unless asked to do so.  A person using a wheelchair often views their equipment as an extension of themselves.  It is intrusive to touch their wheelchair, crutches or cane.  A service dog is not a pet but is working companion.

5.       Speak to the person with a disability, not to their companion or sign language interpreter.  For those who read lips, it is easiest for them if you face them directly.

6.       Be patient and do not rush the person with a disability.  It may take a person a little more time to enter the mediation room, to sit down at the table or to speak.  There is no need to try to hurry the person along or try to finish their sentence.  Don’t focus on how quickly the parties move or speak - just relax and pay attention to what is said at the mediation.  If you can’t understand what a party says, just ask them to repeat themselves or clarify what they said.

7.       If you are sharing a document (such as a proposed agreement to resolve the mediation), please make sure you put it within reach of the person with a disability.  Even better, get in the practice of reading the proposed agreement out loud for all parties.  This ensures everyone hears the same thing and can eliminate problems for those who have reading disabilities, those who have visual impairments and anyone who can’t read printed text.  You can share the draft written agreement after reading it out loud.

8.       Please do not call attention to the disability.  Asking about the nature of the disability, how the person acquired the disability or other intrusive questions are not appropriate.  By initially asking if the person needs any assistance or accommodation, you can respectfully acknowledge that you are aware of the disability and are willing to meet the person’s need.

     The most important thing to remember when a party to a mediation is a person with a disability is this: a person with a disability is a person first and deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.  A community mediator who is aware of disability etiquette is best able to serve all members of the community, including people with disabilities.

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C is for Confidential

Posted By Charlotte Carter, NYSDRA Executive Director, Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Confidentiality is fundamental to mediation: Standard V of the Standards of Conduct, and considered so critical that mediations conducted by community dispute resolution centers are protected by Article 21-A of the NYS Judiciary Law. Confidentiality and privacy are critical to consumers as well; Justin Corbett the big data collector and processor of Advancing Dispute Resolution noted in his keynote address at NYSDRA’s conference two years ago that confidentiality was the most important factor to people who were considering using mediation.

It might seem straightforward, but the subject quickly gets complicated. What if a mediator learns something during a mediation session or a caucus that raises serious concerns? (Check here for the Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee’s opinion on what a mediator should/could/may do upon learning during caucus that one participant is secretly recording a mediation.) What do you say to a referral source (a judge, for example) who poses reasonable follow up questions? Is it sufficient just to change the names? (No!) What compelling “stories with wings” (Cynthia Kurtz, NYSDRA workshop) can you tell to legislators, government officials, grantors and other potential referral sources and/or funders to convey the value and potential of mediation to our communities and to social justice causes? How do you tell that story and also demonstrate your commitment to confidentiality? Have you ever caught yourself saying “This is confidential, but. . .”?

I’m not going to presume to provide answers; where’s the fun in that? I do hope some of these questions make you uncomfortable, determined to dig deeper, and to raise the bar of mindfulness in our conversations about what we do and why. 

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Beyond Bad Feelings Lies Successful Mediation

Posted By George Mossad, Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Updated: Monday, August 21, 2017

You just went through a mediation session with your former landlord, a guy you thought you never could never come to an agreement with.  You now sit there surprised and frankly just impressed that a signed agreement sits on the table in front of you both.  How did you get from swearing you’d take your landlord to court and sue the pants off of him to now coming to an agreement in mediation?

Often times people who participate in mediation start at completely different places with little hope of ever resolving their dispute.  However, as many people come to realize, the mediation session enables people to talk with each other in a way that enables them to find the common ground between them.  Difficult emotions can be shared in a safe space under the guidance of a trained mediator and those emotions are put aside, temporarily or not, for the sake of reaching an agreement.

In a 2014-2015 annual report published by the New York State Unified Court System, 74% of all cases conciliated, mediated, and arbitrated at Community Dispute Resolution Centers resulted in mutual agreements or final decisions.  More recently, a 2015-2016 report shows that that success rate has increased to 75.2%.  In matters involving the custody visitation divorce where emotions very often fly high, New York State saw an 81% dispute resolution rate in 2015-2016 alone.  Regarding landlord tenant and other housing matters, New York State saw a whopping dispute resolution rate of 83%.  Moreover, while there aren’t statistics regarding the emotions of the people involved in mediation, one can only imagine how many of these cases involved bad feelings. Nevertheless, the percentages speak to the fact that when individuals leave aside their personal feelings, temporarily or not, agreements come to fruition.

People come into a mediation session not sure what to expect but also holding onto the emotions that resulted in a disagreement.  Tempers flare, insults may be thrown, accusations hurled, and everyone is pointing fingers at each other.  However, by the end of the mediation session the majority of people, as shown above, walk away with an agreement in their hand and have mended the fences.  People who mediate can reach an agreements, but many do so only after being able to leave their troubled emotions behind. So the next time you’re in a conflict with your landlord or anyone else where emotions are high, remember that beyond bad feelings lies successful mediation.










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The Art of Apology

Posted By Claudia Kenny, NYSAMP Statewide Director, Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Apologies can restore trust.  A thoughtful apology can mend a relationship while a thoughtless one may cause further conflict. Often our attempts to apologize and make peace fall flat.  When you are the author of an action that negatively affected someone you care about and you sincerely want to land an apology here are the steps.

1.       Find out what the impact of your actions were on the other person.

Ask how your actions impacted the other person.  Then listen.  How did they feel at the time of the incident?  How are they feeling about everything now?   Invite the individual to fully express in whatever way feels most helpful. 

Now is the time to understand their point of view.  Resist the temptation to disagree, defend yourself or to rush through this part.   Try to stand in their shoes and really understand their perspective.  You may not see things the same way but you can still listen and understand. 

Give them plenty of time. Ask if there is anything else they want to say.  You will notice an energy shift when the person feels fully heard, a softening or sense of calm.

2.       Ask the person if they are willing to hear from you now.  If not they may not feel fully heard yet so cycle back to listening.

If they are willing to listen to you, now it is your time express sadness for the effect of your actions that stimulated or contributed to the pain they experienced.  In this situation you don’t have to be either right or wrong.  Just a person who made some decisions that had a negative effect on another person.  You can mourn that the negative impact your decision had on the other person.  Resist explaining, justifying or defending your actions.

After you have expressed your mourning or regret, give the other person an opportunity to express how they are feeling after hearing about your sadness. You may have to cycle back to step one with more listening.  

3.       You can leave the apology there or go a little further.  If things are going well you might ask if the other person would like to know what was going on with you when you did what you did. 

If the person seems hesitant cycle back to steps one and two (listening and mourning the impact your decision/action had on them). 

If they are willing to hear about your experience you will want to express a feeling and a need you were trying to meet rather than what you were thinking.  Something like, “at the time, I was so tired and I just needed to relax.” Again steer clear of elaborate explanations.

4.       Now it is time to find out if there is anything you can offer to make things right. 

Let the other person know how much you care about and value your relationship.  This step is sometimes called restorative action.  Look for something you can do that involves an action and is doable.  Sometimes just being willing to hear about the other persons experience and expressing sadness over the impact your action had on them is enough but sometimes this extra action is needed. 



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Arbitration Clauses-What are you REALLY getting with your new purchase?

Posted By George Mossad, Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What am I talking about?  The fine print.  Yes, I’m talking about that small writing you probably didn’t read that came with your credit card or new phone.  Have you ever wondered what you’re agreeing to?  What if I told you that you were agreeing to shield the company you bought the product from, from any legal claims that could otherwise be rightfully brought in a court of law?  I’m talking about one single line in a large stack of small print documents - the arbitration clause.  Many companies today have included these clauses in order to avoid individual or class action litigation and media scrutiny. 

“What’s wrong with arbitration?” you may ask.  Nothing at all!  In fact, arbitration can be a very cost effective and time saving way to resolve a dispute.  The problem is rooted in the use of questionable arbitration procedures.  Many companies today are using arbitration clauses to circumvent the legal system which could benefit the consumer, and are instead subjecting consumers to in-house arbitration, and less than transparent decision making.

At the very core of arbitration and other dispute resolution techniques is the principle of neutrality.  Without a separate third party source outside the corporation (like NYSDRA or AAA), that neutrality is questionable.  On a regular basis, consumers around the world are being required to sign away their constitutional right to sue in a court or law, either individually or as part of class action lawsuits, and instead be subjected to the possibility of an unfair arbitration proceeding. 

In the past, many companies like AT&T, McDonald’s, Haliburton, and many others have attempted to enforce their clauses, some of which have been successful.  Most recently, SquareTrade filed motions to compel such arbitration against consumer plaintiffs. 

While the road might seem long ahead, courts have already begun to refuse to enforce these kinds of proceedings in an effort to safeguard individual constitutional rights. 

What can consumers do?  Read the fine print. Educate yourself on the topic (SquareTrade moves to compel arbitration in class action suit over protection plans;  No Arbitration For Halliburton Sexual Assault Case, Court Holds; Federal regulator moves to mostly ban arbitration clauses).  Support the use of arbitration and other dispute resolution techniques, but insist the processes are fair.  Talk to your representatives. 

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What Pushes Your Hot Buttons?

Posted By Christine Tauzel, NYSAMP Program Director, Monday, July 25, 2016

Every year in August, the New York State Agricultural Mediation Program (NYSAMP) participates in Empire Farm Days. The event is the largest outdoor agricultural trade show in the Northeastern U.S. with an astonishing range of exhibits, seminars, demonstrations, and activities featuring the latest innovations, newest technologies and cutting-edge techniques in agriculture.

Last year, NYSAMP asked “On the farm, what pushes your buttons?” And people told us with answers ranging from the predictable: spouses, government, and weather to the surprising: tomato-snatching chickens, cell phones, and arguments over the last piece of pie.

When we train people to use mediation or conflict management tools we often stress how important it is to be aware of, and to develop tools for managing, our hot buttons, biases and triggers.

As an agricultural mediation program, it is also critical that we keep our finger on the pulse of today’s New York farmer. What makes them tick? What really gets to them?

This year we will continue our unscientific survey at Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls on August 9th, 10th and 11th. Stop by Lot # 502 on West Seneca Acres Avenue and tell us about what pushes your “hot buttons” on the farm. Claudia Kenny and Chris Tauzel from NYSAMP will be there along with volunteer mediators and staff from local Community Dispute Resolution Centers. It would be great to see and hear from you!

New York State Agricultural Mediation Program (NYSAMP) offers confidential, low or no cost mediation to the Agriculture community in every county in New York. (

See the article in Morning Ag Clips

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Pokémon GO to Arbitration … But Only If You Don't Opt Out Within 30 Days!

Posted By Elise Friello, Lemon Law Arbitration Program Manager, Friday, July 22, 2016

Out with the days of gaming from the convenience of your couch and in with the days of gaming from the comfort of your sneakers. Since Pokémon GO was first released earlier this month many conversations have turned to safety concerns for those using the augmented reality game. Other conversations, however, have turned to legal rights for those agreeing to Pokémon GO’s Terms of Service.

Like most agreements, whether they be for social media and music sites or mobile devices, the consumer must agree to arbitrate their dispute individually rather than bring a lawsuit in court. This means that as soon as a consumer downloads an application or buys a device they must waive their right to sue or give up using that application or device. Unfortunately, a consumer may miss a few important points when they become irritated about this sue-versus-use dilemma.

  • First, even if the consumer retains their right to sue they may still be required to bring a lawsuit in whatever far-away jurisdiction the agreement indicates and be subject to the laws of that state. (Hint: The selected jurisdiction is for the company’s convenience and not the consumer's, unless you live in sunny California.)
  • Second, not all agreements have the same effect. It may not be a sue-versus-use situation. In fact, with Pokémon GO, there is a section that allows a consumer to opt out of the arbitration provision of the agreement by writing a letter or sending an e-mail within 30 days. Yes, sending an e-mail! This means that consumers must carefully read the dispute resolution section of every agreement and be proactive in informing themselves of their rights.
  • Third, not all alternatives to court strip consumers of their rights. While arbitration is unfamiliar to many, the process can be a cost effective way to resolve disputes in a quicker and less burdensome manner than litigation for the consumer, not just for the company. Additionally, the arbitration hearing is typically held in the county where the consumer resides, not a jurisdiction chosen by the company. For example, New York State’s Lemon Law Arbitration Program provides consumers whose new or used motor vehicles turn out to be “lemons” with a fair forum to settle disputes within 45 days of filing. Consumers are often able to avoid many of the disadvantages of going to court, including finding and then paying for an attorney, as well as waiting several months for an opening in the court’s calendar.

Ultimately, the decision on whether to opt out of Pokémon GO’s arbitration provision lies with the consumer. In the sue-versus-use dilemma many consumers have no alternative if the application or device is essential. With Pokémon GO’s Terms of Service, at least a proactive and informed consumer can make a choice on how to best protect their legal rights.

Feel free to contact me at with any questions.

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Brainstorming - Meh?

Posted By Charlotte Carter, NYSDRA Executive Director, Friday, July 15, 2016
Updated: Friday, July 15, 2016

Mediators, facilitators, and consensus builders have long held brainstorming in high esteem. We assume that it is fair, inclusive, and productive.

Beth Tener, of New Directions Collaborative, says it is “Time to Rethink Brainstorming.” She cites research that shows that we do better when we take a few minutes to think separately and then pool our ideas. Traditional brainstorming actually inhibits participation, especially for introverts, and limits the generation of good ideas.

Ms. Tener has done her due diligence and describes an easy alternative brainstorming process called 1-2- 4-All. I’m eager to try this variation in a mediation setting, or in a staff or board meeting.

What applications can you think of?

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New Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee Opinion

Posted By Sheila Sproule, J.D., Co-Chair of the Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee, Friday, July 8, 2016

I am excited to share with you the newest Opinion from the Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee, which can be found on our web page by clicking this link: and then clicking on the link for Opinion 2015-01. The Committee -- comprised of your CDRC, NYSDRA and Dispute Resolution academic colleagues, peers and volunteers -- is copied here, so our office can acknowledge their important contribution to our understanding of mediator ethics. The Quarterly Subcommittee, who provide the full Committee with the written Opinion upon which they vote, was comprised this term of Committee members Sarah Rudgers-Tysz, Ryon Fleming and Alex Carter. We thank them for their thoughtful and informative work!  


This Opinion is timely, since it involves a request to video record a mediation at a CDRC. In this particular scenario, the CDRC does not have a policy regarding the recording of mediation sessions. Both of the parties in this custody and visitation case are represented by attorneys, and the husband’s attorney has requested the recording of the session/s with the husband’s consent, since the attorney is unable to participate in the session/s. The wife and her attorney, as well as the attorney for the child, have also consented to this request. After considering the concerns raised by the mediator and the center, including the impact that the video recording might have on the integrity of the process, the parties, and the mediator, and applying the applicable Standards and levels of guidance to those considerations, the Committee concluded that under this scenario the video recording should not be allowed. 


Please share this Opinion with who you think might benefit from reading it. As always, if you have any questions, or would like to submit an anonymous inquiry (meaning no identifying information will be provided in the written Opinion) to the Committee on behalf of a staff member or volunteer at your center, please feel free to do so by sending your inquiry by email to


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The Collaborative Governing Program’s 4 Steps for Conflict Resolution

Posted By Carla Schlist, Director of Marketing and Member Services, Thursday, July 7, 2016

Read all about NYSDRA's board-led initiative that helps politicians cross party lines to find common ground and accomplish shared goals. The program is currently administered in Orange County by the Dispute Resolution Center.

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DIY Farm Fixes: Conflict

Posted By Claudia Kenny, NYSAMP Statewide Director, Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Author Claudia KennyAs farmers we are masters of the quick fix. We are good at mending fences on the fly and cobbling together a piece of broken equipment to finish the job before the day ends.  Farm conflict, whether with family members, coworkers, employees, or even neighbors, is like any other problem we solve. Having a plan, some awareness, and a few tools can help out with the short term fixes you need to get through the day.

Conflict is a normal part of any farm business. Conflicts come often when people have different values, goals, and perspectives. Conflict can be a positive force on the farm, if we manage it well.  Conflict can create energy, focus and change.  It can also cause us to revisit a decision and consider it more carefully.  Conflict can help us understand what is important to us and to others. The way we manage conflict means the difference between the conflict becoming a negative or positive experience.

Fight, Flight, Freeze 

Most of us are not at our best during a conflict.  We say things we don’t really mean, make accusations, and refuse to hear what the other person is saying.  We get locked in a narrow mindset feeling like one way is the right way and the only way.  There is a biological reason for this “my way or the highway” attitude!

According to neuroscience, we actually don’t have our full capacity to see multiple perspectives or make complex decisions, when we are “triggered”, or in fight, flight, freeze mode.  When we are “triggered,” stress hormones flood our body and then neural pathways to the prefrontal cortex, shut down.   The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that helps us sort conflicting thoughts and right from wrong. This is a big deal! We feel tense, irritated and unable to stop thinking in a loop.

Below are a few techniques to help you manage conflict on the farm:

  1. Notice when you are triggered and take a break 

Noticing you are triggered helps you begin to shift from reactivity to managing your conflicts productively. Cool off and do nothing for a little while

Make a practice of noticing when you are triggered and in “fight, flight or freeze”. Name it. Just noticing can help you shift from being triggered. Since we don’t have access to our full capacity when we a triggered, building awareness will help you know when to take a break during a conflict instead of engaging.

2. Reflect 

Reflect on the situation. Review your observations. What happened, what did you see or hear, what words were said? (think of what a video camera can see or record- just the observables).  We often mix observations with evaluations and you will want to try to separate evaluations from your observations.

Evaluative Observation:  “She angrily dropped her hoe and stormed up to the barn”

Observation: “She dropped her hoe and went to the barn.”

Reflect on selfWhat feelings do we experience as a result of the data we observe? Usually there are a range of feelings.  “I feel angry and disappointed and frustrated and most of all just really tired of the tension.” What are the needs or values that relate to those feelings? For instance, if you are feeling angry it is easy to think it is because someone did something that really pissed you off.  But we are the only ones who create our response.  No one can really make us angry.  What is it that you were really wanting, is there a value you care about? (ex. if you are really tired of the tension you might really value and want ease and peace etc).

Reflect on the otherHow might the other person be feeling in relation to the observable data? What are the needs and values they might be holding that relate to those feelings? Try to put yourself in their shoes and understand the situation from their perspective.

3. Talk about it 

Sometimes we learn something about ourselves in the reflective process and don’t need to talk about anything.  If you decide a conversation is the next step here are a few tips.

Listen firstFocus carefully on what is said and reflect back the information and opinions. You don’t have to remember every detail but try to get the gist of the story.  Use their words and phrasing rather than your own interpretation.   You don’t have to agree with what they are saying.  Check to find out if you are hearing them in the way they want to be heard.

Avoid reflecting back judgments.  For example “Jon is a jerk” might be reflected back as “you are thinking Jon is a jerk.” If the story is very long interrupt and reflect back in chunks rather than at the end.  Interrupt by saying something like, “Let me see if I am understanding what you are saying so far is…”

Then check to see if you understand their feelings. Asking instead of telling someone how they feel is most effective.  “So I am wondering if this is really frustrating for you?” If your guess is wrong the person will give you more information.  “I am not frustrated, I am mad.”

Reflect back what is most important to the person. Make a guess? “So are you really wanting _______?” (ex: things to run efficiently on the farm? )

When you feel the person has said everything that they wanted to be heard about see if they are willing to hear about your experience.

Share your experienceShare your observations, and the feelings that came up for you.  Share what you care about now in relation to the conflict and what is most important to you? Focus on the problem or the issue and not the person.

4. Find Solutions

Make requests (not demands); accept a “NO” and be prepared with a second request.  If you are not really willing to hear a no you are most likely making a demand and not a request.

You may want to propose “experiments” to test potential solutions.

5. Know when to get help

If you try these things and realize you are in over your head with a situation consider “borrowing” the skills of a mediator just in the same way you might “borrow’ the skills of an accountant to help you figure out how to manage a tight financial spell.  Mediators are third party neutrals trained in communication who can offer individuals conflict coaching or can offer two or more parties mediation.

Even the best fences need maintenance and repairs.  If a broken fence is not repaired there are going to be problems.  It is not the broken fence that determines the outcome but how quickly we notice and how we choose to respond. Same with our relationships to people and conflict.  When we notice a conflict, and how we choose to respond or manage a conflict, makes a difference to the outcome.

Claudia Kenny has managed Little Seed Gardens with her husband in Columbia County, NY since 1995.  Learning to manage conflict constructively has been vital to their farm’s success which is dependent on webs of family, labor, community and business relationships. She has her masters degree in conflict analysis and engagement and is currently statewide director of New York State Agricultural Mediation Program (NYSAMP). NYSAMP offers confidential, low or no cost mediation to the agriculture community. 

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Mark Collins: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Posted By Charlotte Carter, NYSDRA Executive Director, Friday, April 15, 2016

Mark Collins, Assistant Coordinator for the New York State Unified Court System's Office of ADR Programs, worked for 34 years to build the network of Community Dispute Resolution Centers (CDRCs) in New York; he will be retiring this month. He was responsible for the supervision of the CDRCs, program funding and evaluation, mediation trainer certification, and the expansion of dispute resolution into family courts. We also honor Mark for his role in founding and partnering with NYSDRA as a professional association, administrator of statewide programs, and as an advocate for our members and the dispute resolution profession.

Mark wove the core values of mediation practice into his professional life.  He remained true to the original strands of community mediation, both of which manifested during times of national turmoil and political activism in the 1960’s. One strand flowed from the need for court reform and recognition that the judiciary system was overburdened. The second strand was a broader vision of social justice, and the belief that citizens could be empowered to take control of their own lives, resolve conflict, and preserve personal and professional relationships.  While providing oversight to the CDRC network to ensure quality of their processes, he supported their self-determination in terms of capacity building to meet emerging needs of their communities and stakeholders. Mark models transparency and accessibility:  one of the many pearls he passed on to his colleagues was the concept of managing while walking around.

Mark’s vision was grounded in practice; throughout his career he has been an ADR practitioner with a particular focus on victim-offender dialogues in serious crimes. He gained a national reputation, and served as board member and Board Co-Chair of the National Association for Community Mediation. Mark provided assistance to other state court systems in their design of community mediation networks. Over the years, Mark has been recognized by many organizations for his contributions to the field including the Lawrence Cook Peace Innovator Award from NYSDRA in 2010.

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NYSAMP Announces New Statewide Director

Posted By Charlotte Carter, NYSDRA Executive Director, Monday, March 7, 2016
Updated: Friday, April 15, 2016

Albany, NY - The New York State Agricultural Mediation Program (NYSAMP) is pleased to announce that Claudia Kenny has joined the organization as statewide director. Claudia brings over 20 years of experience as a farmer and sustainable food system activist. She and her husband own and operate Little Seed Gardens, a 97-acre family farm in the Hudson Valley region. Claudia has worked on agriculture related projects with diverse stakeholders and has been a mentor to young farmers on farm as well as through the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York mentoring programs.

Claudia obtained her master’s degree in conflict resolution with a concentration in environmental conflict from Antioch University Midwest. She is also a graduate of Mediate Your Life where she was trained in compassionate communication and mediation.

“We are delighted that Claudia is joining our organization. Her combined background is perfect for this position. We look forward to her leadership role and vision for ensuring that mediation will be useful to folks in the agricultural community in resolving conflict, making collaborative plans, and preserving important business and personal relationships.” Charlotte Carter, Executive Director of the New York State Dispute Resolution Association, Inc.­ NYSAMP is one of several state wide dispute resolution programs administered by NYSDRA.



NYSAMP works with mediation service providers in every county in New York. Highly trained and experienced mediators provide effective ways to help people solve problems themselves and to avoid the high costs of escalating conflict or litigation. Those problems include unpaid bills, machinery and supplier credit, farm family-neighbor disputes, and farmer-community relations. More than 900 people in the agricultural community use NYSAMP annually; of over 400 mediations 93% result in agreement. NYSAMP provides the agricultural community an opportunity to communicate clearly, negotiate effectively, and find understandings that can lead to fair and workable solutions.

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Peter Glassman, In Retrospect

Posted By Charlotte Carter, NYSDRA Executive Director, Monday, January 25, 2016
Updated: Monday, January 25, 2016

The mediation community in New York is mourning the loss of one of our favorite people. Peter Glassman was a consummate advocate, practitioner and trainer; his warm light touch and devotion to social justice was a joy and inspiration to many of us. 

Peter’s respect, genuine interest and gentle guidance inspired a remarkable level of loyalty and commitment in the people who were fortunate to work with him, especially at Mediation Matters and NYSDRA. I’ve heard that respect and admiration echoed by many who attended his trainings and workshops over many years.

My own relationship with Peter began decades ago when I was a fledgling, an somewhat overly enthusiastic, community volunteer. He was willing to trust my good intentions and to indulge me in my desire for discussion and debate. He was one of my first mentors as a trainer, and supported me in my professional growth. Once he nearly hired me.

Just a few years ago, Peter made a significant change in his professional trajectory and adopted the NYS Agricultural Mediation Program. This flip-flop in our own relationship amused us no end. I wondered how his distinctive style and penchant for quirky humor would fly with the larger agricultural community. I guessed that many farmers would appreciate him, and I was curious about how some of the senior staff at the USDA and Department of Agriculture might react. The chemistry was there from the start, and we’ve received many inquiries and expressions of concern and appreciation from his newest community.

My own sense of gratitude for the great good fortune to have worked so closely with Peter overwhelms me during these dark times of shock and loss. I’m grateful to Elyn Zimmerman, Peter’s wonderful and amazing wife, who was able to navigate the difficult journey they were forced to embark. She was also able to open her aching heart to include many of us from Peter’s work life. I will be eternally grateful that the stars aligned to allow me to take my friendship and professional relationship with Peter to a whole new level. On the other hand, I’m furious at the universe, or at least at the random laws of the universe, that allows a few tiny cells to misbehave and create such mayhem and pain and loss.

Peter opened our last conversation with a phrase I’m guessing he had used in other similar encounters: “I don’t even know where to begin and end with you."

I’m going to end with some of Peter’s words, speaking in his role of a remarkably Good Citizen with an extraordinary appreciation of diverse viewpoints, a fascination with processes that include rather than marginalize, and an unquenchable drive towards civic engagement and social justice:

“Participating in the process actually improves our opinion of others' opinions. This is a precious gift, given the current boorish nature of our public discourse. Whether or not we agree with their views, the Occupy movement can inspire us to create a local infrastructure for participatory democracy that generates more light than heat.” Peter Glassman, in a letter to the Times Union, December 10, 2011

To read Peter’s obituary and provide condolences to his family, please click here.

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JOB OPPORTUNITY: Statewide Director

Posted By Charlotte Carter, NYSDRA Executive Director, Monday, January 4, 2016
Updated: Monday, January 4, 2016

Position Title: Statewide Director
Organization: New York State Agricultural Mediation Program
Location: Albany, NY
Posted: January 4, 2016
Expiration: February 1, 2016

NYSAMP is a vibrant statewide mediation service dedicated to providing free and low cost mediation and conflict resolution services to farmers, agribusiness, and rural communities. NYSAMP is seeking a highly motivated and qualified individual with exceptional interpersonal, leadership, organizational, and program development skills to oversee the continued growth and development of this nationally recognized program.

Job responsibilities: The Statewide Director is responsible for:

Program Development and Outreach

  • Build partnerships with government agencies, agribusiness and
    nonprofit organizations providing service to agricultural producers
  • Conduct speaking engagements and workshops at conferences and meetings
  • Develop and implement marketing and public awareness efforts utilizing print and social media.
  • Produce press releases, brochures, annual reports, and other materials
  • Meet with elected officials and other key governmental officials
  • Research and pursue other sources of funding to expand program’s ability to respond to agricultural issues and interests
  • Provide technical assistance to local mediation center staff to increase the capacity and effectiveness of local outreach and direct services
  • Supervise NYSAMP Program Manager

Program operations:

  • Oversee case management
  • Oversee quality assurance for the statewide roster of agricultural mediators
  • Maintain operational procedures
  • Produce quarterly reports and information as needed relating to program case analysis, training and finances
  • Manage program finances and budget

Required Qualifications: Interested applicants must have:

1. personal or professional experience, or other strong links, with the agricultural community, and/or
2. experience implementing or overseeing dispute resolution programming.

Desired Qualifications: Supervisory experience, training experience, and knowledge of local community dispute resolution centers.

Compensation: Salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

To apply: Send a resume and cover letter (with salary requirements) via email only to:

Charlotte Carter, Executive Director,

All applications will be confidential.

Application Deadline: February 1, 2016

NYSAMP is a program of the New York State Dispute Resolution Association, the leading membership association in New York for dispute resolution professionals, and an administrator of several statewide dispute resolution programs. The NYSDRA offices are located at 4 Pine West Plaza, Suite 411, Albany NY.

For more information about:

Download File (PDF)

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JOB OPPORTUNITY: Youth Program Services Manager

Posted By Carla Schlist, Director of Marketing and Member Services, Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Youth Program Services Manager

Mediation Matters has a new position that will coordinate conflict resolution and restorative justice programs for youth and their communities. This position reports to the Executive Director and is funded by a grant from the Department of Justice and the NYS Unified Court System.

Mediation Matters, Inc. was founded in 1979 as a non-profit, community-based organization to provide the skills and processes that help people handle conflict in a constructive way. The Center specializes in providing mediation and conflict resolution skills, training and consulting. Offices are located in Albany, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, and Glens Falls, NY. Mediation Matters has a strong commitment to serving the diverse communities of the Capital district; applicants who feel they can help us further those goals are strongly encouraged to apply.

Job duties will include, but are not limited to:

Conducting outreach to schools, community partners, and community groups to expand youth conflict resolution programming in Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady County;

Working with the youth connected to the Albany Family Court Juvenile Drug Court, their families, schools, and others from the community engaged with the youth; coordinating restorative circles for the youth and those involved with the youth; assisting to develop protocols and manage protocols for the restorative justice component of the juvenile drug court; and managing the roster of volunteers with this specialized training;

Depending on experience and qualifications this position may also be responsible for managing associated staff, interns or others supporting the program.

Qualifications: Associates Degree or equivalent experience (preference given to those with a degree), demonstrated experience working with youth, training in conflict resolution skills (recommended), computer literacy, good written and oral communication skills, creativity and flexibility.

Salary, Hours, and Location: This is a full-time position (full-time for Mediation Matters is 35 hours per week). Salary is commensurate with experience. The position will largely be based in Albany County; all candidates must have the ability to travel throughout Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady Counties.

To apply, please send a letter of interest outlining applicable skills and salary requirements, résumé, and three references to:

Sarah Rudgers-Tysz - Executive Director

Mediation Matters

10 N. Russell Road, 2nd Floor

Albany, NY 12206

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Emerging Fox

Posted By Charlotte Carter, NYSDRA Executive Director, Monday, December 14, 2015

Metaphors nourish me, especially in my life as a mediator.  In addition to pure pleasure and cognitive calories, they help raise into consciousness some of the mysteries of the mediation process. Against plenty of evidence to the contrary, I live in hope that awareness leads to clarity and effective intervention.

One of the ineffables is what happens when the muddle and mess of conflict laid out on the table gradually transforms and emerges as bright new solutions and consensus. After decades of practice it still feels like magic.

I recently rediscovered a popular poem called “The Thought-Fox.” Ted Hughes describes the slow and mysterious emergence of a fox in winter; he is also talking about the creation of a poem. He describes the approach of a glowing eye:

“A widening deepening greenness, 
Brilliantly, concentratedly, 
Coming about its own business.”

Richard Webster, a critic, interprets Hughes’s poetic vision as “the conflict between violence and tenderness.”

Mediation allows participants to bridge the gap dividing competition and collaboration, and to reconnect with those preservationist impulses to be kind and generous with one another. Mediator neutrality and respect for self-determination ensures that the people we work with “come about [their] own business.”  Seeing a fox stirs us with primal responses; witnessing conflict transformation is also a profound and energizing privilege.

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