A Blog posting about the recent MCDR Quarterly Meeting held in Annapolis at the JECC

Building a Conflict Resolution Practice:

Maryland Council for Dispute Resolution

Blogged By David J. Smith, June 26, 2018:

Career Awareness, Coaching, Conflict Resolution, Mediation and Conflict Intervention Techniques, Peacebuilding

   Conflict resolution and peacebuilding includes not only global work, but also domestic career pathways.   In the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia), there is a tendency to assume that everyone who is interested in conflict and peace issues is looking for NGO, foreign affairs, and international policy careers.  That is not the case.  Professionals working on local issues of violence, disagreement, and polarization are more important today than ever before!

   Early in my career I was a family mediator (and also worked in community mediation, which I still do on occassion), so I am always interested in those who are trying to make a difference in their own local communities.   Last night, I attended the summer quarterly meeting of the Maryland Council for Dispute Resolution, which is a practitioner association of those working mostly in private settings as mediators.  The focus of the meeting was on “Building Your Professional Practice,” an important issue for those trying to make a go of it as a full-time (or part-time) paid conflict resolver.

   The panel was moderated by Barry Weisman, who is the treasurer of MCDR and not a lawyer (I point that out, because many domestic mediators have law degrees). Barry focuses on advising and mediating those going through divorce and separation.  Starting off the discussion, he focused on the importance of marketing for mediators.  For him, the starting point is taking a personal inventory: who are you, what are you wanting to do, what are your strengths.  He emphasized the need to match strengths with the conflict and clients.  He talked about the Four Personality Types as a way of understanding potential clients: mediators need to match their own style with those of the clients.

Four Quadrant theory.pdf

From Think Two by Two

Barry also discussed the importance of marketing materials including business cards and brochures.  A website presence is also important including an up-to-date LinkedIn profile.

   The next panelist was Charles Franklin who is president of Franklin Technical Services, LLC. Charles is an engineer who mediates. He emphasized the importance of networking.  Keeping curiosity alive will thrust you into new spaces and with new audiences that we benefit from mediation and conflict intervention approaches. He also talked about mentorship and bringing younger professionals into the field: a point that I also emphasis in my work. The more diverse your network, the better, he felt.

   Harold Cohen is the past president of MCDR and a mediator.  He has a PhD and is a board-certified healthcare management.  Harold has extensive experience in the field of emergency response and is a nationally registered paramedic.  He works closely with the Executive Fire Officer Program in Emmittsburg, MD.   This was of interest to me because of my work with the Forage Center.   Harold also emphasized networking and being part of communities of professionals.  He stressed that one should expect it to take from 3-5 years to build a practice.

   Bob Morgan, the only lawyer on the panel, recently concluded his career as a litigator and is moving to mediation.  He is still learning, and was thankful for the professionals on the panel and organizations like MCDR.  He was disappointed in that promised referrals from colleagues did not happen, but recognizes that it is hard work building a practice.   He shared his business card to show how one might create a tagline emphasizing mediation: his is “achieving resolution.”

   Finally, Heather Fogg shared her thoughts and ideas. She is the quality assistance director of the Maryland Program for Mediator Excellence (MPME). Trained as a psychologist, she emphasized that mediators need to play to their strengths and be self-aware particularly of where one needs to grow.   MPME is a resource for mediators and allows practitioners to be part of a greater community.

     A few questions followed the presentations asking about definitions and practice limits.  The biggest take away for me was the importance of networks and matching skills and abilities to the task.   Panelists agreed that finding one’s niche is important then marketing it to the right audience the key to success.

   David J. Smith is a career coach and author of "Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace” (IAP 2016).  He works with those just starting in the field including recent grads, as well as older professionals looking to make a career change.  David is based in Rockville, MD and can be reached via e-mail at: davidjsmith@davidjsmithconsulting.com  or via his website.

   David is a conflict resolution educator, peace building trainer and career coach.  His professional experience has spanned the legal, think tank, international, quasi-government, and higher and secondary education sectors.  He has taught at all higher education levels: community college, 4-year undergraduate (private, public, and religious), graduate, and international.  In 2003-2004 David was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar teaching at the University of Tartu in Estonia.  From 2005 -2012 he was a senior program officer and senior manager at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington where he managed programs for colleges and universities and developed training for faculty and students.  He works with all groups and educational institutions to support peace building awareness.

   His book, Peace Jobs: A Student's Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (IAP 2016) can be purchased from the publisher or Amazon.

This Blog Posting is reprinted with permission, David J. Smith (c) 2018

January 26, 2017:

John Greer Selected for Membership in National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals 

John Greer, Esq.

John Greer, Esq.

Principal at Patuxent Mediation Services, LLC

MCDR Certified member, John Greer of Patuxent Mediation Services LLC is pleased to announce that he has been selected for membership in the prestigious National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals. The Academy is an association whose membership consists of dispute resolution professionals distinguished by their hands-on experience in the field of civil and commercial conflict resolution, as well as by their commitment to the profession.

January, 2017:

     Is It Ever OK to Blame?

     by Ellen Kandell
     January 2017 Ellen Kandell

Blame is frequently used, whether consciously or unconsciously, in an attempt to assign responsibility for something gone awry. To blame is to “assign responsibility for a fault or wrong.” My colleague, Cinnie Noble, tweeted a thought-provoking question: “When is it alright to blame?” This article will explore in brief the nature of blame and when it’s acceptable to blame, if ever.

The act of blaming, more often than not, is counterproductive to conflict resolution. Assigning blame allows the blamer to avoid taking any responsibility for their own actions and say the conflict is entirely the responsibility of the other person. However, conflict is rarely found to be the fault of solely one person. Blame does not change the argument or the facts of the situation. What it may do instead is put your colleague, friend, spouse, or teammate on the defensive, which in turn is likely to make them less receptive to your message.

Each of us has played the blame game at some point. The first reaction for many people is to find someone else to identify when things have gone wrong. We want to identify a person or situation outside of ourselves in order to avoid holding ourselves accountable for the negative situation or occurrence that has taken place. Sometimes we attempt to assign out blame in order to avoid punishment or avoid damage to personal self-esteem. This blame game allows us to divorce ourselves from our actions and shut down meaningful, insightful and constructive communication.

When Is It Acceptable to Blame?

Having said all of that, is it ever acceptable to blame? It depends entirely on the situation. Blame is negative the majority of the time, whether it’s blaming someone else or using negative self-talk and blaming yourself. However, there is an instance in which it may be acceptable to blame. If “blaming yourself”, helps you to recognize and admit a mistake you’ve made, then this blame is helping you learn. You have made a mistake and taken responsibility for it. You have held yourself accountable, and now you can move forward. This applies to both professional and personal situations or relationships. But in applying blame to yourself, it’s crucial to avoid the negative self-talk that often accompanies the blame. Beating up on yourself while holding yourself accountable for a mistake undermines the positive effects of taking responsibility and learning from a past mistake.

Blaming others is much trickier, and I can think of no instance in which it would be appropriate to do so unless it initiates a conversation in which all parties step up and take responsibility for their own part in the conflict or for their own mistakes.

Is There a Place for Blame in Conflict Resolution?

The act of blaming is more likely to occur in the early stages of conflict. Because blame tends to cause a person to become defensive or even antagonistic, it is considered defensive communication. Blaming is more likely to cause or escalate a conflict than it is to resolve it. Once one person in the conflict becomes defensive, the other person is also likely to react in a similar fashion. Neither party is able to hear what the other is saying, thereby extending the conflict.

In mediation, blame is counterproductive. By blaming the other person, you remove yourself from any responsibility or accountability for your part in the dispute. This causes the other person to get angry and likely shut down. If you are the one on the receiving end of blame, you are likely to become defensive and antagonistic.  No one wins. As a mediator I start by asking open-ended questions about the nature of the dispute.  While mediation is a forward thinking process issues about causation and responsibility often surface early. Once that is openly discussed parties in a mediation may take ownership of their role in causing the misunderstandings that fed the dispute. Only then can are you more likely to find resolution and avoid a lengthy and costly conflict.


Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse, national clients. Ms. Kandell trained as a mediator at Harvard Law School in 1992 and has mediated over 800 cases. In June 2016, she participated as an assessor in the second annual Consensual Dispute Resolution Competition (CDRC), an international mediation competition in Vienna Austria.





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MCDR is the oldest membership-based organization in Maryland dedicated to promoting the use of mediation and supporting

the mediation profession.  We have a proud history of successfully advocating for allowing multiple professions to practice mediation,

halting attempts to restrict the practice some fifteen years ago.  MCDR is the first organization to establish performance based criteria

now in use as a national model, part of an ongoing dialogue on quality assurance and mediator credentials.

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