The Mediator's Toolkit

by: EJ on 10/04/2018

I am so impressed with Gerry O'Sullivan's newly released book, The Mediator's Toolkit: Formulating and Asking Questions for Successful Outcomes.  As Kenneth Cloke, mediator and author of The Dance of Opposites says it is "A well-researched, fascinating, and practical toolkit for mediators...".  I find the information also reaches far beyond professional mediators and can be applied to pretty much every relationship from family to business to international peace.

What I didn't realize is how much goes into formulating questions so that they can be truly effective in shifting paradigms.  Gerry's S Question Model walks the reader through how to establish the entire subject matter being discussed, the information gathering stage, gaining each party's unique perspective of the situation, and finally uncovering new insights by exploring or focusing thinking and connecting and expanding thoughts. Whew - that's a lot! 

In this video, Gerry O'Sullivan demonstrates her questioning method.  I was totally captivated by the skill of the question at minute 37:00 and the information this question eventually brings out.


In The Mediator's Toolkit, Gerry uses plenty of case studies to illustrate her points.  Here is an example that examines post-decision cognitive consonance. See what I mean?  There's a lot to learn! Luckily, author provides a glossary of terms right up front.  "Cognitive Consonance is when cognitive elements are congruent with each other".  This case study has helped me understand responses to things like recent political events and climate change.

Case Study: seeking post-decision cognitive consonance
Striving to Maintain Cognitive Consonance Can Lead to Maladaptive Behavior

Leon Festinger states that once we make decisions, we try to reduce or eliminate our internal cognitive dissonance, even if this results in us behaving in an irrational or maladaptive manner. For example, Festinger first investigated cognitive dissonance out of a participant observation study of a cult that believed that the Earth was going to be destroyed by a flood. He looked at how the cult members reacted when their prediction of the end of the world did not transpire. Specifically, he looked at the reactions of the strongly committed members who had given up their homes and jobs to work for the cult.

While fringe members were more inclined to recognize that they had made fools of themselves, committed members were more likely to reinterpret the evidence to show that they had been right all along, and that the Earth was not destroyed because of their faith and prayers. If they did not reinterpret the evidence this way, it would have resulted in increased cognitive dissonance for them, as they had given up so much to work for the cult. So they maintained cognitive consonance by ensuring that their cognitive element of belief remained in harmony with their cognitive element of behavior. In conclusion, they adapted their cognitive element of belief in order to remain in cognitive consonance.


Find out more in The Mediator's Toolkit.




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