Book Review » Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How To Be An Ally

By Emily Ladau
Book review by Caitlin Meredith

Demystifying Disability by Emily Ladau is a practical guide to making our language, approach and practices as inclusive as possible for those with disabilities. With her wit, personal insight, and interviews with thought leaders in diverse disability communities, Landau invites readers to challenge our preconceptions about how people living with disabilities experience the world, and actively engage with expanding access and inclusion.

Much of her guidance is especially useful for mediators and other conflict professionals who want to make sure our practices are accessible for all.

Landau’s book challenges conventional assumptions about disability and explains the way ableism, rather than disability, limits disabled people’s access to “normal” life. She defines abelism as “attitudes, actions and circumstances that devalue people because they are disabled or perceived as having a disability.”

For people who don’t use wheelchairs, for example, the tendency is to feel sorry for people who do; that energy would be better spent, Landau points out, advocating for accessible bathrooms and subway elevators that are the actual obstacles to full participation in common life activities, rather than the disability itself.

Like racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice embedded in our culture, ableism is often hiding in plain sight for those it benefits. Through sharing her own experiences as a wheelchair user, and interviews with people with other types of disabilities, Landau connects the dots between common abelist comments (using mental illness conditions as insults, for instance) and the harm they do.

For conflict professionals, inclusion starts with our language – how do we talk about disability with parties and colleagues?

While Landau advises that the best approach is always to ask someone their preferred terms, she also provides a table of “best practice” language (use: disabled; don’t use: differently abled, handicapped or special needs) that is a great reference for everything from website content to conversations with parties.

Another aspect of accessibility Landau encourages readers to consider is how our offices, sessions, events and trainings (virtual or in person) might be experienced by people with a wide range of disabilities. She lists potential accommodations from providing written materials beforehand to designating seating areas for people with mobility disabilities to live captioning or interpreters for presentations.

As with language, Landau emphasizes that asking a disabled person how you can support their participation is the gold standard. Her suggested way of asking: “Hey, do you/does anyone have any accessibility needs to participate? Let me know how I can support you!”

Preparing for easy access should be on the preparation check list, not on the day of. To help with this, Landau provides great resources for organizations that provide free information and guidance on accessibility.

Landau is the first to point out that her book is a starting point for becoming an ally – or accomplice as some prefer – for reducing stigma, stereotypes and access for people with disabilities. She admits that she is in a constant struggle to update and improve her own blind spots within the varied disability rights communities. She provides many resources including organizations, books, videos and other media that explore, explain and advocate for increasing our understanding of a wide variety of disabilities to continue the process.

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Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

By Gary Friedman and Amanda Ripley

Want some truth? The two of us, we lie. We bet that you do, too. While lying is not one of humanity’s more virtuous characteristics, it is part of what makes us human. As journalists and mediators, we are faced with special challenges: in journalism, we don’t want to perpetuate a lie, and in mediation, we don’t want an unnoticed lie to lead to an unjust outcome.

There are many reasons we tell lies. Sometimes our lies are status-seeking, like when we peel off and rearrange the stickers on a Rubik’s cube so other people will think we are smart (of course, neither of us have ever done this!). Other times, we may lie for self-protection or to prevent a worse outcome, like taking our sister’s Girl Scout cookie money (nor have we ever done this!).  Lies can also be manipulative. Sometimes we lie for multiple reasons all at once.

In our professions, it is important that we have ways of dealing with lies as they come up. Some lies are easier to manage than others. Knowing when and how to call out a lie is heavily dependent on context. Understanding is a fundamental tool that we can use to develop a deeper sense of what is at the heart of the lie. What are the emotions and wants of a person when they choose deception in a difficult conversation? It may seem counterintuitive to empathize with a liar; however, it can be helpful to us to remember that we all lie and that understanding the liar within us can open us up to people who are typically “othered” as their lies get exposed. 

Lots of people have claimed they can detect when someone is lying, and we all want to believe it’s possible. Is someone making too little eye contact? Wait, or is it too much eye contact? Detecting a lie is not nearly as simple as procedural cop shows may have us believe. Research portrays a more complicated picture. And even with our long experiences, neither of us have a perfect track record for detecting lies.  

On May 10, we will be hosting the webinar, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. We want people to come away with more sensitivity to themselves, and an ability to connect with someone–even though they are lying–while still retaining integrity. We will focus on understanding why people lie, how to deal with lies, and how to think more creatively about the best response to a liar. We may even share with you a couple of our own lies. 

Want to hear about lying from this pair of liars? Be sure to register by May 10 (11 AM EST / 8 AM PST) by clicking here

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Power: Understanding or Coercion?

Power: Understanding or Coercion?

By Gary Friedman

Whether we are a mediator, lawyer, or parties, power is woven into the dynamics of conflict, and coercion is the most common form of power. Coercion hardly brings an end to the biggest problems fueling conflict; however, there is an alternative that normally does not come to mind when we think of power—understanding.

When it is coercion that steers the parties towards “resolution”, there is often blowback or bad feelings after an agreement has been reached.  A person may not feel as though they actually participated in the process, instead having gone along with others and were convinced, threatened or cajoled. The power of understanding is more gentle and lasting. It is a power that—if used appropriately—can bring real resolution to conflicts between people. 

Understanding is a connector that brings people together, and through the connection, creates a different way that people can be in relationship with each other. It gives parties the chance to bridge difference through understanding. This power offers a completely different experience from coercion, which polarizes and alienates people. This approach is not suitable for every dispute, and works best when people are willing to explore what possibilities of understanding are available in the conflict. Not to give up or give in, nor convince the other person to come around to our way of thinking, but to be more thoughtful about the conflict. 

In these tense environments, we tend to be reactive to the other person and understanding allows us to step back and consider the conflict in three dimensions: understanding of the other person, understanding of oneself, and understanding of external realities. Using the power of understanding, parties can move from reaction to choice with these three dimensions serving as guides through the conflict. Power and coercion often short circuits conflict, but understanding can be a way of going through the conflict. 

When people are willing to try and understand  what is important to them and each other, real resolution is possible in a way that cannot be achieved through coercive power. Join me on April 12 for our webinar on this topic. We’ll be engaging interactively, together, exploring these two different kinds of power. 

Questions to consider before the webinar

  1. How do you use power—either as the party in conflict or as the professional? 
  2. How have you used power recently? 
  3. How successful was your use of power? 
  4. Did you do it out of reaction, or was it an intentional effort to bring understanding to the room?

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Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

Book by Oliver Burkeman

Review by Jennifer Sullivan

One doesn’t so much read Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, as experience its clarifying power. While booksellers may shelve it alongside the self-help books intended to teach mere mortals how productivity superheroes optimize life (think The Four-Hour Work Week), Burkeman wants his readers to abandon optimization as a pointless mission. He advocates for a limit-embracing life, and gives readers “some ways of thinking about time that do justice to our real situation: to the outrageous brevity and shimmering possibilities of our four thousand weeks” (not so fun fact: an eighty-year life is roughly equivalent to 4,000 weeks. Tick tock.)

Much of the joy of the book exists in the rationale it imparts for letting go of impossible standards, which makes it a good read for that time in spring when you realize your grand New Year’s resolutions have shrunk into cute ideas you once had. “The real measure of any time management technique,” he writes, “is whether or not it helps you neglect the right things.” But it’s not all about letting go. Burkeman’s three principles for the dilemma of finite time – (1) pay yourself first in time; (2) limit your work in progress; and (3) resist the allure of middling priorities (prioritize your top 5, and run from next 20) – are as useful a compass as any in choosing how to spend your precious life. “The way to find peaceful absorption in a difficult project, or a boring Sunday afternoon, isn’t to chase the feelings of peace or absorption, but to acknowledge the inevitability of discomfort, and to turn more of your attention to the reality of your situation than to railing against it.” 

By urging readers to abandon “pathological productivity,” Burkeman encourages them to experience “the paradoxical reward for accepting reality’s constraints [which] is that they no longer feel so constraining.” In a sea of time management snake oil, Burkeman is selling something very different: the truth, if we’re willing to face it, which paradoxically allows us to better embrace our own allotment of weeks.

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Media Review » Summer of Soul

Media Review » Summer of Soul

Review by Laurie Phuong Ertley

Summer of Soul (Searchlight pictures, 2021) is a riveting documentary about Black joy, Black power, and Black music.  You might wonder how something so massive as a music festival headlined by the likes of BB King, Stevie Wonder, and Nina Simone could ever be kept a secret.  The footage includes some of the most passionate performances ever seen by Mahalia Jackson, David Ruffin, and Sly and the Family Stone.   Director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson took on the monumental task of editing down 40 hours of footage by Hal Turchin into a 117-minute long movie.   What’s left is a tight, impactful time capsule of 1969.  Prior to his work, the film reels had been left to languish in a basement, unused after the major television networks at the time had refused to air them.

As stirring as the musical performances were, interviews of the performers and news footage that were peppered throughout the documentary let you know that it was more than just a concert.  1969 left Americans reeling from the consecutive assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy.  There was an air of tiredness, anger, even revolution.  A young Nina Simone strongly asked the crowds, “Are you ready to do what it takes [to be free]?”  Then in 1969, as it is now in 2022, the United States of America is a country beset by laws that are meant to suppress Black people from learning, voting, and moving freely.  This documentary made obvious to the viewer why these tapes have been so long ignored.   But the time has come, and through the efforts of Questlove, the footage has surfaced.  And it’s up to all of us to ask ourselves, are we ready to do what it takes to live in a country that can truly allow Black people to be free?

Learn more and find ways to watch »

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Meet Our Interns!

Meet Our Interns!

We have five fabulous members of our team who will be working on a variety of projects with the Center for Understanding in Conflict from January to April 2022.

Meah Gilliam
Video Production

Based in Aurora, Colorado

Hello everyone! My name is Meah Gilliam and I’ll be editing a few videos these next few months. I’m excited to learn more about the understanding of conflict and hope to implement it in my life moving forward.

Favorite Quote

“Maybe I made a mistake yesterday, but yesterday’s me is still me.” — Musical artist, RM, from the KPop group BTS

Kyerra Kuntz
Graphic Design

Based in Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania

Hello! I’m Kyerra Kuntz and I am from the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania. I am a senior, college student attending Liberty University to receive a bachelor’s degree in Graphic and Studio Arts: Graphic Design. I am projected to graduate in the Spring of 2022 and plan to follow a design career wherever that takes me. I chose to intern at Understanding in Conflict because of the type of the work they do and the opportunities they offer me to strengthen myself as a graphic designer. I look forward to working alongside the other interns and staff for this organization!

Favorite Quote

“Always be a little kinder than necessary.” — James M. Barrie

Jeilee Letcher
Curriculum Development

Based in Cleveland, Ohio

Hello! My name is Jeilee (Jay-Lee) Letcher. I am currently in my second to last semester of graduate school at Cleveland State University. I will be getting my masters of Education in Adult Learning with a certificate in Online Teaching. My short term career goal is becoming a trainer at my job. Long term, instructional design. I enjoy bowling, reading, napping, buying books, going to the movies, traveling and spending time with my family. Two of my short personal term goals: write and publish a fiction novel and go to Iceland.

Favorite Quote

“…That’s considered tyranny and it’s generally frowned upon.” — Chidi Anagonye, The Good Place

Brooke O’Connor
Social Media

Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Copenhagen, Denmark

Hi! My name is Brooke and I work as the social media intern for the CUC. I’m from Milwaukee and am currently in my junior year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Communications, Criminal Justice, and Gender and Women’s Studies. I’m studying abroad this semester and by the time this newsletter goes out, I’ll have moved to Copenhagen! I’ve never been to Denmark before but I can’t wait to get there and hopefully travel around a bit.



Favorite Quote

“Life is what you make of it.”

Alicia Pichette
Audio and Podcast Production

Based in New York, New York

Hi I’m Alicia Pichette from New York City and the CUC’s Podcast Production and Audio intern. I studied Audio Engineering and Music Production in college and have been composing and editing projects for various digital media ever since. My love of podcasts and desire to gain more editing experience led me here and I’m looking forward to collaborating with everyone to produce more great episodes. 



Favorite Quote

“The best thing to hold onto in this life is each other.” — Audrey Hepburn

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Top Tips for Starting an ADR Practice

Top Tips for Starting an ADR Practice

By Catherine Conner and Melanie Rowen

You may have left your Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) trainings motivated to add Consensual Dispute Resolution (CDR) to your mix of work—or perhaps even inspired to start your own ADR/CDR practice—but not sure where to begin or what path to take for your next steps. We are passionate about helping people lay the groundwork for starting their own practice, or finding the way to add understanding-based dispute resolution to their work. 

The goal is a thriving, sustainable ADR/CDR practice that is congruent with who you are. To get there, we like to look at four “buckets” of preparation you can do to incorporate CDR into your work. The first bucket involves grounding yourself through reflection—figuring out who you are, what you want to do, why you want to do it, and how it fits into what you’re already doing. For the second bucket, assess your existing resources and your support community, as well as consider what you still need and how to obtain it.. The third bucket is dedicated to refining your message and getting the word out. Finally, the fourth bucket is the development of a concrete plan with a clear organizational structure to enable you to implement your plan, as well as an accountability feature to prevent procrastination or backsliding. 

If you’d like to learn more about this approach to aligning or launching your ADR/CDR practice, join us on February 15 for our webinar, Top Tips for Starting an ADR Practice—details and registration are available clicking here. In April, we’ll begin our three-part interactive series, Your Next Steps, where we will help participants develop the next phase of their work in consensual dispute resolution. Details for that program can be found here.

Register for the webinar >>

Join Your Next Steps, our 3-part online series >>

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