5 Podcasts for Mediators this Winter Break

I am a bit of a podcast junkie. I currently subscribe to more podcasts than I can listen to in an average week. This means I always look forward to time when I can catch up!

Reading this I imagine you scratching your head thinking what is a podcast? and what has this got to do with mediation? Well, a podcast is a series of web-distributed audio (or video) files to portable media players (like an iPhone). Basically, they’re like radio show episodes you can download and play when you want.

They are an excellent way to choose content and access a great deal of material that will encourage reflective practice and offer helpful tools. It is easy to find a number of podcasts that use different formats (narrative, interview/dialogue, monologue) to suit your listening preference. Podcasts also have their own communities that engage in further discussion on social media as well.

It’s never been easier to access thought provoking content! Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Music (or through any fine podcast app).

To change things up from the winter break reading lists we see this time of year, I offer you a listening list.

Top 5 Podcasts for Mediators

Here are my top 5 podcast recommendations for mediators to listen to over the winter break (and subscribe to for future episodes):

5. The Turnaround!

The Turnaround!Interviewers, interviewed. The Turnaround is a new show about our greatest living interviewers, hosted by Jesse Thorn and produced by Maximum Fun and Columbia Journalism Review. Featuring conversations with prominent interviewers about their careers and their craft, the show is a perfect resource for a new generation of storytellers and journalists. You’ll hear Jesse speak with Larry King, Terry Gross, Werner Herzog, Audie Cornish, and so many more!

Want to learn more about interviewing and asking effective questions? This is the podcast for you. Jesse Thorn chats with some amazing interviewers about how they interview. It’s a great way to spend some time reflecting on how we as mediators engage with clients and go about asking all sorts of questions, and the different ways they prepare. A great opportunity to peek behind the curtain.
Episodes are about 60mins+.

Get a taste of The Turnaround:
Brooke Gladstone


4. Overthinking Conflict

Overthinking ConflictExploring the business, skills and styles of peacemaking. Our goals are to have interesting conversations, delve into the hard edges of conflict resolution and support developing practitioners like ourselves.

Each week, Overthinking Conflict explores a different aspect of peacemaking. Overall, there is a great deal of variety in the interviewees and breadth to their approaches and contexts to peacemaking. The hosts have different worldviews and approaches to their peacemaking practices which makes the conversations with guests all the more enjoyable and accessible.  Alright, full disclosure time. I co-host this podcast with Amanda Semenoff.
Episodes are about 25mins.

Get a taste of Overthinking Conflict:
Curiosity for Better Holidays with Kathy Taberner and Kirsten Taberner Siggins


3. Invisibilia

InvisibiliaInvisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted by Hanna Rosin, Alix Spiegel, and Lulu Miller, Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.

I love how Invisibilia links scientific research and storytelling. It really makes for some engaged listening and a way to learn more about human behaviour. Many of the topics explored are particularly relevant to conflict resolution: fear, emotions, culture, perception and more. A bonus is that the stories translate well to retelling with clients to encourage self-reflection.
Episodes are about 60mins.

Get a taste of Invisibilia:
Frame of Reference

2. The Space Between

The Space Between with Dr. Tammy LenskiThe Space Between is about getting better results from your most difficult and important conversations. Award-winning mediator, executive coach, and conflict resolution teacher Dr. Tammy Lenski shares practical strategies for resolving conflict and tension in high-priority relationships at work and home.

Tammy offers up short and highly useful tools in her podcast that are easy to work into your own practice. Each episode breaks down a tool or concept to make it easy to integrate into your own toolbox. She also couches the episodes in personal and relatable stories. If you are looking for specific skills and tools, this is definitely the podcast for you.
Episodes are about 5-10mins.

Get a taste of The Space Between:
The question that ends hamster wheel debates


1. Hidden Brain

Hidden BrainA conversation about life’s unseen patterns. Hosted by social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, Hidden Brain links research from psychology and neurobiology with findings from economics, anthropology, and sociology, among other fields. The goal of Hidden Brain isn’t merely to entertain, but to give you insights to apply at work, at home and throughout your life.

The storytelling is well crafted and sensitive with social science research woven in to support and sometimes challenge our expected reactions to a story. Social science research is made not only accessible, but thoroughly understandable. The occasional stopwatch science segments is a fun, rapid-fire presentation of research on certain topics between host Shankar Vedantam and author Dan Pink. Each episode will inform and entertain.

The topics do range a fair bit, however this is probably the podcast that encourages me to reflect  on my own practice and what is happening for those in conflict the most.
Episodes are about 40-60mins.

Get a taste of Hidden Brain:
Tunnel Vision

Are you already an avid podcast fan? What shows are in your feed?
Share them in the comments below!

I hope you find a podcast of interest in this short list. Part of the fun is exploring and finding new podcasts that speak to you. Happy listening!

C.D. SaintC.D. Saint is a Sr. Coordinator with Mediate BC’s Roster Program where he promotes mediation and helps facilitate new conversations within the conflict resolution community around processes, roles and more. He co-hosts the Overthinking Conflict podcast, mediates and volunteers with the North Shore Restorative Justice Society.

Photo by Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash

Get Ready for Halloween with PignPotato!

zombie-fight-or-flightVancouver Mediators’ Lounge is ready for Halloween with a zombie-themed visit from PignPotato Game co-founders. Joan Braun and I will bring our prototype decks of Zombie Fight or Flight, the new collaborative card game from PignPotato Games.  Zombie Fight or Flight is a fast paced, easy to learn card game where we survive together or die trying.

PignPotato is a group of 7 local mediators, lawyers and creatives who came together out of the 2016 CoRe Jolts Game Jam to create games designed as tools for DR, including Mediate BC Roster mediators Sharon Sutherland, Joan Braun and Amanda Semenoff.

We will discuss the place of games in DR processes, describe our journey from Game Jam to Game Creation and play a few rounds of Zombie Flight or Flight. This is the last chance to preview the game before its Kickstarter Launch October 24.

We are still collecting feedback on the game for the training manual that accompanies the game for use by trainers, mediators and teachers. We would love more input from other DR professionals.

A photo posted by El Santo (@elsantonewwest) on

El Santo is a great venue with a modern take on Mexican cuisine, easy walking distance from the New Westminster Skytrain. Favourite fare includes fresh tortillas, white cranberry sangria and grilled caesar salad.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Vancouver Mediators’ Lounge – New West Edition
Thursday, October 20, 2016
6:00 – 8:00 PM
El Santo 680 Columbia St., New Westminster

[Editor’s note: Zombie Fight or Flight is now on Kickstarter. Learn more about this collaborative game on their project page and opportunities to support its development and get early access to the cards and some unique rewards.]

Amanda Semenoff
Amanda Semenoff

Amanda Semenoff is a New West based mediator, facilitator and conflict resolution consultant. She loves weird, sticky and seemingly unsolvable problems, and has successfully worked with a wide range of clients including academics, corporate boards, teacher groups, community sports organisations, musicians and non-profits to create innovative solutions and common purpose.




Genteel zombies' afternoon croquet…seem like an appropriate topic, given the date. This post is about brains. Specifically, it’s about how brains react to rewards (like a big bag of Halloween candy), and how this response can be mediated (pun intended) by a person’s environment.

When I sat down to write this post, I was ready to talk about how emotions take over the rational brain, and turn people into zombies — rendered incapable of making decisions. As I dug a little deeper, however, I discovered there was little-to-no science to back this up. It seems that current thinking on the subject militates towards the idea that there is no such thing as a purely “rational” decision [i.e. all decisions are based on emotion], and that we haven’t the foggiest how to measure what a rational decision is in the first place. In fact, one study of persons with damaged emotion centres in their brains found that inability to process emotional information did not improve decision-making. Instead, the participants had trouble making decisions at all.

As such, I am going to talk about a much more scientifically-validated field of study which approaches, mutatis mutandis, the same problem. I’m going to talk about a party’s ability to wait to get something they want more, instead of taking something now that they want less.

Delaying Gratification

A long-term orientation in decision-making is generally referred to by psychologists as the ability to “delay gratification.” What is important about the ability to delay gratification for our purposes, and what I will explore further in this post, is the link between environmental variables and parties’ ability to delay gratification (or not). We are, after all, the masters of the mediation environment.

In the early 1970s, psychologists at Stanford University conducted an actual, honest-to-goodness scientific study, dubbed the “Marshmallow Experiment.”  They told young children that they could either choose to eat a treat now (eg. a marshmallow), or wait and get something better (usually an extra treat, so they would get, for example, two marshmallows instead of one).

(As it happens, there is some quite entertaining YouTube footage of this particular experiment)

Subsequent studies found that when the children were distracted from the first treat, they were more likely to be able resist the temptation of eating it and make it to their second, better treat. Thinking “sad thoughts,” and thinking about the rewards themselves made the children less likely to be able to wait, while thinking about “fun things” served as ideal distractors and created an increased ability to delay gratification. It has also been found that the more likely the later reward was, the more likely the party was to hold out for it.

Studies also tell us that the ability to delay gratification improves with age, it isn’t a uniquely human characteristic, and that the ability to delay gratification is an indicator of various life skills and even body mass index.

So What?

As mediators, we have to juggle enormous complexity during the course of a mediation: the power dynamics amongst the parties, the objective and subjective dynamics of the negotiation, the issues, the bargaining power of each party, each party’s position (as it changes), and more. To deal with these dynamic challenges, we also have a huge array of tools to help parties reach an agreement: reality-checking, setting the agenda, checking-in, re-framing, coaching parties, caucusing, and so on.

Settlement, to analogize to the studies above, is almost certainly the first marshmallow. When they hold out and don’t settle, parties tend to think that they can do better if they wait, rather than take what’s in front of them. Not only can it be useful to recognize that some parties are simply better at delaying gratification than others, but also the idea that certain conditions foster or suppress this ability may be useful.

I can’t claim to fully grasp all of the implications between these studies and mediation. I do think that it is interesting that, as discussed above, science tells us a reduction in certainty about a future reward can create impetus to take what’s available in the short-term, and that this is essentially how reality-checking works. It is also interesting to me that simply placing a settlement proposal (marshmallow) in front of a party may make them more likely to settle.

Similarly, we know that a distraction from an immediate reward will help delay gratification. It is interesting to contemplate that one of the effects of controlling the agenda, and helping parties focus on salient issues might simply be a removal of distraction. In the same vein, I imagine that many of us have had the experience where a moment of silence actually created the breakthrough that got parties moving together. It is fascinating to me that one of the mechanisms through which this works might simply be by reducing the level of distraction in the conversation.

The last thing that struck me as I wrote this is the certainty with which I embraced the notion that emotion over-rode rationality. Our social contexts are so powerful, that they continuously affect the reality in which we live. Certainly, parties struggle with this same issue during mediations (vis-à-vis confirmation bias, among others), and it is our job as mediators to help them see things from a different perspective.

Brandon Hastings
Brandon Hastings

Brandon Hastings is a lawyer and Civil Roster mediator.  He is working with the CLE Share the Land Conference Co-Chairs to create both a graphic representations of the interconnections of the BC mediation community and an audio-video study of diversity on BC’s mediator rosters.

Photo credit: Sharon Sutherland.