I enjoy reading books. They are a safe way to explore the ideas and works of others. And, a really good book is inspiring. It seems to connect on a personal and emotional level; a connection that can motivate one to further thought and action.
Here are ten of the books I read in 2011, and that inspired me to re-think some aspect of my work as a mediator. The list is diverse by intention. I’ve included Steve Martin’s bio as it reminds me what it takes to be good at your craft, whether its’ comedy or mediation.
Maybe one of these books will appeal to the ”mediator” in your life? My brief review of each book (after the list) may help you decide. And, please share your favourite reads this year, for mediators, in the comments section.
- Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY Model (Cinnie Noble)
- Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work (Michael Michalko)
- Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us (David DeSteno, Piercarlo Valdesolo)
- Who Would You Be Without Your Story?: Dialogues with Byron Katie (Byron Katie)
- The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t (Robert I. Sutton)
- The Book of Agreement: 10 Essential Elements for Getting the Results You Want (Stewart Levine)
- The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (Barry Schwartz)
- Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (Karen Armstrong)
- Clean Break: How to Divorce with Dignity and Move On with Your Life (Karen Stewart)
- Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life (Steve Martin)
Conflict Management Coaching: An excellent book by a pioneer in the development of conflict management coaching. Conflict management coaching is basically a one-on-one process. It’s client empowering. It’s not about advising the client what to do. Cinnie has developed a practical model for coaching conflict, integrating and building on the fields of coaching, mediation, and neuroscience. The model includes a process to follow; many case examples are provided, along with numerous templates, and supporting references. This book is thorough, well organized and practical. I liked how Cinnie puts the role of coach in context, as part of a larger community-of-practice, and in relation to other helping professions such as mediation and counselling. Cinnie moderates the popular Coaching Coaching Guild group on LinkedIn, and where I’ve seen first-hand, how she leads, and coaches, by example. Nicely done, Cinnie.
Creative Thinkering: A superb, totally accessible, book by a global figure, when it comes to how to be a top notch creative thinker. Ideas covered include: the core idea of conceptual blending (making connections and associations between dissimilar concepts), the pattern recognition nature of our brain, idea incubation, intention boards, the need for multiple perspectives, importance of random stimuli, human traits of a creative thinker, and more. The concepts and examples are supplemented with nifty thought experiments. This book will definitely be of value to anyone whose livelihood depends on problem-solving. Read my detailed review of this book, here.
Out of Character: Two psychology profs/academics conducted extensive research into one’s “character” and found that its not as fixed as we once thought; e.g., its not simply who we are, like it or not. Rather it’s a variable state, swayed by internal and external forces that we are often not aware of. The battle between satisfying our personal immediate / short-term desires and our long-term needs for species survival never ends. Well researched. The theory builds on fascinating, subtle experiments. At the end of the day, a key message I took away is that character is on a continuum, just like the color spectrum. It is often a fine line between sinner and saint. Yet, this flexibility, in our character, can also help us; take advantage of opportunities, navigate our social world, find the sweet spot for realizing our goals… This book also has merit as a relationship guide. Who doesn’t need that?!
Who Would You Be Without Your Story? Byron Katie offers a tough-love approach to dealing with your inner confusion. She has been at the forefront of spiritual psychology (my words) since the 1980s. This book is a good avenue to exploring her ideas and The Work, her straightforward approach to giving yourself a reality-check when it comes to relations with others… and setting aside all those stories we come up with to rationalize our position. As she says, there are 3 kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and god’s (what she refers to as “reality”). Through transcriptions of dialogues, involving Katie and workshop/audience participants, we get to appreciate her approach and insights (laser-like), in a wide variety of contexts. I find her ideas, work, and advice refreshing; e.g., “Do three good, positive things each day and don’t tell others about it.”
The No Asshole Rule: I was a bit uncomfortable starting out this book. The “A” word (when I did a review of this book on LinkedIn, the system wouldn’t accept the word ”asshole”) is not a word I routinely use, yet, I kind of warmed up to it as I got to appreciate where the author was coming from & what he’s advocating for. The author’s “A” Test is 1) After talking to the alleged “A”, does the “target” feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled by the person? In particular, does the target feel worse about him or herself? 2) Does the alleged “A” aim his or her venom at people who are less powerful rather than at those people who are more powerful? Now that your interest is piqued, you might want to check out this book. It offers some good observations, strategies and lessons; including “A”s are us!
The Book of Agreement: Practical, authentic & wise… Levine gives the 10 essential elements for just about any type of agreement. In fact he offers up 30 different model agreements; for business, community, professional, personal… Levine believes in “results based on agreement” vs. the protection-oriented legalistic way agreements are typically drawn up. Levine’s approach is based on relationships… in fact… he sees relationships as being more important than the agreement itself. Novel! If the agreement isn’t crafted with relationship in mind, well… is it not an us vs. them? The craft of drawing up simple, yet vital agreements, based on relationships, is much in demand, yet teaching this skill is not a priority with most conflict management / mediation training programs I’ve been exposed to. A pity.
The Paradox of Choice: Do you make choices decisively and quickly or is every decision a major project? Having many options and opportunities to choose from may not be a good thing.
This book explores the dynamics of too much choice… and the positive, and more likely, negative consequences that can follow. This book is very readable, and has many a nugget; re: when to “choose” vs. “pick”, objective vs subjective quality of decision making, the emotional impact of losses vs. gains, expectations and choice… Next time you are offering someone a choice… this book will help you frame your options. Really.
Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life: A gem. 12 steps to living the golden rule – i.e., a compassionate life. Step 1 is Learn about compassion… Step 12 is Love your enemies. The author has written many books, on the major religions, is an expert on comparative religion, and writes with brevity, passion and humor. Read my detailed review of this book, here.
Clean Break: This book is about an alternative, common sense, approach to dealing with family divorce. The author went through a messy divorce. It was the initiative for starting Fairway Divorce Solutions. This book is background to the company, which is now franschising across North America. Key features of the Fairway include its’ business/project management approach (the author has a entrepreneur/financial background), and resolving all financial matters before kids/parenting issues are discussed. The Fairway method has many similarities to collaborative law and mediation processes. Read my detailed review of this book/idea, here.
Born Standing Up: Celebrated writer, actor, performer… and oft-remembered as a “wild and crazy guy”, this book is anything but. It’s even-tempered, instructive, and of course, sprinkled with dead-pan humour throughout. Martin describes his personal journey up to the time he left the stand-up comic world, which he happened to be at the top of, when he left it in the early 1980s. What impressed me about his early journey is that his success was all about developing his craft, and without stimulants, too! He walks us through his “complicated childhood”, becoming a regular employee of Disneyland at age 10 (he lived a short bicycle ride away), through years of gigging… all the while constantly refining his act. And his humour… not above self-deprecation; e.g., as in Martin’s self-commentary: “there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration”.
Photo credit: Zitona on Flickr