On April 12, 2022 it was my pleasure to see and hear a virtual presentation by Dr Ken Cloke on the Future of Mediation:  Imagining a Conflict Resolution at the Mitchel Hamline School of Law sponsored by the Minnesota State Bar Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Section where I serve on the board. Based on his commentary and reflecting on my notes,  I am sharing some insights I took away from his program that I am offering to you from my perspectives. He gave me permission to share with you his “12 Questions for Anyone in Conflict.” These are focused on students, but these can be applicable in other situations too. Feel free to share these with others.


Who is Dr. Ken Cloke?


From his web site

Ken Cloke is a world-recognized mediator, dialogue facilitator, conflict resolution systems designer, teacher, public speaker,  author of numerous books and articles, and a pioneer and leader in the field of mediation and conflict resolution for the last 37 years.

Ken is the founder and first President of Mediators Beyond Borders

He is the Director of the Center for Dispute Resolution

He has an LLM from UCLA

PhD from UCLA

Law Degree from U of CA – Berkeley

He is a giant in the field


What did he have to say?


On a big picture war is the failure of language. Ken was mediating between Russia and Ukraine in the 1990’s. It is important not to let a mole hill grow into a  mountain. Unfortunately, that is where Russia and Ukraine are today. When parties cannot speak with each other in an open way this gives rise to conflict.

Levels of conflict

On a personal level  you create your own future by how you vision yourselves, your attitude, and your self-imposed constraints with how you interact with others. There are levels of conflict:

  1. Within yourself
  2. In relationships with others
  3. Environmentally, systematically, and culturally

Conflicts may be one of a kind or they may be chronic and repeating. A great example of systematic conflict that Ken shared is a two year old in a room with a coffee table that has an expensive piece of artwork on the table. Clearly removing the art work and child proofing the house will avoid many otherwise crises by being able to prevent the crisis in the first place.

The key to any mediation is listening actively. Observing, listening, and practicing mindfulness individually goes a long way towards understanding. Explore outside of your assumptions, biases, and judgments. Think more broadly. The brain has 10 or 11 dimensions to it. The Blue Brain project is attempting to explore these with neuroscience and artificial intelligence at this time.

This made me think of four guiding principles for your consideration with others

His commentary made me think about Rotary International and their four guiding principles before you speak.

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will t be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

True this is not directly about mediation, but as a person these are four enormously powerful principles to apply in any situation.

Stories, multiple solutions, forgiveness, and reconciliation

Stories and narratives related to conflict can help bring points home. There can be multiple answers. For example, the square root of 16 is +4 and -4. Keep this in mind relative to conflict too. There may be multiple solutions.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are a way to move forward by facilitating dialogue. All too often there is simply a monologue reinforcing biases, stereotypes, and prejudices with views similar to your own. To overcome this, consider political diversity, overcoming inequality between ideas, and an openness to the presence of adversaries. You need to dismantle sexism, racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, and other similar biases.

Miscellaneous concepts

You need to empathize with the other party.

Neither problems nor solutions have borders.

With our complex problems such as globalization, political differences, and similar complex issues, multiple stakeholders need to come together to discuss concerns in a safe and neutral environment. Collaboration is the key. Direct, open, honest communication focused on the problem is necessary.


The Collaboration Effect


From my book The Collaboration Effect I offer that positions polarize and interests integrate. Behind every entrenched position is at least one interest. Interests hold the seeds to a solution. Be hard on the problem and be gentle on the people. Do not blame anyone. That is avoid the stinky twins for BO and BS. That is Blaming Others (BO) or Blaming Self (BS). To help avoid BS, eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary. You may improve your own self esteem.


What are Dr. Ken Cloke's 10 questions and 2 follow up questions?


What I liked about these first 10 questions is that they truly are so simple that I could apply these with my own grandchildren in preschool and first grade. At the same time, you can apply these concepts in corporate board rooms with complex or sophisticated disputes. Having mediated issues up to $1 billion with fortune 100 companies I see the value of his commentary. Here are the questions so that you can use them too.

12 Questions for Anyone in Conflict by Ken Cloke © (he has given his permission for me  to share this with others). The first 10 questions are what to ask the parties related to a conflict and the last two questions are a follow up after the mediation. Here they are:

  1. What happened?
  2. How did it feel?
  3. What do you want?
  4. Why do you want it?
  5. What does the other person want?
  6. Why do they want it?
  7. What are each of you doing in order to get it?
  8. Is that working?
  9. What do you think you might do instead?
  10. What could you each do to help solve the problem? Are you willing to try that?
  11. What have you learned that you want to do differently next time?
  12. Is there anything else you want to say to each other before we end?


Follow up


Knowing something is the first step, but taking action is the second step. Hopefully, you will take what you have learned here and apply this going forward. Feel free to share this with others too. You can be a catalyst for positive conflict resolution in the future. Let me know what you think.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]