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The Youth Shall Lead Us

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Develop a Generation of Peacemakers Through Peer Mediation Programs

Aloysius Goh1, Sean Lim2, Samantha Lek3 & Megan Tay4

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Many peer mediation programmes (PMPs) set out to teach youth conflict management. Yet, having offered one such PMP annually since 2010, we have found that we have learnt as much, if not more, from them. 

Humbling as it may be for adults to admit, the sages who can unlock the Golden Age of mediation may actually be the youth.

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What is “Peer Mediation”?

“Peer Mediation” describes the process in which a young person facilitates the communication between two or more peers who are in a dispute and leads them to an amicable solution. 

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Relevance of Peer Mediation 

Thanks to technology, youth wield phenomenal influence over each other. If you were born in the last century, it can be hard to imagine life as a young person today where you are constantly able to befriend others and become victims of hate speech and fake news. Cloaked as online personalities, hate and frustration can be vented with little fear of the consequences. It is also not unusual for comments to be “liked” and “shared” within minutes by thousands around the globe. In this world, which is by design separate from that of previous generations, conflicts regularly arise and spiral quickly out of control. The youth often find themselves in situations where simple apologies no longer suffice to resolve the original conflict. Prompt conflict de-escalation by friends makes a difference. This is why many schools have introduced PMPs.

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Mediation and Leadership in Schools

School-based PMPs go beyond conflict management education.

The Peacemakers Conference5 is one such PMP. Framed as a leadership bootcamp where youth learn key skills like exercising self-control, resilience to negativity, and responsibility for their community, the Conference is in substance a mediation workshop-cum-friendly competition held over 3 days. Led by international mediation professionals and undergraduate students, Peacemakers has trained more than 850 Southeast Asian youth in mediation and has drawn the support of the International Mediation Institute, the Asian Mediation Association and the Singapore Ministry of Law.

Evidence of Peacemaker’s success comes most from the appreciation notes the organisation receives from the Conference alumni. One teacher shared how a Peacemaker graduate prevented a fight between his classmates and not only averted suspension for them but fostered a strong class spirit. Another student confided that she convinced her quarrelling parents to seek professional mediation assistance and saved the family from breaking up.

Indeed, PMPs make the greatest impact for youth from challenging backgrounds. With a richly textured emotional vocabulary, their demonstrations of empathy often bear an authenticity that moves the observer. Their transformation during the Conference from misunderstood delinquent to creative problem-solver proves that leaders and mediators can be nurtured.

When the youth are taught to ask “why” and not just “what happened”, they learn to look beyond angry accusations. Instead of seeking to attribute fault, they learn to suspend judgment, be attentive to the context, and consider the emotions of others. With a new appreciation of the purpose of communication, they guide their friends to exercise self-control, reflect on deeper motivations, and create innovative ways to solve the problem.

PMPs compel the youth to acknowledge that while conflict may be inevitable, violence is not. When someone disagrees with them, it need not be because their comment was wrong or foolish, but because the person did not understand fully. Learning that “there is no failure, only feedback”, they become resilient to criticism and conscious that naysayers often seek to conceal their own inadequacies by pointing out the splinter in the other’s eye.

On a social justice level, the youth discover that resolving conflict amicably is something all of us can and should do. They gain confidence to resolve their own conflicts through communication. They see that the power to resolve conflicts lies in their hands and take ownership of the peace and well-being of others within their community.6

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Although there are many PMPs in educational institutions worldwide, the majority of schools have yet to devise and introduce one. One way to improve the situation is for existing PMP providers to share tools for “training trainers” and materials that will inspire and enable teachers to draw on local and international experience. For those interested in running a PMP, three suggestions from Peacemakers’ organisers are: 

Institutional Support and Educator Role-Modelling

Unsurprisingly, PMPs which made the greatest impact were fronted by staff invested in promoting the use of mediation in school. By reducing reliance on authoritarian forms of rule-enforcement-based problem solving, peer mediation represents a paradigm shift in the teacher-student dynamic. Teachers must trust in the students’ ability to lead the resolution of their conflicts. As mediating can be psychologically stressful, peer mediators should know of available mentoring support. This can be trained school staff or professional mediator volunteers who help triage the conflicts appropriate for peer mediation and determine which should be escalated for administrative intervention.


Role plays which mirror the youth’s experiences and struggles will help them better appreciate the relevance of peer mediation. Rather than lectures abbreviated by anecdotes, the right pedagogical mindset is practice abbreviated by lectures. The youth generally love a good challenge and have a lifegiving ability to laugh at themselves. However, many also struggle with adolescence and may feel awkward when searching for the correct intervention. With a blend of humour and gravitas, the practices will provide the youth with the self-confidence and competency to be leaders and peacemakers. 

Keep Things Simple

An effective PMP keeps things simple and focused. One of Peacemakers’ greatest challenges has been to include all the well-intentioned advice from stakeholders into a limited time frame. Schools are busy places and sustaining the youth’s interest can feel impossible. While encouraging the young peacemakers to be ambitious, a PMP is most effective when it focuses on the small steps to de-escalate and resolve conflicts. One tool that can help peer mediators beyond the workshop is a behavioural guide printed on a wallet-size card. An example of a Peacemaker Code reads:

  • Don’t be a mere spectator to fights
  • Listen actively
  • Suggest constructive solutions
  • Acknowledge others’ emotions
  • Take a breath before reacting
  • Don’t pass on fake news/rumours
  • Be responsible for your community
  • Communicate empathy.
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The following lyrics sum up our thoughts succinctly:

“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way”7

Let us raise a generation who will serve as agents of peace, and truly bring about the Golden Age of peace we mediators hope for.

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International Mediation Singapore 2019 Report

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Head over to our Facebook page @theSIMIchat for photos of IMSG 2019 and notifications about upcoming events.
To see the results, click here.

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On 2ndAugust, 140 students comprising 40 teams from 17 countries participated in the first ever international mediation competition in Singapore.

Teams came from all around the world – Bangladesh, Brazil, China, France, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, United States of America, and Vietnam – united in a shared passion for mediation.

Over three days of intense competition and five challenging mock mediation cases, the participants put their collaborative dispute resolution skills to the test as mediators and mediation advocates. As the launch event for the week leading up to the signing of the Singapore Convention on Mediation on 7th August 2019, IMSG was more than a competition – it was a platform for connecting the next generation of thought leaders and practitioners in the mediation and alternative disputes resolution industry.

Aside from experiencing different mediation and advocacy styles practiced by other cultures, students also had exclusive opportunities to interact with leading SIMI Accredited or SIMI Certified Mediators, who attended as exclusive invitees of IMSG as the judges for the competition.

There were also a host of networking events: a memorable Opening Reception at “The Spot”, surrounded by beautiful views of the Marina Bay, Singapore; a cosy Mid-Event Reception combined with the book launch of the Singapore Mediation Handbook held at the oldest law school in Singapore, the NUS Faculty of Law, Bukit Timah Campus; and a grand Closing Reception at the Grand Ballroom InterContinental Singapore.

Mr Benedict Koh, a third-year law undergraduate at the Singapore Management University said, “IMSG opened my eyes to the wider universe of alternative dispute resolution. Beyond the medals, honour, and glamour, what truly made this event worthwhile was the invaluable opportunity to further hone my skills in this field and to learn from the perspectives and stories of my new friends from around the world. Definitely looking forward to what IMSG 2020 will bring!”

Coaches also had positive comments on the unique format of IMSG, with one coach crediting the competition format and the detailed feedback for helping her team to grow. “All teams were given the chance to mediate and advocate all five problems, regardless of how they did in previous rounds. This meant that after every round, my team would direct their focus on how they could do better in the next round. This really helped them to progress. At the same time, I appreciate that my team is to receive not just their results, but also a detailed breakdown of their areas of strength and improvement. The thoughtful way in which this competition was run helped promote a growth mindset, benefitting my team even after the competition.”

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About the IMSG Competition Format

There are many distinctive features of the IMSG Competition Format, with the key points being:

  • Non-elimination: all teams competed in all five rounds.
  • Power-pairing: teams are matched against other teams with a similar performance record.
  • All participants are medalists: every participant received either a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal, depending on their performance.

Each round lasted for 90 minutes and required each team (comprising of three to four members) to nominate two members to compete as Mediation Advocates, and one member to compete as a Mediator. Each round therefore would contain two pairs of Mediation Advocates and one Mediator, all from different teams. After each round, the SIMI Mediator judging the round would provide personal feedback. A detailed feedback report for each team would be compiled by the organising committee and mailed individually to each team a few weeks after the end of the event.

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Appreciation and Concluding words

As the main organisers, the team at SIMI would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to everyone who helped make IMSG 2019 a success:

First, to the directors of SIMI’s board and especially to the Chair, Professor Joel Lee Tye Beng, for their ever-present support and enduring faith in our work. IMSG would not have been possible without their guidance and wisdom.

To the executive team at SIMI, Mr Marcus Lim and Ms Jessica Low, for their leadership and expertise.

To the co-organisers, the NUS Collaborative Dispute Resolution Club, Peacemakers Consulting Services, and the Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution Team: without you, this event would not have been possible. Thank you for working alongside us to turn this event from a dream into reality. Most importantly, for being brilliant people to work with and great companions through thick and thin.

To the NUS Faculty of Law, who generously agreed to host IMSG at the Bukit Timah Campus: thank you NUS Faculty of Law and to the Dean, Professor Simon Chesterman for your generosity and dedicated support for our work.

To our corporate and individual sponsors: The 1872 Clipper Tea Co, ADR ODR International, Gloria James-Civetta & Co, LexisNexis, Drew & Napier, Maxwell Mediators, Singapore Mediation Centre; Mrs Chia Swee Tin, Ms Lin Wenrong, and Ms Viviene Sandhu. Thank you for your vision, kindness and support – your contributions were invaluable to the event’s success.

To our SIMI Mediators: thank you for your time and for sharing your priceless experience with the participants. Your role as judges was an integral factor for providing the teams with a positive learning experience.

To our tireless and resourceful volunteers from NUS Law, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Social Science, Temasek Polytechnic, and Singapore Polytechnic: thank you for your effort, initiative, time, and energy. It takes almost as many volunteers as participants to run an event and we are grateful for each and every one of you.

Finally, to our participant teams and their coaches: thank you for your passion, enthusiasm and willingness to give your best effort. We were impressed by the level of skill demonstrated by the teams and hope to see an even greater interest in mediation moving forward. We would also like to extend our gratitude to all coaches for the training that they provided to their teams. The quality of mediation and mediation advocacy that was fielded at IMSG 2019 are a testament to their dedication and skill.

– IMSG 2019 Organising Committee

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The Post “International Mediation Singapore 2019 Report” first appeared on Singapore International Mediation Institute.

To make sure you don’t miss out on regular updates from the Peacemakers Blog, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

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Singapore Convention on Mediation Signed

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Peacemakers would like to congratulate UNCITRAL and all signees on the signing of the Singapore Convention on Mediation. The signing of the Singapore Convention on 7 August 2019 promises to be a pivotal moment for international commercial and investment mediation, and we look forward to continuing to build on our shared vision of access to justice worldwide.

List of Singapore Convention signees

  • Singapore
  • Afghanistan
  • Belarus
  • Benin
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Congo
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Eswatini
  • Fiji
  • Georgia
  • Grenada
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mauritius
  • Montenegro
  • Nigeria
  • North Macedonia
  • Palau
  • Paraguay
  • Philippines
  • Qatar
  • Republic of Korea
  • Samoa
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Sri Lanka
  • Timor-Leste
  • Turkey
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
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For a visual representation, check out this dynamic map of signees and ratifications courtesy of the International Mediation Institue at:

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Peacemakers is proud to have been part of Singapore Mediation Week.

To know more about the Singapore Convention, please click here.

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To make sure you don’t miss out on regular updates from the Peacemakers Blog, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

Peacemakers offers the services of internationally accredited mediators with extensive experience in resolving local and international conflicts. If you are involved in a dispute, let us know your requirements via email at, and we will recommend you the mediators that best meet your needs.

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Singapore Convention and the Human Spirit

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On 12 August 2019, Mr Aloysius Goh published a blog post on Sage Mediation’s website entitled “Singapore Convention and the Human Spirit”. His blog post is reproduced in full below.

46 signatories for the Singapore Convention on Mediation! Wow!

I felt strangely emotional watching the 46 government officials walk on stage one-by-one to sign the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting From Mediation.

What a journey it has been, personally and globally.

What lies ahead? How can those of us who feel for the spirit of service in mediation actively shape the narrative?

There is no doubt that the Singapore Convention is an important milestone. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong viewed that the Convention will help advance international trade, commerce and investment. When jurisdictions start to develop a robust global framework to manage conflicts, we can jointly prevent international commercial disputes from escalating unnecessarily or causing unintended consequence.

As the New York Convention did for arbitration, the Singapore Convention will foreseeably result in an increase in the use of mediation for conflict resolution over the next 10 years.

When more see the value that mediation can bring to their communities, there will be an exciting inflow of global talent to the mediation sector. This will re-define the narrative for mediation practice, and, at the higher level, the norms for conflict resolution.

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The Asian Voice

Of the 46 jurisdictions that signed the Convention on the first day, 20 were Asian and this included China and India. That’s more than half the world’s population. Compared to the arbitration convention, when only 3 of the first 24 signatories in 1958* were Asian (India, Pakistan, and Philippines), the significance is more than symbolic. It is more than a mere coincidence that an Asian jurisdiction was chosen to host the signing of the Mediation Convention.

Asia has the world’s fast growing middle class and will continue to be a key driver for the global economy for this Century. Critically, most Asian jurisdictions are only at a very early stage in the development of their commercial mediation infrastructure. In these jurisdictions, mediation remains primarily the domain of court-annexed centres and carried out by judges or court volunteers with minimal proper training and independent accreditation.

This is set to change. Commercial mediation is poised to explode in Asia, driven by the sheer volume of economic activity and by the strong preference for pragmatic solutions that take into account reputation and collective good. International mediation standards will have to evolve to more properly take into account Asian communication norms.

Asian governments have already made efforts to seize the initiative. Even before the Convention was signed, the Chinese government had emphasised that mediation will be an important part of the China International Commercial Court and the resolution of disputes arising from the Belt Road Initiative. The Indian government had also passed legislation to mandate that commercial disputes be first mediated.

The objectives are clear: Quickly develop an extensive pool of local mediation talent, establish leadership of international mediation, and shape a global dispute resolution platform in a way that is more synchronous with Asian values.

This desire to influence global norms should not be given an unfairly sinister overtone. On contrary, I think that it is an important acknowledgment of responsibility that flows from international economic leadership. With the extensive reach of Asian economies and businesses, the global dispute resolution platforms must be designed in an inclusive way so that the values and norms of this large group are given due respect.

A deep distrust of international courts and arbitration tribunals has underlied the resistance by some Asian leaders to have their disputes referred there. The sense is that the problem-solving and decision-making processes in adversarial processes would not properly give weight to the Asian priorities of harmony, reputation, and order.

The preference for consultation and collective decision-making suggests that if Asian governments take a more active leadership role in shaping the mediation standards, those standards would more readily give regard to the situation of the minorities and those who were previously regarded as “underdogs”. If they can succeed to develop standards which are fair and accepting of cultural standards of different jurisdictions, it would be a true mark of humanity’s progress.

I am quietly confident of this.

One must believe that with the signatories’ collective wisdom and resource, we can move away from binary processes which are highly attritive.

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Technology and the growth of Mediation

This leads me to consider the other important element that arises from Asia taking the lead on mediation: the growing influence of digital technology. China, India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore are all home to some of the best tech minds in the world and their technology expertise are developing at breakneck speed.

In the next decade, there will be a further leap in artificial intelligence. The internet of things may well enter mediation practice. Many new devices and apps will be created to allow organisations and individuals to predict and prevent disputes from escalating, and to resolve disputes even more quickly. The advancements in communication and problem-solving tools will be beyond our imagination. I always thought that just as there’s “Face App” that can make an immediate prediction on how we look at different ages, I think in no time there’ll be a “TalkNicely App”** that can help us to immediately reframe some of our angrier spur-of-the moment comments and also detoxify some of the same comments of others directed to us.

Technology will make the mediation process even more agile, strengthening its advantage of cost and time savings over traditional adversarial processes like litigation and arbitration (whose best use of technology for “online dispute resolution” has, in the past years, been tragically constrained to e-filing of documents and video-conferencing). Mediation-lingo will change. And, with the assistance of advanced data-analysis, the quality of mediated outcomes will be enhanced. Mediators will be able to deliver results which are even faster, more out-of-the box, and reach deeper than we can currently imagine.

I should qualify that I don’t believe that mediators will be replaced by robots and artificial intelligence. The complexity of human interactions and our need for a human contact suggests that a face-to-face encounter with a fellow human seems best for problem-solving. (I must admit though I was somewhat impressed by the “robot priest” at the Kodaiji Temple where the Japan International Mediation Centre in Kyoto may conduct some of their cases.)

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The Heart of Mediation: the Mediators

Which brings me to the last and most important point of this long post.

A lot of the publicity has surrounded the enforceability of the mediated settlement agreements between the jurisdictions which ratify the Convention (read more here). With the US also being one of the first signatories, that also means more than half the global economy has signed. It’s only a matter of time that the other half does.

I feel, like many other passionate mediation supporters, that it is a privilege to witness the Mediation Convention signing in our lifetimes. It will indeed lend much credibility to our work as mediators.

However, it is also important to be constantly reminded that in the end, the mediated settlement agreement is always first and foremost a contract. What makes a contract enforceable should not be the threat of legal enforcement. Enforceability should be hinged on the signatories to the settlement agreement seeing the advantages to themselves if they performed their obligations under the contract.

Even as mediators take the Convention into account for their training, I think the overarching priority for accreditation should not change. A good mediator must always be recognised by his ability to uplift the spirit of the disputants from the dark despair that they confront when they have run out of tools to resolve the dispute on their own, to instil in them the hope that all is not lost, and to give them the power to transform that hope into a sustainable and real solution.

The Convention will move mediation beyond the realms of small claims conflict, and motivate individuals to make more than superficial investments of their time to develop expertise in mediation practice. There’s definitely more than one good reason to be optimistic and excited for mediation’s future.

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*There were in fact only 10 jurisdictions which signed the NY Convention on Day 1. But, it’s probably fairer to allow some discount as air-travel and communications were not as straightforward as it is today.

**If this hasn’t already been developed, I’m staking claim to the originality of the idea right now!

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To make sure you don’t miss out on regular updates from the Peacemakers Blog, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

Peacemakers offers the services of internationally accredited mediators with extensive experience in resolving local and international conflicts. If you are involved in a dispute, let us know your requirements via email at, and we will recommend you the mediators that best meet your needs.

Managing Employee Happiness

Managing Employee Happiness in the Current Workforce

Striving to keep employee happiness on the up is nothing new. But do the same methods work for millennial employees?

Millennial needs differ from the generations before them and the factors to consider will help one better understand how to manage and bring out the best from your happy millennial employee.

Last week, MetroResidences held an enriching discussion on Managing Employee Happiness. The event was warmly hosted by our friends at WeWork and featured business leaders of the modern workforce; Amin Sulaiman of Wantedly, Sean Lim of Peacemakers and James Chua of MetroResidences.

This HR event saw public attendees from varying departments and businesses, interested in gaining insight into relevant perspectives on the evolving scope of today’s employees. Crowned by an engaging discussion between the speakers and attendees, the talk brought up interesting discourse and shed light onto prevailing issues within HR-department circles.

Millennial Direction

Our speakers addressed both perennial and contemporary methods of assessment. Many attendees were interested in the different styles of approach modern businesses adopt when dealing with millennials. Be it, expatriates or locals, millennials make up a large portion of the workforce.

The discussion shed light on understanding how the needs of millennials differ from the generations before them; questioning the current framework set in place by managers across the board.

Value them

Many attendees were interested in the different styles of approach modern businesses adopt when dealing with millennials. Establishing the right work culture was held to a high regard. With varying needs everpresent, specific roles in the workforce had to evolve, largely aimed at reward benchmarking.

“Care Personally, Challenge Directly…”

It is not only important to value your employee but let them know that you do. By doing so, you will be able to better connect and see significant productivity increase from the people who work with or for you.

Understand ‘why’ before thinking ‘how’

Hostility and harassment have no place in striving to achieve employee happiness. Ultimately, prevention is better than cure.

Learning about the importance of dealing with volatile situations before they get out of hand promotes an environment where employees will feel safe to collaborate and contribute with little hesitation.

“…if you can dig deep to uncover the true interests behind someone’s position…then a whole realm of possible solutions will open up for you.”

Most of the time, conflicts at the workplace stem from a difference of opinion. Managers should act as primary mediators in understanding such matters and addressing them before they get out of hand.

During the talk, subjects on man-management and conflict management were herald by points on mediation processes and employee health, addressing the ideal state of a healthy workplace.

If you would like to know more about what we do or when the next event is, be sure to check out our Facebook page!

Here is more about the speakers:

James Chua, Co-Founder of MetroResidences

James is the Co-Founder of MetroResidences, a leading booking-platform for Corporate Housing operating in Singapore, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. The Company had humble beginnings as a 3-man operation out of the basement of the Singapore Management University’s (SMU) startup incubator program. It’s grown to a 50-strong team with 500-Startups and Rakuten as their main backers. The Company has served about 10% of the corporates in the Fortune 500 list, and hundreds of small and medium enterprises. James started his career as an equity analyst and portfolio manager with Phillip Capital Management. He’s received a B.A from the University of California, San Diego in Economics in 2005.

Amin Sulaiman, Business Development Lead of Wantedly

One of the main drivers behind the company’s expansion efforts, Amin heads the business development team at Wantedly Singapore. Since his time as Head of Business Development at e27, Amin has developed and improved sales processes for the business development team. His extensive knowledge and experience from lead generation, pitching to account servicing have garnered key revenue streams for the company. He continues to reach out to great companies to match them with great talents.

Sean Lim, Managing Director of Peacemakers

Sean is an accredited mediator with the Singapore International Mediation Institute, and an Associate Mediator with and coach for the Singapore Mediation Centre. He is invited regularly to serve as a conflict management coach for various corporate clients and public healthcare institutions. Sean was part of the pioneering team which established a Healthcare Mediation Unit for the government. He was also involved in international commercial mediation work at the Singapore International Mediation Centre.

The post “Managing employee happiness in the current workforce” first appeared on MetroResidences.

To make sure you don’t miss out on regular updates from the Peacemakers Blog, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.

Peacemakers offers the services of internationally accredited mediators with extensive experience in resolving local and international conflicts. If you are involved in a dispute, let us know your requirements via email at, and we will recommend you the mediators that best meet your needs.


“What is Peer Mediation?” – A Simple Video Introduction

Peer mediation is problem-solving with youth, by youth. It is a process by which two or more students involved in a dispute meet in a safe and confidential setting to work their problems out with the assistance of a trained student mediator.

If you want to know what peer mediation looks like in action, here’s a helpful little video to get you started!

(All video footage taken at the Peacemakers Conference 2018)



For more pictures and videos of the Peacemakers Conference 2018, please visit the Peacemakers Facebook Page.

As Singapore’s leading peer mediation expertsPeacemakers has an extensive track record of managing and delivering conflict resolution training for youth at both local and international levels. If you would like to train your youth to better manage conflict, let us know how we can help via email at


3 Ways Crisis Negotiation Skills Can Help Mediators Deal With Parties (Part 3)

by Therese Tiffany Ang

This blog post is the final of a three-part series focused on how crisis negotiation skills can be applied in the practice of mediation. For ease of reference and the convenience of readers, the links to Parts 1 and 2 are listed below:

In this entry, I would like to explore the influence techniques crisis negotiators use to disarm and redirect their parties in a relationship affirming way. By applying these techniques in mediation, mediators can help to transform conflict into collaboration, and options that previously seemed impossible can mutually be explored.

I end off the series by highlighting the importance of finding the “Black Swan” in any situation one faces. What are “Black Swans”? Don’t worry, this is something you will find out below.

Influence Techniques

The shift from being emotional or difficult to being collaborative must come from within the party himself. In trying to facilitate such a transition, influence techniques present a good indirect way of inducing change.

(1) Reinforcing movement towards resolution

The first influence technique is that of reinforcing any movement in the direction of a successful agreement – for example, a party’s cooperative behavior or a resolution of any ambivalence or opposition to an option. This subtly nudges parties to display more collaborative qualities.

There are a few ways in which one can reinforce movements towards resolution:

(a) Cheerleading/Comments of appreciation:

One way is to give clear comments of appreciation to parties for doing specific actions. For instance, in crisis negotiations, negotiators thank parties for lowering their weapons. Applying this to mediation, a mediator can thank a party for agreeing to explore an option suggested by the other side. As behaviour that is acknowledged tends to increase, doing so makes it more likely that the party thanked will start exhibiting more cooperative behaviour.

(b) Nominalising actions into qualities:

Nominalising the actions of a party into permanent qualities entails a strategic manipulation of language where the mediator changes the verb describing the action into an adjective describing an inherent character trait within the party himself.

For example, where an emotional party has calmed down significantly during the course of the mediation, the mediator can say, “I appreciate how thoughtful and deliberative a person you are. You are a calm person who really thinks things through.” This suggests that the rational behaviour is a characteristic of the person that can be expected throughout the mediation.

(2) Calibrated questions

Interest-based problem solving involves coaxing, not overcoming; collaboration, not defeating. Mutual agreements are more likely to be reached if parties are involved in the problem-solving process and come up with the solutions themselves.

In crisis negotiations, negotiators achieve this by using calibrated questions to involve their parties: “How can I help to make this better for us?”, or “How am I supposed to do that?”. In adapting such questions to the mediation context where the focus is on how the parties can help each other meet each other’s interests, one possible question mediators can ask could be: “What can [Party B] do to help you achieve [Party A’s interest]?”.

Through asking these questions, the mediator implicitly asks the party for help, triggering goodwill and reducing defensiveness. More importantly, this gives that party an illusion of control, prompting him to use his mental and emotional resources to think about the possible challenges and obstacles his counterparty might be facing and coming up with possible options that might overcome them. In this sense, the mediator helps to subconsciously educate the party on what the problem between he and his counterparty might be, without creating more conflict.


Finding the “Black Swan”

Before, crisis negotiators assumed that hostage-takers would not kill hostages on deadlines because they were needed alive as bargaining chips, until William Griffin became the first actor in US history to prove this wrong.1 Today, many believe that even the most idealistic actors have underlying interests that can be negotiated with, but ISIS has encouraged its terrorists to take hostages not for the sake of negotiating any demands, but for the sole purpose of killing them.2

Every negotiation and mediation is a new experience, with new realities. We must let what we know guide us, but not blind us to other possible outcomes. In every dispute, there are likely to be pieces of information that, if discovered, would change everything. Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, refers to these pieces of information as “Black Swans”. For instance, in Griffin’s case, Griffin had no orthodox demands typical of most hostage-takers, and his note to the police included a line saying, “… after the police take my life …”.3 Because these facts were not uncovered, the negotiators failed to see this novel situation for what it was: that for the first time, they were facing a hostage-taker who did not need his hostages alive to negotiate for things like money or transport. They were facing a hostage-taker who wanted to be killed.

“Black Swans” certainly also exist in mediation. To uncover them, mediators must always challenge their assumptions, put them out on the table, and listen to the response of the party in question. For example, when a party refuses to agree to a solution that appears to be in his interests, one may assume that he is merely being irrational or difficult to please. But it may actually be that that party is simply ill-informed, constrained by promises already made, or has hidden interests (emotional, substantive or otherwise) that have not been addressed. A mediator must not let his assumptions shut him off to these possibilities. Rather, one must always strive to uncover the “Black Swans” hidden from plain sight in order to ensure effective facilitation of the problem-solving process.


Most mediations will likely never be conducted in life-threatening crisis situations. But by incorporating the skills explored in this series into one’s skillset, mediators can become better at connecting with and managing the emotions of parties in a way that positively influences them into behaving more collaboratively.

I hope that this series has provided a useful introduction for the exploration of crisis negotiation skills and that readers might take the time to practice the skills learnt. Have fun, and good luck!

Therese is a graduate student from the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Law. During her time as an undergraduate, she studied both Mediation and Negotiation as elective modules and trained youth in peer mediation at the Peacemakers Conference.

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Peacemakers offers the services of internationally accredited mediators with extensive experience in resolving local and international conflicts. If you are involved in a dispute, let us know your requirements via email at, and we will recommend you the mediators that best meet your needs.

3 Ways Crisis Negotiation Skills Can Help Mediators Deal With Parties (Part 2) - FB

3 Ways Crisis Negotiation Skills Can Help Mediators Deal With Parties (Part 2)

by Therese Tiffany Ang

This blog post is the second of a three-part series focused on how crisis negotiation skills can be applied in the practice of mediation. For ease of reference and the convenience of readers, Part 1 can be found here:


In this entry, I would like to explore two more micro-skills of active listening – emotional labelling and summarising.


(6) Emotional labelling

It is hard to separate people from the problem when their emotions are the problem. This is why, instead of trying to remove emotions from the picture, crisis negotiators strive to identify with and understand the feelings of their parties. In doing so, the aim is to increase their influence over those parties and guide them towards more collaborative problem-solving behaviour.

One active listening micro-skill that crisis negotiators rely on in this aspect is that of emotional labelling. This skill is an additive empathetic response that validates someone’s emotions by identifying and acknowledging those feelings, rather than judging or minimising them.

There are two steps to emotional labelling –

(a) Detecting feelings: A lot of information can be gleaned from a person’s words, tone and body language. Crisis negotiators detect a party’s feelings by paying close attention to any changes these three areas undergo when that party responds to external events. For instance, if a party’s voice goes flat when a colleague is mentioned, there could be some animosity between those two.

(b) Labelling: Labels generally start with “it seems/sounds like …” instead of “I’m hearing that …”. The latter puts people’s guards up as it suggests that the asker is more interested in himself and is superimposing his impressions on them. It also makes the asker take personal responsibility for the words used and any offence they might cause. Conversely, when phrased as a neutral statement of understanding, an emotional label encourages a party to be responsive and elaborate on his feelings. Even if he disagrees with the label, the asker can distance himself from it by saying, “I didn’t say that was what it was, I just said it seemed like that”.

By giving emotions a name, the mediator shows that he empathises with how the party feels. This operates as a shortcut to intimacy – it establishes an emotional connection between the mediator and the party without the former having to agree with the validity of those feelings. Additionally, if the party’s negative emotions are running high, exposing those feelings to “broad daylight” defuses them as it makes them less frightening. When people engage in the task of labelling their emotions, the raw intensity of those emotions is lessened, and this helps to bring back a degree of calmness and rationality into the mediation.

If used well, emotional labelling enables a mediator to influence the party to become more collaborative and trusting. Labelling a negative feeling and replacing it with polite, solution-based thoughts induces the party to appreciate that the mediator understands what he is feeling and is making efforts to empathise with him. Indeed, such displays of tactical empathy have helped veteran police talk angry, violent people out of fights or get them to put down their weapons. By empathising with the parties involved, these police know that they can use those negative emotions as a platform to influence people to become more cooperative.


(7) Summarising

Summarising is a combination of paraphrasing and labelling – it is rearticulating the meaning of what was said and the emotions underlying those meanings. Through this, the party will know that he has truly been heard and understood by the negotiator, fortifying the rapport and trust that has been built throughout the entire process

The ultimate goal of using all the micro-skills discussed above and in Part 1 is to get the party to say, “That’s right”. In crisis negotiations, this has been observed to mark a crucial point in the negotiation where the party feels heard and acknowledged, showing that a connection has been established between him and the negotiator. This is when the negotiator gains the party’s “permission” to persuade him, opening the door to previously impossible solutions. The more a person feels understood and is positively affirmed in that understanding, the more his urge for collaborative behaviour takes hold. This is because sometimes, underneath all of the substantive demands and positions, people actually just want their feelings to be understood.

Jeffrey Schilling’s case is an illustrative example. Schilling was a 24-year old American who had been taken hostage after travelling near the base of the Abu Sayyaf in 2000. Sabaya, the rebel leader, demanded US$10 million in war damages for the oppression Muslim Filipinos had went through. No matter how negotiators tried to reason that Schilling had nothing to do with the war damages, Sabaya refused to listen. Then the negotiators changed their approach – they empathised with the group’s predicament, used mirroring, encouraging, and labelling to soften Sabaya up and begin shifting his perspective and finally, summarised his story and emotions. Sabaya was silent, and then he spoke, “that’s right.” From then on, the war damages demand disappeared, and Schilling ultimately escaped from the camp and was rescued by Philippine commandoes. 1


This concludes Part 2 of the series, and I hope that what we have explored thus far will prove helpful in helping you build rapport and trust with parties. In Part 3, I will be concluding the series by looking at some influence techniques crisis negotiators have used to help them disarm and redirect parties in a relationship-affirming way such that conflict is transformed into collaboration.

To make sure you don’t miss out on regular updates from the Peacemakers Blog, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram.


Therese is a graduate student from the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Law. During her time as an undergraduate, she studied both Mediation and Negotiation as elective modules and trained youth in peer mediation at the Peacemakers Conference.

Peacemakers offers the services of internationally accredited mediators with extensive experience in resolving local and international conflicts. If you are involved in a dispute, let us know your requirements via email at, and we will recommend you the mediators that best meet your needs.



Why mediation is the link between all forms of dispute resolution FB

Why Mediation Is The Link Between All Forms Of Dispute Resolution

by Alexandra Piscionere

In recent years, Singapore is demonstrating to the world its global prowess in becoming a hub for arbitration.  With the mass expansion of Maxwell Chambers and other projects to create new dispute resolution centers, Singapore is preparing itself for an even larger increase of international dispute resolution cases than it has already seen.  According to Singapore’s Second Minister for Law, Indranee Rajah S.C., “One of Singapore’s key strengths as an international dispute resolution centre is our legal system which is neutral, stable, has high quality jurisprudence and is trusted by businesses.”  The choice for the June Summit between leaders Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un to be held in Singapore has more than likely been the extra exposure that the global dispute resolution arena needed to see Singapore as an ideal forum.  Although the Singapore government has primarily emphasized arbitration as the country’s specialty, it is now in an ideal position to allocate its resources and efforts into all aspects of dispute resolution, particularly mediation.  In fact, mediation may be an essential key to a successful arbitration or even to preventing unnecessary arbitration.

The four most common forms of dispute resolution are negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and litigation. Each of the types varies in cost, structure, and end result, among other aspects.  There are therefore advantages and disadvantages to choosing one form of dispute resolution over the other.  Although arbitration rules differ among jurisdictions and forums, the process typically mirrors courtroom procedure in the respect that the determination is ultimately made by an arbitrator.  One key advantage that arbitration has over litigation is that arbitration awards can be enforced in any countries that are signatories to the NY Convention, while court judgments are generally only enforceable in the country in which the judgment was rendered.  However, the advantages of arbitration often have more to do with the perspectives of the parties than with the forum itself.  For example, a perceived advantage of arbitration is that it is speedier and less expensive than filing a lawsuit.  However, depending on the complexity of the matter and, more importantly, the parties’ willingness to either settle the matter efficiently or to mutually agree not to intentionally delay the process, the advantages of arbitration could be minimal.  This is where mediation comes into play.

In a mediation proceeding, a mediator acts as a facilitator in a mutually agreed-upon settlement, which is binding to the extent that the parties decide.  In the U.S., for example, many courts use court mediators as a first and primary course of action before proceeding to trial in an effort for the parties to have the opportunity to craft a solution of their own choosing.  It is also a way for the court to “take the temperature” of the parties to understand the complexities of the matter and the willingness of the parties to cooperate.  On many occasions, these matters are settled before this initial pre-trial mediation.  In other instances, mediation occurs concurrently with the court case, saving time and money for the parties, as a settlement will often be reached before the trial is finished.

Furthermore, mediation can serve as a tool to maximize the benefit of other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as arbitration.  Mediation is generally lower in cost than arbitration and is tailored specifically to the needs of the parties.  Through the mediation process, the parties can gauge whether mediation is likely to be successful, whether arbitration is their best option, or even whether another avenue is better suited.  Ultimately, the one aspect linking all of these avenues is mediation.  It is the essential problem-solving tool that provides the clarity necessary to all parties involved which occurs uniquely when they can sustain a dialogue towards crafting solutions tailored to their needs.  Laying out all cards on the table, so to speak, not only allows the parties to understand each other but also allows the parties to understand themselves and gain a better sense of what they would like to get out of the process.  Even if the parties ultimately decide to proceed with arbitration or litigation, they are still in a better place after mediation because of the clarity they gain just by going through the process.  Sometimes just the agreed-upon decision to go through mediation alone could be the first step towards conciliation.

In promoting Singapore as a global frontrunner for arbitration, it would be a disservice to count out mediation as an essential tool to facilitating both successful settlements and successful arbitrations.  Forums such as the Singapore Mediation Centre and the Singapore International Mediation Centre are a welcome beginning to turning the country into a hub for successful alternative dispute resolution.  However, it is only when we associate mediation with successful dispute resolution in all its forms that Singapore will begin to reach its full potential in becoming a global hub for dispute resolution.


Alexandra Piscionere is a New York attorney who served as Director and Investigative Counsel of the Westchester County Human Rights Commission and clerked for a New York Supreme Court Judge.  She honed her mediating skills in these roles and specialized in sensitive topics such as divorce and discrimination.  She is also the co-chair of the International Human Rights Committee of the New York State Bar Association.  She is currently based in Singapore.

Peacemakers offers the services of internationally accredited mediators with extensive experience in resolving local and international conflicts. If you are involved in a dispute, let us know your requirements via email at, and we will recommend you the mediators that best meet your needs!

and a little child shall lead them - FB

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them – Peacemakers 2018

On 12 July 2018, our Training and Development Advisor, Professor Joel Lee, published a blog post on the Kluwer Mediation Blog entitled “And A Little Child Shall Lead Them – Peacemakers Conference 2018”. His blog post is reproduced in full below.

I have in previous entries (July 2012 and July 2013) written about a peer mediation initiative called the Peacemakers Conference. The purpose of the Peacemakers Conference is to teach 13-16 year olds how to resolve conflicts amicably in a workshop cum competition format. This year’s Peacemakers Conference was held from 20 to 22 June 2018.

As in previous years, we asked students from different schools to work together to create a visual metaphor for mediation. This started in 2015 and has become a regular feature in the Peacemakers Conference. Metaphors from previous years be found in the entries for November 2015August 2016 and July 2017.

This year, the students came up with 8 (plus 1) visual metaphors which I would like to share with readers in this entry. For each of these, an image of the students presenting the metaphor is shared along with a description of the metaphor.

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Ms. Charmaine Yap, Ms. Samantha Lek, Mr. Sean Lim and the Peacemakers Facilitation team for capturing the description and images of each of the metaphors that appear below.


GROUP 1: Mediation is Magic

Mediation is Magic

Mediation is magic, and the Patronus deer that is summoned when Harry Potter casts the Expecto Patronum spell was chosen to represent the idea of magic. The spell is a charm that drives away life-sucking beasts, but is famously difficult to cast. This is like mediation – the difficult nature of practising mediation, mediating conflict, and solving conflicts and problems. When Harry Potter casts this spell, he has to recall a happy memory. However, he had to try this a lot of times, and only succeeded when he tried very hard. Similarly, if mediators do not mediate properly, the mediation will not work well, and might even make the situation worse.

Magic is also universal among everyone. From the old to the young, everyone appreciates magic. This is similar to peacemaking and mediation – everyone there is there to appreciate and understand it.

Mediation is also magical because by merely asking questions, people can be guided together. Just as there are endless types of spells, there are endless types of solutions in mediation. It is up to the mediator to ask parties questions to guide them along.

The Patronus is a beautiful animal. Harry Potter’s Patronus is a stag. Similar to mediation, it is the unpredictable and beautiful result of parties working on a framework to resolve the problem together.

GROUP 2: Mediation is the Lighthouse that guides relationSHIPS

Mediation is a Lighthouse

The lighthouse is a guide in the dark. The lighthouse symbolises the mediator, and the ships symbolise the parties. The lighthouse guides ships to land without piloting them. Similarly, the mediator guides parties to a solution without giving it to them. The darkness of the night sky symbolises how parties are unable to see each other’s perspectives, but the light from the lighthouse helps them to see each other and their common destination.

GROUP 3: Mediation is like a Camera Tripod

Mediation is like a Camera Tripod

The tripod’s three stands represent the mediator and two parties. All three support one another for the foundation of the picture, and have to support one another in order for the camera to work. They also maintain level ground for the camera. If any one of these elements are missing, the picture will not be beautiful.

The camera has to be on a level plane in order to work. This represents the mediator’s neutrality. The camera cannot stand without the mediator or one of the parties missing, and will fall. This shows how crucial each party is to the mediation.

The height of the tripod can be adjusted. This represents the flexibility of altering perspectives throughout the mediation session.

Just like how pictures in the camera can be deleted, conflict can be deleted at mediation. All the pictures taken are stored on the memory card, and are gone from the camera when the memory card is removed. This represents confidentiality at mediation.

Everyone can exercise their autonomy to participate by being in the picture. Similarly, anyone can participate in mediation and benefit from the process.

The camera’s zoom out feature allows the mediator to move away from the narrow tunnel vision and look at the big picture, while the focus feature allows parties to focus on what others are saying and listen attentively to one another.

GROUP 4: Mediation is a Missing Puzzle Piece

– “I have a puzzle but the two pieces won’t fit.”
– “Should I cut it up?”
– “But the puzzle won’t look nice?”
– “I found another piece.”
– “Oh wow it fits perfectly!”

Mediation is a Missing Puzzle Piece

Mediation is like a missing puzzle piece that connects two parties together that are imperfect. Having to cut a puzzle piece in order for them to fit is like parties sacrificing part of their interests in order to come to a compromise. Like a missing puzzle piece, mediation allows parties to reach a mutually acceptable solution that doesn’t require either to give up what is important to them. A beautiful picture is formed by the pieces fitting together, the way a solution is reached when parties and the mediator come together.

GROUP 5: Mediation is a Pair of Swans

Mediation is a Pair of Swans

Mediation is a pair of swans, because swans are gentle and peaceful. When both swans are put together, the shape their necks make is a diamond. Just like how a diamond is hard to obtain, mediation is hard to master. Both also play important roles in society. A diamond can be used as a tool to shape or carve other things, while mediation is a tool we use to sort out problems.

The spectacles on the swans show that viewing things through different lenses can help make things clearer, and help you see things from different perspectives. The bridge in the background is to commemorate the previous year’s winning metaphor.

GROUP 6: Mediation is a Compass

Mediation is a Compass

A maze has multiple entry points, each leading to the centre via a unique route. Similarly, parties enter mediation with a unique perspective. What they see, experience, and the obstacles they face can be very different from one another. When they reach the end point, there is conflict. Parties think they know each other’s stories since they are in the same space. They assume that they had experienced the same thing since they are in the same maze, but what they had gone through may be different. This is a form of tunnel vision – assuming what they experienced is the same. When that is not the case, it leads to conflict.

A compass needs a needle, cardinal directions, and its casing to work. Likewise, mediation cannot proceed if either party or the mediator is absent.

Confidentiality: The fact that the compass is enclosed in an opaque maze represents confidentiality since no one outside the maze can get an idea of what is happening in the maze.

Neutrality: Only when the compass is on a flat surface will it work well. Similarly, neutrality must be maintained by the mediator for the most effective outcome.

Autonomy: Parties choose whether they want to hold the compass or to be guided by it. The compass helps parties see different sides and perspectives to the issues by allowing them to learn about the stories of different parties. This avoids tunnel vision.

This is where mediation comes in. Mediation helps parties see different perspectives to the complicated issue by learning about the other parties’ stories. Because parties have different orientations, turning in the same direction might not necessarily set the other party on the same route. However, a compass will set parties on the same route (by guiding them North, South, East, or West), towards a solution that they can all agree on together.

Mediation is a compass because it can help parties see the complete picture, set common ground, and guide them through conflict.

GROUP 7: Mediation is a Tightrope

Mediation is a Tight Rope

A tightrope is very thin, and you have to be very focused to not lose balance. Maintaining balance is like maintaining neutrality. If you don’t maintain neutrality, you will fall. Similarly, the mediation process will not proceed well if the mediator is not neutral.

Although the tightrope is very thin, it still connects two points together. Similarly, mediation brings two parties (represented by the mountains) together. We (the students) have written everyone’s names on the tightrope in order to convey that everyone has undertaken the challenge of mediating between two parties.

GROUP 8: Mediation is a Needle

Mediation is like a Needle

There are different kinds of needles.

Threading Needle

A threading needle patches up holes in fabric, and binds different pieces of fabric together to make something beautiful. Likewise, the mediator enables parties to reach resolution. Just like how the needle guides the thread, the mediator guides parties. However, the needle can also cause hurt – it can pierce you and cause you to harm yourself. Similarly, mediation can also cause harm if it is used wrongly.

Syringe Needle

Mediation can help people recover from emotional wounds. A syringe draws out blood, like how mediation draws out conflict. A syringe needle must also be precise – specific mediation techniques need to be applied depending on the context.

Acupuncture Needle

Acupuncture needles are pin needles – they need to be inserted precisely and accurately, otherwise the patient will be in a lot of discomfort. Similarly, if the mediator says something that makes parties uncomfortable, then parties will be in a situation of discomfort. However, if the acupuncture is done well, blood will flow well into the areas that are stressed, relieving the patient of pain. This is similar to the relief mediation provides if it is done well.

SPECIAL MENTION: Mediation is a Toilet

Mediation is like a Toilet

The three principles of mediation are: (i) autonomy, (ii) neutrality, and (iii) confidentiality.

  • Autonomy: Just like mediation, you can choose when, where, or how you use the toilet. You can use it in the day or night, and decide how long you want to use it for. You can even use what type of toilet you want to use – the squatting type, sitting type, or even a potty.
  • Neutrality: Long or short, big or small, the toilet will not judge.
  • Confidentiality: Whatever is made in the toilet, stays in the toilet. After the work is done and you use the flush, all evidence is destroyed.

The cubicle is like a mediation centre. You can go whenever you like, and leave only when you are satisfied.

The 4 stages of the mediation process is similar to going to the toilet.

  • Opening: You are apprehensive because you don’t know what you will find in a toilet. But when you are really urgent, you go in anyway.
  • Information Gathering: This is when you release the poop. Sometimes there is so much that you don’t know where to begin. But once you get comfortable, everything starts pouring out. Some get constipation, while others get diarrhoea. Everyone goes through pain, and it takes time and effort, but things will come through sooner or later. After that, you can step out and take a breath of fresh air.
  • Problem Solving: The flushing comes after you have been satisfied. It is only when you get everything out, that you are ready to start afresh.
  • Closing: Now you can step out of the smelly cubicle and start afresh, since you have gotten everything out of the way.

“Pissmakers – Helping you get your shit together”

That brings us to the end of another installment of visual metaphors for mediation! I hope readers found some of these as inspiring as we did!

For more pictures and videos of the Peacemakers Conference 2018, please visit the Peacemakers Facebook Page.

As Singapore’s leading peer mediation experts, Peacemakers has an extensive track record of managing and delivering conflict resolution training for youth at both local and international levels. If you would like to train your youth to better manage conflict, let us know how we can help via email at


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