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ODR, Online Mediation & Virtual Role Play

ODR, Online Mediation & Virtual Role Play

If you’ve wondered where field of mediation might be heading, curious to know how to find other practitioners who want to practice role play and interested in online mediation then this is the interview for you.

Giuseppe's Virtual Mediation Lab leverages technology to help people learn and experiment with mediation. Features such as video play-back and online specific training make this an exciting and innovative tool for those looking to develop their skills and practice mediation online.

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Full Transcript

Davies: Hi, everyone. My name is Aled Davies, the founder of This is the place where new and inspiring mediators come and learn from experienced mediators around the world. The mediators we interview here share their knowledge, their experience with you so you can learn, you can grow and improve your effectiveness. This is mediation training on steroids.

Now I’m always inspired by this interviews. And I want you to be too so that you can build your own success story. Maybe then, you’ll choose to come back onto Mediator Academy and tell your story to my audience.

All right. Now, technology. It’s enabled us to be more connected. If I just think about how mediators from all corners of the world can just switch on their PC, their laptop, press a few keys. And in next to no time, they’re watching these interviews and, hopefully, taking something away from them. We also know that in order to develop our skills, we need to practice as mediators. And that’s hard when you live in places like Phnom Penh or the middle of the countryside when you don’t have a network of mediators around you.

My guest today, I think, is making massive strides to solve this problem by connecting mediators, helping mediators developing their skills, their thinking. Let me introduce him.
So he’s the founder of Virtual Mediation Lab, a project designed to help mediators improve their mediation skills. And at the same time, promote online and mobile mediation around the world. He’s also the founder of another venture that teaches mediators to mediate using PC, Mac, mobile devices, you name it.

He’s been a mediator since 1997 and has mediated workplace disputes for the US Postal Service. He also mediates for the Hawaii District Court, which is very convenient for him because the guy lives in Hawaii, living the dream.

I’m delighted to welcome today Giuseppe Leone onto Mediator Academy. Giuseppe, welcome.

Leone: Thank you, Aled. And thank you for inviting me [inaudible 00:02:31].

Aled: We had a quick chat beforehand. And when you came online, it was dark in the background.

Giuseppe: Right.

Aled: Tell me what time is it now in Hawaii.

Giuseppe: It’s ten to seven in the morning.

Aled: Ten to seven in the morning. Okay. We shall see the palm trees lights up as we go through this interview, which is wonderful.

Giuseppe: Soon, yes.

Aled: Great. I really appreciate you getting up so early to do the interview. And let’s get down to it. We’ve had a number of conversations on Virtual Mediation Lab. I get so excited when I talk about it. Tell me and my audience a bit more about Virtual Mediation Lab. What is it? How does it work?

Giuseppe: Okay. As you said, the Virtual Mediation Lab is a way to give mediators around the world the opportunity to practice and improve their skills by participating in online mediation simulations with other mediators.

The idea of Virtual Mediation Lab, I think, came about in 2011. Because when I fell in love with mediation, which was back in 1997, I realise that I was eager to mediate as many cases as possible. But not only to mediate, but also to learn, you know, from my own mistakes. I think that most mediators, after their training, they’re really looking forward to opportunity to practice what they learned. Okay?

So that was back in 1997 where I felt the need to practice and to learn because I think that there is no other way of learning than by making mistakes and learning from them.

Aled: Yeah.

Giuseppe: A couple of years later, I participated in an online mediation programme, which was called SquareTrade to settle eBay disputes with buyers and sellers around the world. But everything was asynchronous, which means that it was based on e-mail messages. And that was back in 1998 or 1999, I realised that, interestingly enough, I could get get the same settlement rates online than in Hawaii District Courts, for example, small-claims courts. So I realise the power of online mediation. But at that time, everything was done by e-mail.

Aled: Give me some examples of those eBay disputes.

Giuseppe: For example, say that I’m a seller in United States. You are the buyer in England. And you received a piece of equipment or a painting, something, which you think was not exactly the way I described it. At that point, you want to resolve your dispute. And at that time, you opened the case with this SquareTrade. So they had the mediators around the world. In my case for example, since I’m bilingual, Italian and English, I could mediate cases with, I don’t know, a buyer in the United States and a seller in Italy or the other way around. So I discovered that online mediation works. And it can help resolve disputes from beginning to end.

Aled: Yeah.

Giuseppe: So next it came in 2011 the announcement of Skype Premium. So Skype announced their premium version, which allows up to ten people to participate in a video conference. And then I thought, ‘This is it.’ This is what can give mediators around the world opportunity to do what I wanted to do back in 1997 – to practice and to learn from one another.

So this is what we do. First, we allow mediators to participate in our simulations. So we simulate family, commercial, workplace discrimination cases.

Aled: When you say ‘simulate’, you’re talking about role-play, right?

Giuseppe: Role-play, yeah. They receive a script.

Aled: Okay.

Giuseppe: So one mediator plays the role of the mediator. The other two mediators play the role of the parties.

Aled: Right.

Giuseppe: They can also play the role of an attorney representing one party or union representative. So we want to make our simulations as close as possible to real cases.

Aled: Sure. Okay.

Giuseppe: So they participate in this mediation. And then, we have a debriefing session, which means that we analyse and reflect on everything that happened during the mediation from beginning to end. For example, from the opening statements, what you say, how you say it, how are you perceived by the parties, do they trust you, do they like you. Go ahead. You know what I’m saying. Because I think that mediation is very personal. It’s not just a bunch of techniques, one after another. It’s a very personal experience.

So we analyse what happened during the mediation from the mediator’s perspective. But more importantly, from the parties’ perspective. For example, if you were the mediator, were you able to establish a rapport with me? Did I feel hurt by you? Did your questions help me understand more clearly my [inaudible 00:08:50] and my options?

So we try to learn as much as possible from the mediation session.

Aled: Okay. Can I pause you there? I’m not sure. I think we’re having a few technical challenges, which is ironic. Is my audio and video working fine?

Giuseppe: It’s working great for me.

Aled: All right.

Giuseppe: I don’t know if it’s working for you.

Aled: It was fine. There were couple of moments …. I just wanted to rewind back a little bit.

Giuseppe: Okay.

Aled: Partly because I’ve watched a number of these now. So I know how they work. I just want my audience to really understand the process. I think they got the concept. So the concept, what you’re describing is, I’m a mediator in London. And I want to have a rÙleplay experience. And you provide this opportunity, so I write to Giuseppe and say, ‘Giuseppe, I want to participate in this online role-play. And we’ve got Sandra over in Australia who’s also interested in doing it.’

Giuseppe: Right.

Aled: We’ve never met before. And we’ve got Terry in America who also wants to participate. So three of us come together at an agreed point using a platform like Skype Premium.

Giuseppe: True, yes.

Aled: And you’re also in the . . . You record the entire thing. Is that right?

Giuseppe: Yes. Actually, that is the third component of our simulation. So all simulations are video recorded, which means that after the debriefing, you can watch yourself during the simulation, during the debriefing. And you can relate what we discussed during the debriefing to what happened during the mediation. Your body language, your tone of voice, and so on.

And since I video-record all simulations, you can also watch videos of other mediators who mediated the same case but perhaps with a different method, different approach, different techniques and different styles. So you can see how different can it be, in the same case if you meditate it or if I mediate it.

Aled: That’s interesting. I mean, I say it’s interesting. I remember when I used to teach mediation, we always had the same case studies. And it was always interesting – the outcomes that people reached in the case studies.

Giuseppe: Right.

Aled: But because we were teaching a particular methodology or particular approach, you know, facilitative mediation, we were seeing pretty much the same thing.

Giuseppe: Right.

Aled: People doing the same thing. Although, maybe some slight differences, some people doing it more effectively than others. But I guess doing it this way, I mean you can have someone facilitating this case study through a transformative approach. Someone else doing it through a narrative approach.

Giuseppe: Narrative, absolutely. Absolutely. And actually, two premises of our simulations are as follows. First, in order to get experience, you have to make mistakes. That’s how you learn. So the more mistakes you make, the faster you will learn. Number one. So don’t be afraid. Just do it. Second, it doesn’t matter which method you use. The only thing that matter is, does it work, from the parties’ perspective?

So use any method you want. And actually that brings me to an interesting point. When people observe other mediators using different methods, the first thing they feel is surprise – ‘Gee, you know, so what I learned was not the only method. There are other methods around.’

So the first thing is surprise, a bit of disappointment because they paid a lot of bucks for teaching something that is not exactly what they were told. Because most trainers say, ‘Do this,’ as if that’s the only way of doing it. But it’s not the only way. It’s like I tell you. ‘Play jazz. But play jazz this way, stick to it.’ So the first reaction is surprise and a bit of disappointment.

The second feeling is they feel liberated. Meaning that, ‘Oh, great’ you know. ‘If I’m not bound by any method, it means that perhaps I can develop my own method. I can be more of myself. I don’t need to follow, strictly, what I was told to follow during the training.’

So the beauty of discovering other methods is that you realise that what makes mediation so fascinating is that perhaps you don’t need a method. You just need to be yourself – to believe in what you’re doing, not just following techniques. It’s not a bunch of techniques. If you follow techniques, you’re bound to be a mediocre mediator.

Aled: Yeah.

Giuseppe: If you want to be an artist, you have to dare to do what you believe in. But also, you have to consider that what you believe in has to work for the parties because they are paying your bill. You see what I’m saying?

Aled: Yeah.

Giuseppe: So I think that the beauty of mediation is found in something that works for the parties, number one, and works for you. And the parties can sense that, if you are mechanically following techniques or if you are being yourself.

Aled: I love that expression – ‘Dare to follow what you believe in’. Or something, I missed…

Giuseppe: The saying. Yeah.

Aled: It is. I suppose in this sort of opportunity that you provide for Virtual Mediation Lab allows people to do that. Take a few risk, try something out for size. See if it works. If it doesn’t work, see what reaction it evokes in a party.

Giuseppe: Exactly. Actually, there are two categories of mediators who benefit from our simulation. First is brand new mediators just out of the mediation training. And they are eager to practice, okay? They are eager to practice and to observe.

There is also another category, of experienced mediators. Because if you’re experienced, say you have mediated one hundred cases, right? And you realise that whatever you’re doing, it works pretty well. You get a good settlement rate. Some mediators will disagree whether settlement rates is a criteria or it’s not, but just for the sake of this conversation.

If you’re satisfied with what you’re doing, what is the risk? The risk is that you keep doing the same things over and over again because you’ve seen that they work. So our lab is also the place where you can test something different just for the heck of it. And see how it works.

So if you can try different technique, you can try different approach because you’ll find out immediately whether it works, within minutes. Because during the debriefing, the parties will tell you, ‘You know, Aled. The way you asked me ‘A’ I thought you didn’t care about what I was feeling.’ You see what I’m saying?

For example, in one simulation, I still recall it. Derek, a mediator from Barbados. And during mediation, he tried something. And it didn’t work from the parties’ perspective. And I asked him, ‘Derrick, how come you tried this?’ And he said, ‘Because I was reading a book yesterday on mediation. I thought that was interesting to try. And now I know that it doesn’t work for me.’

Aled: That’s a great example. I mean I’m curious about the debriefing, actually, because I was watching one of the simulations. And I tell you I was just wanting to…

Giuseppe: Jump in.

Aled: I wanted to ask the mediator. It’s like, ‘Stop. Why did you do that?’ Break down into steps how the debrief works.

Giuseppe: We begin, well, hold on a second. During the mediation, which is the first component, I ask the parties to take notes. To write down anything that they found interesting one way or another. The opening statements, kind of questions, the mediator’s decision to split them up, to bring them back together, anything. Anything that gets their attention.

Positive but particularly negative because that is where they learn the most. Not from what worked well, but worked not so well.

Aled: Okay.

Giuseppe: So we have this kind of ping pong discussion. So the parties and the artist bring up their points. And they ask questions to the mediator. And I ask questions to both the parties and the mediator. ‘How come that you did this? What was the purpose of doing this? And which other options did you consider for getting the same results?’ And sometimes, the answer is, ‘Well, I did this because that is what I learned during my training, for no other reason.’

For example, when in a joint session, the parties start talking to each other and they disagree loudly. Some mediators say, ‘Wait. Stop. I think it’s better now if we talk apart. Privately. Okay?’ Some mediators think that is a fantastic opportunity for the parties to get off. And after they’ve done that, they’re in a better position to calm down and talk.

So the same situation can trigger different reactions from the mediator. And that is what we want to learn. Why did the mediator make certain decision? Based on what? Sometimes, the way that the parties experience the mediator does not match with the way that the mediator experience the same mediation.

For example, the mediator say, ‘I did this because I thought that . . .’ And the other mediator say, ‘That is not true. That is not what I meant. And if you had asked me, I would have told you.’ And before I forget, during the mediation, the mediator has also the option to take a break with me, as a coach. So if a new mediator gets stuck, to be very clear, we can have a break and we can discuss what’s going on and what the next step might be.

So the idea is that you simulate with the eagerness to learn, not with the fear of failing. Actually, your fail is great because you will learn a lot.

Aled: What is it? Is an expression ‘Failure is the state of your current reality? Success is a signal it’s time to set bigger goals’. or something like that.

Giuseppe: Yes. [inaudible 00:22:06]

Aled: And ‘Fail yourself to success.’

Giuseppe: Right. All mediators, when they signed up for our simulations, they are curious about our mediation. And they are skeptical about mediation.

Aled: Why are they skeptical? What are they skeptical about?

Giuseppe: I think they are fearful that the technology is impersonal. It will create a barrier or something in the communication. And they cannot be completely themselves as they are face to face. Until they discover that today’s technology really removes that barrier. So the first reaction is, ‘Gee, that was much easier than I thought,’ because software, like this one that we are using makes it easy, for example, to have joint sessions, to have private sessions, and so on. So the first discovery is, ‘It is much easier than I thought.’

The second is, I can see how I can use this in my face-to-face mediation practice. Especially, for example, in the first stages of mediation. When you have to explain what mediation means, what your job is all about, what you can do and what you cannot do. They also discover that the parties actually prefer sometimes to participate in mediation from the comfort and safety of their home or office.

So they don’t need to react to the other parties’ presence in your office. So they are not coming to you in your office, you are visiting them in their living room, in their kitchen, in their office. And therefore, when mediators participate in our simulations, they realise that the parties’ behavior in online mediation is less tense than face to face.

Aled: That’s interesting.

Giuseppe: And also in online mediation, you can change the sequence of the session. For example, instead of having typically a joint session first. You can have two private sessions first. For example, I can call party number one when it’s most convenient to him. I can call party number two, separately, when it’s most convenient to her.

During this session, I can accomplish a lot. I can not only to establish a personal rapport with them, I can help them think clearly about their interest and so on. I can check their motivation to work things out. I can also find out if they’re just participating in mediation because the judge ordered them to mediation.

Once I established the rapport, I can also ask some important questions like, ‘Besides you and party number two, who else do you think should be involved in this discussion? And if it comes out that you really don’t have the authority to make decision, that’s the time when I will ask you, “Well would it be useful if that person will be on call just in we get close to an agreement?”‘ So there are so many ways of integrating online mediation and face-to-face mediation.

Aled: Okay. Sorry, go on.

Giuseppe: So online mediation can be seen using two different settings. To settle disputes from beginning to end. If one party is in England, the other one is in China. But it can also be seen as a way of performing certain tasks and integrate those tasks with a face-to-face mediation. Meaning that for example, when you think that the parties are really close to an agreement, they are ready to negotiate, then you can ask them to come to your office. And if there is an agreement, there is a sense of closure, you know, shaking hands, hugging each other. Which obviously works much better face to face than online.

Aled: It’s interesting you say that. I did an interview with, who was it? Liz Birch is a mediator and an arbitrator. She specialises in shipping disputes and maritime disputes. And she was telling me on one of the interviews about how she had, I think, one party from Japan, another party from Greece, another party from South America.

It was a major dispute, you know, millions of dollars. But she did face-to-face meetings as well as Skype meetings just to kind of establish certain things. So she mixed and matched a number of different ways of bringing the parties together, not just to relying on one channel if you like.

Giuseppe: Exactly. So online mediation is just another tool in your mediator’s toolbox. And I think it’s very powerful tool. It’s not the only tool.

Aled: No. So I mean we kind of moving into the idea of online mediation. Before we do that, I just want to make sure that we’ve squeezed as much information about the Virtual Mediation Lab.

Giuseppe: Yeah, go ahead.

Aled: Because it sounds to me that the kind of experience that a mediator has is not only getting-, It’s an opportunity to try new things, to get some feedback, to see if doing the same thing is getting the best results, failing fast and quick. And as you know, if you’re in the technology business, that’s important, failing faster.

Giuseppe: Absolutely.

Aled: So you know, sharpening your own skills, learning about your own thinking, your own approach. Also, opening your mind up to other approaches and realising that actually, there’s more than one way to approach this. And in fact, I like the idea that you suggested, that actually it can give someone permission to be really authentic in mediation – to be themselves in the mediation.

Giuseppe: Right.

Aled: So there’s a lot going on, as well as learning about online mediation. Learning about the technology, having an experience of it because, I guess, if we’re suggesting that people use online mediation, it’s probably a good idea that we have some experience of it so we can talk more authoritatively about it. Right?

Giuseppe: Yes, absolutely. It’s an excellent point because another thing that mediators discover during our simulations is that there are really two components in online mediation. And I’ll begin with the second component, which is the mediation. You need to know what you’re doing online because, otherwise, it doesn’t work. So mediation skills and experience come first. That’s why our simulations are so useful because you learn and you practice and so on. So you need to know what you’re doing online.

Then there is the online aspect, which is the technology. You needed to be so familiar and comfortable with the technology that you’re using. That technology is invisible to the parties. You see what I’m saying? So whether the parties participate with a Mac or a PC or an iPad or iPhone, the technology should not be there from their perspective.

The technology is your virtual office. So you should be completely familiar with the technology that you’re using. So that, you know, you can be calm, and you know how to switch between joint and private session. And you also are aware of all the features of the software that you’re using.

One thing that we do in our Virtual Mediation Lab, in addition to the simulation, we also carry out experiments. For example, one project that I’m working on is a review of video conferencing software for online mediation. Because there are so many video conferencing software around, GoToMeeting, Skype, Google Hangout, and so on. Which one works better for an online mediation? And how would you assess a video conferencing software for mediation. And that is exactly what we are doing in our lab.

So with a group of mediators, we are testing different platforms. For example, we have done a test with Adobe Connect, with ooVoo. Recently, I checked out another software called Fuze Meeting. And obviously, we’re using Zoom for our simulations. We use Skype and so on.

Because initially, we started . . . Run your simulation with Skype. I thought Skype was an easy concept for people to understand because it was so popular, but not necessarily Skype is the best solution. And I don’t think that online mediation should necessarily depend on the technology. You choose the technology based on what you want to do with it.

So you should be aware of the technology that you’re using. You should know what you can do and what you can not do. It’s a pros and cons and so on. In any event the technology should be invisible to the parties. They couldn’t care less about the technology that you’re using.

Aled: Okay. I understand. I don’t want to go too much down the road of online mediation. I want to cover that in the Master Class. It’s interesting. You say that one’s familiarity with one’s environment. If I’ve got a mediation, I get to the room early just to make sure that I am familiar with the room, I know where everything is.

Giuseppe: Right.

Aled: But also that I can create the environment that I think is going to be most conducive for the conversation to take place.

Giuseppe: Absolutely.

Aled: I’m curious about that. But again, I want to explore that more in the Master Class.

Giuseppe: Yeah, anytime.

Aled: But you know, coming back to Virtual Mediation Lab, right? How does it work then if . . . How do I get started with that? Again, I’m thinking about someone watching this interview now, Giuseppe. I know myself. I’m going to sign up to one of these. I have to.

I’m just hooked. I’m too curious, but also I’m quite reflective. I’m quite interested. I’ve got to be honest. There’s actually a little part of me that would be nervous about doing it. Just to be worried about tripping up or saying something that, you know I don’t know. I guess let’s just . . . I imagine there’s a difference between saying, ‘I’m going to do something’ and then committing to it.

Giuseppe: Sure.

Aled: I give you an analogy. It’s like I do love to do an ultra-marathon running. And there’s a big difference between telling someone, ‘I’ll do that race,’ and then going online and paying my money, you know. So I guess there’s that side of it. But you know, how is someone watching this interview now, thinking to themselves, ‘You know what? I’m up for getting some feedback and learning.’ How does it work?

Giuseppe: How does it work? All right. The way it works is this. First, after you visit our website, And you can watch . . . There’s a page called ‘The Videos’. And there are examples of mediations nine other languages. So you know how online mediations work. If you’re interested, you sign up for a free simulation.

So I will send you a link to an online calendar in which you can mark your availability on a certain day and time. And you can choose which kind of case you are interested in – commercial, family, workplace. And which role you’re interested to play. Typically, when people sign up, they choose to play the role of one of the parties.

Aled: Really?

Giuseppe: Yes. Exactly. Because they want to see by themselves how things work. And they discover, especially during the debriefing session, that learning can be fun as well. We are there not to prove that we are better than other mediators. We are there to learn. So there is an element of [inaudible 00:37:32] as well. For example, when you hear from other mediators, ‘Aled, you asked me this. It didn’t work for me.’ That person is helping you. It’s your colleague. You see what I’m saying?

Aled: Yeah.

Giuseppe: So after the first simulation, mediators feel more comfortable. They see the usefulness of learning. They also see how interesting and fun can be learning from other mediators all over the world in different continent or countries and so on.

And then, probably the second time around or the third time around, then they say, ‘Okay, I’m ready to play the role of the mediator.’ So they see first how it works. So they test the waters, so to speak. And when they feel ready, then you’re right. Aled M, which means Aled Mediator, which means ‘I’m ready.’

We also can do co-mediation. For example in some cases, some mediation centres prefer co-mediation instead of solo. So there’re so many possibilities. But the way of resolving that initial curiosity of psychological resistance is, try it out. You decide. You have nothing to lose. It’s free of charge. Try it. Does it work for you? Great. It doesn’t work for you? No problem.

Aled: So give me an idea of how many turns people take before they want to take up the role of mediator, generally?

Giuseppe: One or two mediations.

Aled: So the first one is free, and look, if you’re watching this now. At the very least, you should take Giuseppe up on this.

Giuseppe: Right.

Aled: And shame on you if you don’t make a donation of some kind to Giuseppe charity for this because this sounds wonderful, right? So the first one is free. And the second one then, they pay you for. What sort of fees are we talking about?

Giuseppe: Okay. The second is $20 per simulation, including the video recording of your simulation. So let’s say, after three or four hours of the simulation, I’ll send you the link of the video recording so you can watch yourself. And the video is usually we’re talking about one hour and a half or two hour video. You know, it’s like a movie. It is very valuable.

In addition, if you want to watch someone else’s videos, which is an option, you pay $10 to watch that video. That’s how it works. So first simulation, free. Then, from the second simulation on is $20 per simulation. And if you’re interested in watching other mediators’ videos is at $10.

For example, after each simulation, I send an e-mail to all other mediators who participate in our project. And I give them a synopsis of what we did. ‘Today, we ran a simulation with Aled in England and Jane in Alaska and in Alonso in Buenos Aires. And what was unique about this simulation is that in this case, we discussed this.’ So I gave them an idea of what was interesting about this case. And then I tell them, ‘If you’re interested in watching the video, send me an e-mail.’ That’s how it works.

Aled: Hold on a second, Giuseppe. So you tell me that I can get 60 minutes of practice, 30 minutes of feedback, and the recording for $20.

Giuseppe: Right. Yes. And you can watch other videos for $10.

Aled: I occasionally work with a coach, and I obviously work with a supervisor. And I pay a substantial amount of money per hour for those services. I mean that is a bargain, Giuseppe. I imagine you’ll be putting your fees up soon, hopefully.

Giuseppe: Yes.

Aled: Again, if you’re watching the interview, $20, come on folks. That’s got to be worth, at the very least, trying to get some feedback, learning about how other people do it in Alaska, in Phnom Penh, in Cambodia. Come on. It’s a great opportunity.

Giuseppe: Right.

Aled: Sorry, Giuseppe. Just having a moment.

Giuseppe: As you can imagine, there are also two possibilities of participating in our project. One is as individual mediator. So you sign up and you participate the simulations anywhere in the world. The other option is to have a programme. Imagine that you run a mediation center. So you teach mediation. We could set up simulations only for the students who participate in your training. So there could be some tailored programmes for mediation centres.

Aled: I can see that working.

Giuseppe: You see what I’m saying?

Aled: Yeah.

Giuseppe: So at the end of your basic mediation training, you can tell your students, ‘Okay, now that you know this, are you interested to practice among yourselves with Virtual Mediation Lab?’ And therefore, you sign up. You see what I’m saying. You can participate as an individual. Or you can participate as a centre or as a mediator who works for a centre.

For example, we have a partnership with an organisation. It’s called NAFCM, National Association For Community Mediation in the United States. And we are trying to work out an agreement so that a community mediation centre, I don’t know, in Montana can have their mediators participates in simulation with someone else in New York City so they can learn from one another.

For example, if a community mediation centre does not have a certain experience or know-how with certain cases, they can learn the know-how from someone else across the nation. So technology in today’s world is such that there are no physical barrier. The only barrier is resistance to change. If you want this so much, you can do, but if you say, ‘No, no. Why bother? I’m fine.’ You know, then that’s fine.

So the willingness to try something different and to discover, to give it a shot, you know. You see what I’m saying? That is probably the main barrier. And still today, some face-to-face mediators still think, ‘I believe it when I see it.’ That’s why I made the videos in nine languages. I don’t want to tell you what mediation means. I want you to see it, and you judge for yourself.

Aled: Yeah. Fantastic. I know you’re really passionate about this. You started earlier on in the interview. And I didn’t want to interrupt because you’re in the flow. But I guess I’m a little bit curious. You talked about you fell in love with mediation at some stage.

Giuseppe: Right.

Aled: You got a background in technology, right, Giuseppe? You ran a technology company?

Giuseppe: That’s correct. Yes. Before I moved to United States, I was the CEO of a software company in Italy. So I’ve always been interested in technology. That’s correct.

Aled: So how does one go from being a CEO of a technology company in Italy to falling in love with mediation, and then living the dream in Hawaii. And if I’m prying, just tell me but I’m a bit nosy. I have to ask.

Giuseppe: No. I’ll tell you. During the Basic Mediation Training, I realised something frightening. Because we talked about communication. Being heard, being understood. And I realised that until then, I never paid any attention to the communication elements in my professional and private life.

I’d just been through a divorce and I realised that I didn’t even know why. So suddenly that during mediation, I realised how communication works. I’ll say dog. And I have in mind a huge dog. And you have in mind a small dog, perhaps a plastic one.

So I fell in love with mediation because I thought that the understanding how conflict comes about and how to analyse it and how to help people resolve it, was fascinating. Regardless of the law. I couldn’t care less about the law. I care about human beings.

So the fact that you can help people understand their conflict, help them realise whether there was some miscommunication, you know. And help them realise what assumptions they were making about you and about their dispute, I think it’s fascinating.

And it does not require a PhD in psychology. I think you just need to be authentic – to be yourself. ‘Tell me, what’s going on? What is frightening you? What is it that you want? Are you sure that’s it?’ You see what I’m saying?

Aled: Yeah.

Giuseppe: So I fell in love with mediation. And I fell in love because I realise that every case is different. In every case, you learn something new about people, human nature. And you learn something new about yourself.

Aled: I really appreciate you sharing that. And you know, one of the things that people say about these interviews is they get really good sense of the person being interviewed. And I mean we’ve had quite a few conversations now. But I got this . . . Your eyes lit up when you talked about this passion, falling in love. And I want to bring a lot of your authenticity into this interview so people can see where you’ve come from and why this is important to you.

And just appreciate that journey and that commitment that you’re making, not just to promoting mediation internationally but also the commitment to developing people and helping them reflect.

Giuseppe: Right.

Aled: And you know, we’ll go on to talk about Online Dispute Resolution in a little while. But again, thinking about inviting people to think differently about how to mediate. It’s not just about getting people in the room. There are so many other ways of helping people communicate effectively.

Giuseppe: Absolutely.

Aled: Helping people understand that when I say ‘dog,’ I meant this dog. Not that dog.

Giuseppe: Yeah.

Giuseppe: I’m like, ‘Oh, really?’ Because it’s creating those moments in the conversation is why we were all doing this, right? It’s to facilitate those moments of understanding where I say something, you go, ‘Oh. I didn’t realise you were talking about that. I thought you were talking about this. I thought you meant this. ‘

Giuseppe: [inaudible 00:51:06], yeah. Absolutely. For example, one thing that often comes up during mediation is that saying that you complain that someone else was nasty with you. Right? Until you discover that the reason why the person was nasty with you had nothing to do with you. That person was having such a hard time for things that were totally unrelated to you. You see what I’m saying? And then, you say, ‘Oh, so you were not angry at me.’ ‘No, I was angry, you know, because my divorce, my kids’ and so on.

Now, another beauty of online mediation when you jump in in someone else conflict is the timing. I wrote a brief article about this. The title was ‘Online Mediators as Firefighters’, meaning that timing is critical. If you can jump in someone else’s conflict or dispute, as fast as possible, it’s much easier to resolve that conflict. On the other hand, the longer you wait, the higher the chances that the parties will become entrenched in their position.

They will start talking to their lawyers. They will start talking with friends. And then everything gets far more complicated. So I think that the ability of an online mediator to jump in, in a conflict as a firefighter and to stop the damage. Especially, think about today’s social media, Twitter, Facebook, when consumers can write and destroy a small business’ reputation, very easily.

I think that online mediation can be very helpful because it is fast to set up and to carry out, rather than say, ‘Let me look. So you like to discuss your conflict. Okay. The first time I can see you is in three weeks time at 4:00. Are you available?’ No days. I mean in online mediation, you should be able to be helpful. To say, ‘Okay, let’s talk. What’s going on?’ And so on. All right.

Aled: Good. All right. Giuseppe, look. I’m sure that you are going to be inundated with requests for Virtual Mediation Lab. Where do people go to find out more about Virtual Mediation Lab, to sign up, and to reach out to you? If they want to find out a bit more about the kind of work that you’re doing. How do people find out about that?

Giuseppe: Well, our website is On the home page, there is a description of what we do. And there is an online registration form to sign up. There is also a contact page, so people are welcome to send me an e-mail. So that’s how it works. My e-mail is It’s very simple. So these are the easiest way of getting in touch with me.

Aled: Are you on Twitter?

Giuseppe: Yes. Actually, I think I have three accounts. One is @MediationSkills. The other one is @MobileMediation, one word. And the other one is @LearnToMediate, one word.

Aled: All right.

Giuseppe: Wait. We also have a LinkedIn group, Virtual Mediation Lab, which is a great way of describing what we are doing next. And people all over the world can also share what they are doing in their own country. For example, I’m fascinated when people start something in their own country, which had never been done before. You see what I’m saying? I like this idea of doing something new, something that seems so difficult at the beginning. And then, it works out.

So these are the way – the websites, Twitter, and the Virtual Mediation Lab, LinkedIn group.

Aled: Giuseppe, I’ll put all those details below the interview so people can connect directly with you. Is that okay?

Giuseppe: Yeah, it is.

Aled: Giuseppe, as always, I want to be the first one to say thank you. Thank you very much for your time. The sun is rising. Look at those palm trees. How far away from the beach are you?

Giuseppe: Probably fifty yards. Actually, perhaps I can show you the . . .

Aled: This is a treat.

Giuseppe: The bay.

Aled: I can just make that. That’s fantastic. That is just wonderful. I wish we could have done this interview face to face.

Giuseppe: Absolutely.

Aled: I don’t have a travel budget. In fact, I don’t have any budget, but that’s another story.

Giuseppe: That’s a different story.

Aled: Yes, it’s a different story. Giuseppe, thank you very much.

Giuseppe: You’re welcome. Bye, Aled.

Aled: Okay. Bye-bye.

About the mediator

Leone Profile Pic

Full-time mediator since 1997, specialized in workplace and commercial cases, and experienced in online mediation. Mediator for the United States Postal Service for resolving workplace disputes (discrimination, harassment, supervisor vs employee disputes). On January 9, 2014 Leone participated in the first USPS mediation conducted online, with parties (Postmaster, employee and his union rep) in Guam, the mediator in Hawaii, and an EEO/ADR obse... View Mediator