Building Emotional Intelligence: A Grid For Practitioners

Building Emotional Intelligence: A Grid For Practitioners 

Guest writers Charlie Irvine & Michelle LeBaron are presenting at the 2013 ACR Annual Conference


“It is perhaps the quintessential error of the Western world to suppose that thought can occur without feeling”  (Mary Clark, In Search of Human Nature).

Mediators have shown great ambivalence about emotions, with practice lurching between intrusive fascination (“How does that make you feel?”) and denial (one prominent pioneer describing emotional information as “not useful”).  Emotions are also physical, and mediation has also proved itself less than comfortable with the physical dimensions of human interaction.  The classic model involves sitting, talking and thinking – “mediating from the neck up.”  

And yet we all know the visceral effect of conflict: who can ignore the atmosphere in a room?  Whether tense or relaxed, angry or cheerful, we discern this using all of our senses.  Bodies matter.  “Our evaluations of the world … rely on a seamless calibration of feelings and thoughts. Body and mind are equally implicated”

The idea for this session emerged from “Dancing at the Crossroads”, an innovative conference led by Michelle LeBaron and Margie Gillis (one of Canada’s best known contemporary dancers).  Conflict resolution practitioners and artists from across the world gathered in Switzerland in the summer of 2013 to engage in an imaginative experiment in creativity and physicality, culminating in the publication of “The Choreography of Resolution: Conflict, Movement, and Neuroscience.”  The “emotion grid” was one of the products of that week.  

The session will build practitioners’ confidence in working with emotions.  Charlie will start by outlining three key ideas:

  1. The relationship between cognition and emotion in perception

  2. The importance of a range of emotions, starting with anger, in contributing to conflict

  3. The potential for emotional self-regulation to be harnessed and supported by mediators

Michelle will then lead us in exploring the physical dimension of conflict, drawing on her chapter in “The Choreography of Resolution.”  As she writes, dance and movement help us to articulate our habitual responses to conflict and make the connection between mind and body, leading to the challenging question: “So what would happen if we dared to let go of words?”

Finally, Charlie will present his “emotion grid”, explaining its twin poles of volume and intensity.  Participants have the opportunity to work/play with the grid, and apply it to their own lives.  Some of its uses include:

  1. Developing cultural fluency

  2. Plotting the flow of emotions over time

  3. Developing mediator practice through self-reflection

  4. Helping clients build their capacity for emotional self-regulation


See Charlie and Michelle's presentation on Friday, October 11th, at 10:30 pm.

Charlie Irvine
, based in Glasgow, Scotland, is a freelance mediator, trainer and teacher. A solicitor and former professional musician, he trained as a family mediator in 1993.  His practice now includes commercial, employment, education and professional complaints: clients include universities, housing associations, local authorities, multinationals, SMEs, charities and retailers.
Charlie has a deep interest in the academic development of mediation.  He gained a Distinction on Birkbeck College’s MSc in Conflict Resolution and Mediation Studies in 2007 before going on to develop Strathclyde University’s MSc in Mediation and Conflict Resolution, on which he is Course Leader and Visiting Professor.  He is a trustee and past Chair of the Scottish Mediation Network.  He has published articles on a wide range of subjects including apologies, emotional self-regulation, complaints in healthcare, music and conflict and the education of lawyers.


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