About thehecklist

CEO of the New York Peace Institute, Adjunct Professor at New York University's Center for Global Affairs. On twitter @NewYorkPeace.

The Soviet Scalp Succession Scheme: Conspiracy or Coinkidink?


hairpothesisDating back to the tsars, Russian/Soviet leaders alternated between being bald and having full heads of hair. (Note: I excluded the Andropov, Chernenko and Medvedev interludes from the drawing, but they check out as well.). This is known as the “Bald-Hairy Theory.” Google it — it’s a thing.

One can speculate on all kinds of Kremlin intrigue behind this Premier-patterned baldness. Putin’s pate might suggest that we should look for the lushest pompadour in the Kremlin to figure out who’s the….hair apparent.

In mediation, it can be tempting to make assumptions based on clients’ past actions. Indeed, in economics and psychology, it’s said that the best predictor of future actions is past behavior. Luckily, in mediation, we’re not in the prediction business, and we’re all about moving forward — and perhaps breaking patterns.

Here’s Australian mediator Margaret Halsmith tweet in response to my drawing:  “Mediation is an evenhanded process of shifting thinking from assumptions of the past to hypotheses of the future.”

Margaret clearly gets the mane idea.


5 things lurking in your kitchen drawer THAT WILL SHOCK YOU

sporkHow’s that for a clickbait title?

I’ve written about The Beatles and the five classic conflict response styles. And in our trainings, we correlate these styles to various animals.  But you can never have too many belabored metaphors, so let’s try it out with cutlery.

The fork is the competitor of your kitchen drawer. With its spiky tines, it assertively digs into whatever it darn well pleases. Villagers tormented  Frankenstein’s monster with pitchforks. Krakens and sea serpents regularly found themselves on the business of Neptune’s trident.

The spoon is our flatware accommodator. It scoops up whatever liquid or semi-viscous substance that’s in its path. It goes with the flow. What is an oar, if not a big-ass spoon?

Chopsticks, in my troglodyte hands, are the avoider. While billions use them with grace and Mr. Miyagi catches flies with them, in my paws chopsticks avoid anything smaller than an ice-cube sized hunk of moo goo gai pan.

The knife, though stabby and weaponizable, is our compromiser: it divides things up, slicing the pie so everyone gets a taste.

Our collaborator? The spork. An elegant and creative tool that is more than the sum of its parts, allowing you to do whatever you need to do with your food…scoop, slice, poke, you name it. The spork has yet to earn its rightful place in the flatware pantheon — not unlike how mediation is not yet the movement it deserve to be.

May the spork be with you.

Update: I just heard that KFC discontinued sporks. Not cool.

behold the swan.

swanGood mediators make it look easy…empathetically holding the space in the midst of high emotions and a dizzying amount of information. Underneath that calm and compassionate countenance, mediators are charged with maintaining neutrality, honoring the process, and deploying all kinds of skills that allow parties to hear each other, and find their own ways to move forward.

Editor: Swans in fact have feet and not tentacles. You’re confusing them with octopuses.

Author’s response: What do you know about swans? And it’s octopi, dude.

Editor: Both are acceptable, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Author: Good day, sir.

Editor:  (….)


Editor: Um, mediation?





MLK toast.

mlk copy“We must develop and maintain the power to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power of love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.