104: Listening x Creativity: Oliver Martin, Mediator

Updated: Aug 21


Saturday Night Live might have been a total flop. After all, in looking back at the writers in the very first year of SNL, the big personalities in the room, all competing to have their ideas front and centre could have been disastrous to the success of the show. The writers were a ragtag bunch who could very well have not collaborated or worked together to create the magic that they ended up making. But who or what is attributed to making it work?


It was Lorne Michaels (Executive Producer and creator of SNL) and his belief in the power of ‘ostentatious listening’; “showing that everyone is listening by picking up on non-verbal cues or drawing people into the conversation”. This, in turn, helped create a space that was psychologically safe. Specifically, when in a meeting, Lorne Michaels wouldn’t let anyone get up from the table until everyone had spoken. Everyone must contribute to the conversation and every other person is listening as closely as possible to what’s being said. SNL is a success because Lorne Michaels creates psychological safety so that everyone’s ideas are heard.


There’s an awesome short video by author Charles Duhigg that explains SNL’s listening strategy as a way to cultivate high-performance teams. And it was today’s guest who showed me that video.


Oliver Martin is a mediator, facilitator, workplace consultant, and leadership coach. He provides conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation, and leadership training to organizations and the general public throughout Canada, the Caribbean and the United States. He also works with organizations to provide workplace restorations and with leaders to address challenges within their workplace.


The desire to transform relationships in neighbourhoods and communities led Oliver to begin practicing mediation in 2003. Since then, he has mediated numerous interpersonal, organizational and community conflicts regarding various issues.


Listening is critical to effective mediation and I recently stumbled upon a thought by author Adam Grant that bridges the gap between professional conflict resolution and remaining open to everyday creative conflict. He said this: “Don’t listen to people because you agree with their answers. Listen because you respect the intellectual integrity they bring to their questions. You learn more from people who challenge your thought process than from those who affirm your conclusions.” Yes!


In moving ahead with today’s episode, I recommend that you keep an open mind to what we can learn from a professional mediator as it applies to our small, daily conflicts. In this conversation, Oliver articulates what active listening looks like, why our brains make it so difficult to actively listen, as well as why listening is hugely important as a means to help others clarify their own thoughts. Oliver reminds us that listening is a superpower in the pursuit of what it means to be human and connect with others, offering strategic approaches to becoming a better listener today. Let’s get compassionately curious.




Listening Invitation:


Silence can feel uncomfortable, but a lull in conversation is fine (nay, encouraged!) as it opens doors to increased confidence in ourselves as communicators, as well as what can emerge in a conversation when we pause a few beats longer.


This listening invitation requires that you get into a room with another person, whether in-person or virtual. With your phones away and other distractions minimized, sit in silence with your partner. Level up by maintaining eye contact throughout. Refrain from speaking.


After about 4 minutes is up, take a couple of minutes to jot down any thoughts, ideas or insights that arose from the experience. You can learn a lot in a silent 4 minutes.



About Our Guest:

Oliver Martin is a mediator, facilitator, workplace consultant, and leadership coach. He provides conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation, and leadership training to organizations and the general public throughout Canada, the Caribbean and the United States. He also works with organizations to provide workplace restorations and with leaders to address challenges within their workplace.


Oliver is a past Director of Training for the Stitt Feld Handy Group, a division of ADR Chambers, and a past Director at the ADR Institute of Ontario. He received Alternative Dispute Resolution training from the University of Windsor Law School and York University and has a Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University.


The desire to transform relationships in neighbourhoods and communities led Oliver to practice mediation in 2003. Since then, he has mediated numerous interpersonal, organizational and community conflicts regarding various issues.


Oliver combines his experiences dealing with conflict in communities and corporations to train and coach others on managing conflict, resolving disputes, and communicating more effectively to achieve their goals.




Music: Where the Sun Set by Ketsa, licensed with permission from the Independent Music Licensing Collective - imlcollective.uk


Talk Paper Scissors Theme Music: Retro Quirky Upbeat Funk by Lewis Sound Production via Audio Jungle


Boat Origami Photo: Boat Origami Photo by Alex on Unsplash

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