There’s a paradox to writing as an expert on Conflict Management, Conflict Competencies, and Conflict Analysis. Every conflict is unique, and the answer to most questions about conflict situations is: “It depends.”
To the extent one can be an expert of someone else’s conflict, I’ve studied and worked hard to achieve practical knowledge that is useful for your problems. My clients, peers, and students say so. Here are samples of their feedback in different contexts:
Thanks again for the wonderful presentation. I see such confidence in the people who were also at your session. You give sage words and thoughts. You are a ‘great counselor’ but mostly appreciate you help people reflect on their own changes and strengths.
Great presentation! It was very interactive and the time flew by.
Deborah is very inclusive and supportive in our learning and understanding how our thoughts and behaviors can be changed to help us have better outcomes in our conflicts.
Excellent workshop Deborah….many thanks for your time. Very thoughtful work.
Please accept my deepest thanks also for your very thoughtful and thought provoking training. I have had many of our team share how valuable they felt that it was. You are very good at what you do and we are exceedingly fortunate to have you involved.
This was an amazing lecture. Two hours went by in a flash.
That was fascinating and empowering. Excellent program. Thank you.
Really enjoyed the way you created interaction with everyone and allowed sharing.
Had a wonderful time and look forward to another session.
Thanks you for a welcoming and informative atmosphere.
Deborah was excellent. Really enjoyed the talk and felt I can practice a lot of what was taught.
Organizational Change Process
Deborah consistently strives for excellence, connects with people, shows sound judgment and makes things happen. Deborah is an outstanding asset to the agency. .. I look forward to Deborah’s contribution to improve and assist with Information Management as we document our processes, strengthen our image and communicate with clients, while continuing to deliver creative and competent Conflict Management services to our diverse clientele.
You have consistently been able to bring fresh insight and intelligence to the work of conflict management across Canada and for a short time, within the agency. Your consistency in living what you teach has been inspiring.
Deborah Sword gave an incredible and very practical presentation on conflict transformation … Deborah’s presentation sparked the creativity of the group, and elicited a long list of responses regarding what we are capable of doing to turn around the actions and policies that are currently detrimental to our environment.
The facilitator created a safe place for us to open up and talk – this was very special.
A great facilitator.
Great idea for course, as everyone can use this information.
This was a great workshop! The info was very valuable.
Deborah was great! Fantastic topic and instructor!
I just wanted to let you know what a pleasure it was to work with Deborah. Her professionalism and subject knowledge was awe inspiring and I felt I learned as much as I know the participants did. Thanks for giving me the opportunity!
We really enjoyed your facilitation style and having you share a few of your stories as well…. Everyone felt comfortable enough to contribute and thought the day was well spent… You certainly gave everyone ample opportunity to ask for what they needed and wanted.
Gentle style makes you easy to work with and to hear feedback from.
Wealth of experience in the practice of collaborative conflict resolution to call on.
Fantastic workshop! One of the very best I’ve attended. I got a lot out of it and have a lot of food for thought.
I feel more empowered that things CAN change.
Deborah, we can’t thank you enough for your patient, gentle and professional instruction and for sharing your incredible knowledge and insight on how to deal with conflict and have difficult conversations. We learned a great deal over the course of a few days and have already made changes in our office. Thank you so much.
This workshop needs more than a 2 hour session. The workshop is very substantial and critical to know in our daily living. And Deborah Sword is great!
A laid back and supportive environment.
I enjoyed meeting you, Deborah. Yours was a difficult task-a few white elephants in the room. Mostly I want to tell you how you immediately struck me and that is very warm and welcoming (in addition to being so excited about everything that you do.) You have a very special spirit about you. Thank you so much for being with us yesterday.
The attendees evaluated an overall rating of 4.6 out of 5 possible points. Comments included:
The idea of a mental map is a good way to think about conflict.
Valuable content was specific steps to follow when dealing with conflict.
Very good overall.
All was of value, identifying that we must begin to diffuse conflict within ourselves first.
Opening my eyes to how normal conflict is and that I am not alone.
Conflict is common and now I have a better idea on how to control myself first.
Well worth attending.
Very knowledgeable presenter.
Well presented so that I can adapt these concepts right away.
Great session overall.
All of it was good. I am new to this position and everything we covered is quite valuable.
Deborah went above and beyond with our client. She provided a full day workshop (instead the half day we quoted) to the team to help the client fully understand the dynamics of their conflict. Deborah’s depth and breadth of knowledge on the topic visibly reassured our client on several occasions. As well her expertise gave them considerable ideas and suggestions for future work they could do for themselves.
You were very insightful and thorough – so you see, you really are a star.
Teaching; University, student evaluations
Deborah Sword was an outstanding instructor. She clearly knows what she is talking about and her turnaround time on assignments and feedback was the fastest I have seen yet. Thanks Deborah!
Dr. Deborah Sword was very knowledgeable in her teachings, she was more than willing to help and has been one of the best instructors I have encountered. The amount of time she spends writing to us on higher order thinking and pointing out examples and such was why I passed this course and got better as weeks past by. I really do appreciate her time very much. Thank you.
Teaching; University, mentor evaluation
Deborah Sword is an accomplished and insightful facilitator. Her knowledge and grasp of the subject matter are strengths she brings to the classroom and to the forums. Learners are intrigued by her skilful presentation of complex material. Through discussion questions and discussions, Deborah invited learners to think beyond the boundaries – she promoted critical thinking skills and challenged learners to present material that reflected good writing and thinking skills. The learners responded to her high expectations by their willingness to rewrite and rethink responses. Deborah reflected the desire to excel as a facilitator by and through her enthusiasm, careful supervision and ability to learn through the ‘glitches and humps’ of a new system; at the end, she showed herself an able and perceptive facilitator.
Dr. Sword is highly regarded for her preparation skills, ability to identify relevant criteria for decision-making, and hearing skills as a panel member. Her contribution to panel decision making is noted and she embodies other relevant attributes, including knowledge, judgment, consistency, and objectivity.
When we have a difficult case, Deborah is one of the roster mediations we call upon first. The feedback we receive from the clients whose cases we assign to her has been excellent. She has a reputation for fairness, insight and integrity in mediation.
The attendees evaluated an overall rating of 9.4 out of 10 possible points. Comments were:
Very interesting topic relates to our culture and environment
Enjoyed forward thinking on ‘human factor’ using complaint process as professional development
Very knowledgeable on conflict management, would have liked to have had [time for] examples of dialogue on handling conflict conversations
Great presentation and nuance emphasis. Welcomed questions, informative answers. Good level of detail
Afternoon presentation was especially interesting; very enjoyable
Today I was able to talk to a very understanding human being. She opened the avenues of dialogue, and we were able to work together to alleviate all my concerns. I could appreciate that Deborah is a skilled conflict resolution manager €¦. I believe Deborah did an outstanding job mediating for [the client], and I believe her job will provide basis for the Board to move forward.
Saint Paul University, Department of Conflict Studies, course Mediation and Negotiation Theory and Research
Student evaluations were 4 and 5 out of 5. Written comments included:
Professor Sword is the most articulate, bright and engaging person I ever met. She is a great asset for the Conflict Studies program.
Excellent class! More practical discussions would of (sic) been interesting, not only theory but that is course design. Otherwise loved it!
The course is very useful, and I think should be taught on regular basis.
Excellent and interesting class! Professor has one enormous knowledge base and is an excellent teacher.
Saint Paul University, Department of Conflict Studies, course Spirituality and Conflict
Student evaluations were 4 and 5 out of 5.
Saint Paul University, Department of Conflict Studies, course Dialogue Theory and Research
Student evaluations were 4 and 5 out of 5. Written comments included:
Although this course had a very rocky beginning, Deborah managed it with professionalism and empathy. The learning value was great!
I think Deborah did a great job working with a course outline and structure that she inherited on short notice.
I like the fact that teacher is very approachable. She is practicing what she’s preaching. I thought that she was a great model.
Do what you can to keep her!!
This has been a most enjoyable learning experience. Thank you.
Office for Partnerships for Advanced Skills, online moderator-instructor Organizational Conflict Management
90% of the student respondents in my 2002 online Conflict Management course reported that they strongly agreed that they found it easy to get useful and prompt help in the course. 95% strongly agreed that I provided new ideas, listened well and guided the discussion of content that they found interesting.
Individual comments that learners added to the evaluation form were:
I think both the content and the instructor were super.
I really enjoyed the online video content as well as the facilitator and my fellow students.
Great course, all the web links were good and the online facilitator always had ideas for additional content that was relevant to our specific needs.
Great experience! Good group of learners, great facilitator and decent content.
I did find the technology hard in the beginning, but after a while I worked it out. Because of the group and the online teacher I kept trying because I found it so interesting. This was top quality, the best online learning experience I have seen. My wife is taking two online courses from a university and she was very jealous of my experience. It is clear that the online facilitator was well trained and supported us throughout the process.
I participated in the course and [also with Jan] in the second unit I found that both online instructors were amazing.
I did conflict resolution with Deborah and online facilitation with Jan. Both were exceptionally good experiences.
The online community of students and the instructors were great.
I did both conflict resolution and the online facilitation and both were very professional and high quality.
In this online course, students in the distance learning facilitation class were monitoring my class’s online discussion because of its experimental nature. Their evaluations of my teaching performance, which were not anonymous were:
She has exceptional interpersonal skills and applies them very well in this not so personal world. She reads well, assimilates it and she is able to demonstrate her understanding of the learners in her comments and assignments. She practices very democratic leadership. She is open, yet guides the discussion. She is definitely very professional and confident in her knowledge and she has gained the respect of the learners.
Deborah speaks with openness, respect and confidence. I like how she invited them to participate, learned about them and after made the discussion groups. Clearly she has the confidence of the group to be open and honest. Very interesting.
The facilitator demonstrates that she is a good teacher in her ability to listen to the students and present discussion of interest to them. The facilitator provides a group of discussions forums and the learner has choices about how to proceed. The facilitator has exceptional abilities to explain issues in a way that provokes discussion. She definitely understands conflict resolution.
Hi. Great discussions and you have done a super job of facilitating.
Great overview of what she expects from the students. Very warm and inviting style of commenting and questioning. Extremely professional in her own reflections and the comments provided. Terrific example. How many courses has she done anyway? [Answer to the question: It was my first online course]
The online facilitation is great. Deborah is a very effective communicator and I am very impressed with how she creates a bond with the learners. Next, I appreciate the types of questions she asks as everyone is comfortable providing ideas. Finally, it is evident that she knows her material very well and the layout of the course is well thought out.
York University, Department of Psychology course Conflict Analysis and Negotiation Student evaluations were:
The negotiation, mediation, facilitation demonstrations were the best.
I enjoyed the amount of student interaction. Most classes have a lecturer that lectures while students listen. This class encouraged me to do the readings so that I would be able to participate.
I found it sometimes frustrating that when I asked a question, it would be replied to with a question. However, I also liked how Deb taught not strictly from course material and was flexible with work and assignments. She really made me feel like my opinion counted.
I enjoyed the professors for this term. I found that they were warm and I did not just feel like a number.
I found the assignments, class discussions, role playing, modeling the most valuable in this course. I appreciated the connection to current societal conflicts. I think the conflict analysis framework paper a valuable exercise. Deborah did a great job of taking over the class fabulous facilitator!
I valued the open discussions and the way in which different models of conflict resolutions was [sic] presented.
It was very creative-interactive a fair amount of new concepts were introduced to guide discussion and thought.
D. Sword was an excellent choice to take over from C. Chataway in this course. Her background in law and mediation fit perfectly into the course material.
[most valued] the availability of the instructor and her obvious interest in the class and course material.
The second instructor, L. Deborah Sword was phenomenal. Her style of teaching by facilitation taught me more than any book ever could. Her style of teaching is unique and brilliant. The whole class comes alive. Deborah brought real life examples from her vast experience, which made this a stimulating and thought-provoking course.
Thank you for a wonderful learning experience this year.
I think you did an excellent job with our class. It must have been difficult to come into a class that was already aquainted and follow another professor’s guidelines but over all the class was stimulating and I really felt as though I learned a lot.
York University, Atkinson College, Department of Continuing Education Civil Procedure for Mediators
On a scale of one to five, 47% strongly agreed and 53% agreed that the course content was satisfying. 76% strongly agreed and 24% agreed that the trainer was knowledgeable and well organized.
Additional student comments were:
Excellent. Articulate. Very passionate about this area of knowledge and this showed.
Very well organized.
Very valuable information on becoming a mediator was provided.
Great stuff. Why do we get through high school without an understanding of this information?!?
Deborah was excellent.
TVOntario, Virtual Classroom: Organizational Dispute Resolution
This course did not include a formal evaluation. A student faxed me a letter:
They warned us it would be long, boring – they lied. Thank you for a wonderful, interesting, entertaining informative day. I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation and I admire your skill and how you conducted yourself.
Ontario Professional Planners Institute Development Program on A.D.R.
Students evaluated my coaching 4.5 out of 5, the highest given to a coach, and wrote:
Demonstrated her approach effectively, respectfully
Skills and insights helpful
Helpful in presenting alternatives
Excellent debriefing, good
Very helpful and honest, brought a lot to the session
Excellent insight into how to capture the interests from the issues
Participant evaluations from peers at the Association for Conflict Resolution Conference ranged between 4.0 and 4.4 out of 5.
Participant evaluations from peers at the International Association for Public Participation conference averaged excellent to good.
Individual comments were:
I enjoyed this more than anything else. Excellent! Present to everyone next year, for example a plenary.
Should be longer seminar.
Great session. Loved it. Need an all day session next time.
Too short. More Complexity Theory.
Other Peer Evaluations
My dissertation external reviewer wrote: this is a unique work and one of extraordinary ambition. As far as I know there is nothing in the way of a model for Ms. Sword to have followed. Neither is there any literature that examines social conflict through the lens of complexity theory, much less public protest.
A mediation client wrote: You were highly effective and very understanding. You are truly the world’s greatest mediator!
My thesis supervisor ranked me an A+ and evaluated me in the highest academic performance category in relation to all her students that she had previously evaluated in terms of originality, research potential, industriousness, judgment, and overall ability. She also wrote: Deborah is an exceptional doctoral candidate doing an exceptional piece of research.
A mediation client wrote: We really did not expect to resolve this matter. The fact that we did is testimony to your hard work.
A mediation client wrote: You did a great job! Thanks for your patience.
A mediation client wrote: Thank you very much for what I consider to have been an extremely skillful mediation that you conducted. The recommendation that I received to use your services was certainly warranted.
A facilitation client wrote: You ran the meeting fairly, courteously and efficiently. Your synthesis of the comments made at the end of the meeting was remarkable not only for its accuracy, but particularly for the way in which it captured the spirit of the community.
A mediation client wrote: You did an incredible job at being neutral and extremely professional.
A professional colleague wrote: I have had an opportunity on a number of occasions to observe her facilitation skills in situations where there are many stakeholders with different perspectives, training, professional backgrounds and points of view. She demonstrates tremendous creativity, excellent communication skills, organizational ability, warmth and inclusiveness.
A mediation client wrote: The mediator was Deborah Sword. She conducted an exemplary mediation conducted with dignity and professionalism this case was perhaps more difficult than most At first, I did not have high hopes for resolving this file at the mediation stage. However, Ms. Sword brought the participants to a point where we reached common ground and we were able to settle it fairly.
A mediation client wrote: You were invaluable at the recent A.D.R. I’t helped reinforce my faith in the process.
Counsel for a mediation client wrote: Thank you very much for your assistance in the ADR session yesterday. You were tremendously helpful and [name withheld] and I were impressed with you and your approach to the mediation.
A client wrote: she has strong skills in writing, editing, analysis, planning, brainstorming, and working with people individually and in groups. She thinks creatively and she produces results.
The Acting Dean of a Faculty wrote: You have been an active and productive [Faculty of Graduate Studies Academic] Committee member and your input from a student’s perspective was of great value.
An Associate Dean wrote: Your participation on the Academic Committee during the past two years was exceedingly valuable and you have proved to be a thoughtful, responsible and hardworking colleague. It was a pleasure to work with you.
A former employer wrote: Deborah is a well organized, dedicated and hard working person whose work ethic and loyalty cannot be impeached. I have no hesitation in recommending Deborah for any position to which she may aspire, confident in the knowledge that she will outdo herself in anything she may choose to do.
My colleagues in the legal community recommended me for the highest rating in the legal professional directory.