Make it work! tim gunn’s dispute resolution style

Litigation & Dispute Resolution

One of my favourite “reality” TV shows – in fact one of the few I watch – is Project Runway. Filmed in New York, the show pits aspiring designers against each other with seemingly impossible sewing challenges, with each episode culminating in a runway show and elimination. The contestants are mentored by Tim Gunn, whose catch phrase “make it work” I have adopted as my own personal mantra.

Like many such shows, the contestants are housed in the sponsor’s serviced apartments for the duration. With a dozen or more “artistic types” (otherwise known as high conflict personalities) living, working and competing with each other, it is not surprising when tempers fray.

Season 12 saw several designers lose their cool, and each time it has been mentor and producer Tim Gunn who has stepped in to resolve the tensions. This is a man who genuinely cares for the health and wellbeing of the designers, and who feels their pain when they are emotionally distressed.

From discussing a designer’s garment in the work room to brokering peace between bickering contestants, he is a deft hand at reflecting and reframing people’s statements, reality testing a person’s position, and using silence as an intervention.

Whether his mediation skill comes naturally or he has been trained I do not know; what I do know is that he can diffuse tense situations and manage conflict with a calm grace that would serve him well in any dispute resolution setting. 

Rebecca Carroll-Bell


Rebecca Carroll-Bell is The Everyday Mediator – passionate about managing, resolving and preventing conflict in everyday life Rebecca Carroll-Bell is an experienced conflict manger, conflict resolution expert and mediator. In addition to helping you manage, resolve and prevent conflict in your everyday life, Rebecca provides coaching, mentoring and support to other mediators and lawyers wishing to market and promote their practice on a shoe-string budget.