“Creative, Constructive, Collaborative Negotiation” Let’s Get There!

It seems that the world is experiencing more serious and intractable conflict. Our brains are hardwired to focus on bad news, which is everywhere and which can lead to stress and even despair. As conflict management professionals, what can we do to navigate these stormy times?

I offer a hat tip to Tammy Lenski for linking to this article by William Ury:

3 Ways to Make Conflict Less Destructive

William Ury is well known to most of you as an acclaimed mediator, co-founder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, co- author of the famous “Getting to Yes” and author of “Possible – How We survive (and Thrive) in an Age of Conflict” (2024). [Note 1]

Ury sees conflict as an opportunity rather than a threat to our existence. He begins his book “Possible” with the following quote:

“We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems. “ Margaret Mead

He believes that “the choice we face is not to get rid of conflict but to transform it from destructive fighting into creative, constructive collaborative negotiation.” He describes himself as a “possibilist” (different than an optimist or a pessimist).

In this succinct article, Ury responds to the question “Do you think you could sum up the essence of all you’ve learned in one sentence?”

His answer is “The path to possible is to go to the balcony, build a golden bridge, and engage the third side.”

He explains each of these three concepts:

  1. Have a calm and clear perspective (from the balcony rather than the stage). The single biggest obstacle is not the “other side” but our very natural human tendency to react out of fear or anger.
  2. Create an attractive way out for them and for you.
  3. Get some help from the people around you.

Easy to read; harder to do. Like anything worthwhile, it takes consistent practice. Shouldn’t the conflict management community lead the way by applying these principles to the world’s serious problems and our everyday lives?


Note 1: Even U.S. President Biden was spotted with this new book.

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