As 2014 comes to an end, it is good to reflect. How privileged many of us are. I often remark to others that my “job” is better than “real work”. What do I mean when I say that?
As mediators, we have an extraordinary window through which we view life, other people and what happens in times of difficulty or distress. It is a vantage point which we need to cherish and respect.
In a period of ten days recently, I worked as a mediator in a number of diverse situations. These, anonymised here, have included an evening with townspeople explaining to a quarry operator their distress about the effects on a community of nearby blasting. I have sought to help a national sports body handle a very sensi [...]
I have never been a great fan of mediator’s proposals. I took the view that the mediator’s job, done well, was to help the parties to come to a solution themselves. Party autonomy and all that. Achieving a satisfactory outcome, I thought, shouldn’t require a specific suggestion by the mediator.
I have changed my view. As usual, experience is a great teacher. As is improvisation. Here’s what happened. After several hours of to-ing and fro-ing, and with a still significant gap between them, the mediator brought the principals together to meet with him, without their legal advisers (and with the advisers’ permission and encouragement). They talked for a while about their respective claims and [...]
“The key to doing well lies not in overcoming others,
but in eliciting their co-operation.”
“Although negotiation takes place every day, it is not easy to do well. Standard strategies for negotiation often leave people dissatisfied, worn out or alienated…..”
Roger Fisher and William Ury
For probably the final time, I am writing about the referendum which was recently held in Scotland. Now, a Commission has been set up to address the need for additional powers, which the “No” vote has prompted.
Collaborative Scotland and Core Solutions have submitted views. These may be of interest to all of those who are pondering how the future of politics and our mediation work may i [...]
Negotiations are like political campaigns. It is an organized effort to influence decision makers. “How” and “When” to begin the campaign are fundamental questions to examine before actually engaging in the formal negotiation. Consider the first presidential campaign of Barack Obama. While the election was in 2008, the campaign began before 2004 when the Democratic Party identified Obama as a rising star and selected him do the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. It was in that speech that he famously set the stage for his own political future by stating: “there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s [...]
I am interested in convergence – of ideas, of behaviour, of trends, of different disciplines. The more I read, the more common themes I discern in the arts, science, spirituality, leadership and in what we do as mediators. A reflection of this is found in the African concept of ubuntu, “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others.” These are the words of Nelson Mandela. Ironically, one of the finest books I have come across recently which encourages this idea of convergence is Mandela’s Way: Lessons in Life, by Mandela’s biographer, Richard Stengel.
In fifteen short chapters, Stengel captures the essence of what made Mandela special – and each one of [...]
Talking to Dr Gilbert Wong
Senior Superintendent, Commanding Officer, Police Negotiation Cadre, Hong Kong
Walking into Gilbert Wong’s office is like stumbling into Aladdin’s Cave – a treasure trove of memories and stories of his 21 years in the Hong Kong Police Force. Amongst his library of books on crisis negotiation, psychology, counselling, psychotherapy and other relevant fields, there are mementos, certificates, awards and honours representing this negotiator’s passion for people and his commitment to developing the field of crisis negotiation. A certified hypnotherapist, and a graduate of universities in Australia and the United States, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) N [...]
I write here about two contrasting experiences which have, for me, underscored the richness of the mediation process.
In one mediation, involving business partners with an ongoing management issue, one of the protagonists (A) suggested bringing in another partner (D) who was not perceived to be a part of the present problem, simply to observe, be a resource to the participants and help balance numbers as A, a more junior partner, felt outnumbered by B and C who held senior positions.
D made clear at the outset that he did not wish to say much and that he did not wish to become embroiled. However, a private meeting with him elicited much information that seemed helpful going forward. Rather [...]
Whether two employees are fighting or a disgruntled client is on the verge of leaving, you—yes, you—can step in and help solve the problem. Here are some tricks of the trade.
Conflict happens. It happens in all areas of business. When your employees spend 40 plus hours together each week, they are bound to run into disagreements and arguments that can hurt not only their productivity but the productivity of their fellow co-workers. And if such issues are not settled, bad things can happen. Good people quit. Profitable relationships dissolve. Great companies go under. Clearly, too much unresolved conflict is hazardous to the health of your organization.
How do you deal with conflicts betw [...]
Next week I am going to interview one of Hong Kong’s leading police negotiators, Dr Gilbert Wong, Commanding Officer of the Police Negotiation Cadre (PNC). When I first emailed with Gilbert, I was struck by the signature line of his email: “Who Cares Wins”. While it could be a mediator’s tagline, it is in fact, the motto of the PNC.
As the South China Morning Post reported this month, most of Gilbert’s negotiations are with people who are so emotionally distraught and without hope that they are threatening to commit suicide. Now, in anyone’s book, that’s a tough negotiation.
So what is the key to crisis negotiating? According to the SCMP, it’s first about identifying what’s important for [...]
I have been reflecting recently on the individual and collective professional journeys we all undertake – and on the different stages we reach. My reading has taken me to a thought-provoking book by theologian Richard Rohr, entitled Falling Upward.
Rohr’s thesis, put very simply, is that there are two stages to life. The first, necessary, stage involves building up a career with an identity, fulfilling ambition, acquiring material things, seeking security and achieving status. The second stage, which not everyone reaches, incorporates and transcends the first as we achieve a certain peace, appreciate the important things, accept things as they are and subordinate the ego. It involves unlea [...]