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 [...]
Author’s Note: For those readers who do not speak or read Chinese, the words and numbers in brackets indicate how to pronounce and intonate the Chinese characters indicated
I was recently given the honour of launching 谈判 (Tan2 Pan4): The Chinese-English Journal on Negotiation at the 3rd Asian Mediation Association Conference held in Hong Kong on 3-4 April 2014. This journal was a themed edition titled “Who says you’re a mediator?”
Not having launched anything (apart from paper aeroplanes) in my life, I was initially at a loss for what to say. As I thought about this journal and what it hoped to achieve, I realized that there was quite a fair bit to say. I would like to introduce this j [...]
Like many of us, I listened with rapt attention to the reporting from Geneva of the Syrian peace talks last week. So much is at stake. And so much of it feels very familiar to me as a mediator.
One particularly interesting item was a radio interview last Saturday with a Syrian media officer who appeared to have been very present and involved in the talks, though I don’t recall in what capacity. The interview was followed by coverage of a press conference with Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-appointed mediator. From what the two of them had to say, I was reminded of a number of things central to what we do as mediators:
1. The humanising effects of talking, or even just being in the same ro [...]
I’m not sure conflict resolution is quite what Guns n Roses had in mind when they wrote those lyrics but having survived the festive season, which in itself always requires a good deal of patience, I decided to reflect on just how important and valuable the gift of patience is for anyone trying to work with conflict. Actually, what really triggered my thinking about patience was not what I was doing over the holidays but rather what Richard Haass and his colleague, Meghan O’Sullivan were trying to do in Belfast over the holidays.
Against a background of a year of heightened tensions and increased violence in the North, Mr. Haass and Ms. O’Sullivan were asked to chair a series of meeti [...]
There is a famous sketch by Monty Python in which the lead character (Michael Palin) is looking to buy a five-minute argument. He walks into an office where the receptionist offers him some options. One of the options involves a person who is too conciliatory. She decides that there is a good argument available and directs him to a private room where another character swears at him and basically terrorizes him with ‘abuse’. Palin complains, indicating he was looking for an argument. The abuser apologizes and indicates that Palin has entered the wrong room; that he has entered the ‘abuse’ room, and directs him to the argument room down the hall.
Palin enters the argument room and th [...]