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Eureka: On conflict negotiation
by Jay Gutman
2017-10-18 10:39:30
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In any organization there are direct talks and there are indirect talks. The problem with direct talks is that the notion of “language of diplomacy” really doesn't exist. In most countries, “being diplomatic” basically means being indirect and basically involves indirect talks. So before I get to the point, let me share with you some of my experience with direct negotiations in conflict and non-conflict related, and some of my experiences with indirect talks.

conflict1_400In direct negotiations, let's just say my Israeli mindset of “let's just talk it out” doesn't apply everywhere. I was in Turkey once, in a resort just outside Ankara. This was in March 2000 and the idea was there were tensions which needed to be eased. We had formal negotiations in the dinner hall, in which I did all the talking and everyone else drew pictures of comic book characters on their notepads, this was before the era of smartphones. I left the negotiations twice complaining no one was listening, so a few people promised me they would make an effort. After the somewhat lukewarm negotiations I decided that after dinner we needed informal talks. I asked the hotel for a meeting room, they gave us one with a television in it. I tried to get some talking done but them someone had the idea of turning the TV on and the rest decided we needed silence because Cem Yilmaz's stand up comedy was on TV.

In 2002 in Algeria this time, again there were some tensions and we needed to talk. The main problem is that some of the key players in the tensions were missing, and I later found out to my horror that the key players were deliberately omitted from the negotiations. Talks ended up being a long gossip match about the culprits.

In France between 2002 and 2005, people didn't even start negotiating when there were tensions. It was one party complaining on a billboard and the other party responding on a billboard. Both parties would even refuse to talk on the phone or perhaps even agree on what to negotiate.

South Korea between 2005 and 2015 is where I had a lot of fun experiences with negotiations. I was involved in several big ones, and again key players were ommitted from the meetings, again the talks became a long stretch of gossip about the bad guys and only the good guys were allowed in meetings. Many negotiations failed because one party always thought that the other party did not send the appropriate members to carry out the negotiations. And many negotiations were concluded before they even started, as soon as one member would hint at the need to start the negotiations the leaders would say they need to go home and the negotiation had to be ended.

As to indirect negotiations, they often involve publishing notes in one media where the other party sometimes responds by a note in another media. Some notes are published in the form of press releases, others in more subtle forms as in movies or songs about the issue.

In any conflict negotitation you have what is called assymetry and schizogenesis. Assymetry is where the negotiating parties seem to favor an agreement, schizogenesis is where the parties move further and further from reaching a deal. Some countries believe in win-win deals, others believe that if one party wins the other loses.

The important thing in negotiations is to look for what the common ground is. If I try to buy a house or a car the basic idea is that regardless of the amount of money, I will be giving money in exchange for a car. Let me say euphemistically that you would be surprised how in many negotiations, people walk in to the car dealer or real estate agent expecting a car or a house but have no intention of giving money in exchange whatsoever.

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Emanuel Paparella2017-10-18 14:43:35
This is the utilitarian positivistic approach. But as usual, there is another approach: the deontological humanistic ethical approach which proclaims that if one wants peace one works for justice.

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