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Conflict Resolvers’ Responsibility To Shape the Message of Negotiation

I just read Robert Benjamin’s article on Trump’s style. He hit the nail on the head about how Trump is defining negotiation, especially when he reduces negotiation to what sounds like one-sided winning. With all of the knowledge and skills amassed over the years, conflict resolvers have a lot to contribute to the discussion about how negotiations work.

As a “field,” conflict resolvers often take on the role of victim, feel that others are doing things to them, not paying enough attention to their work, not using their processes, not using the processes the way they think they should be used, etc., etc., etc. The message in Robert’s article needs to be packaged for mass consumption.

If everyone who has received education and training in negotiation, mediation, and related processes routinely voiced their views, collectively conflict resolvers would make a difference. As conflict resolvers we sometimes tend to sit back and watch, often dumbfounded by what we are hearing, like when negotiation is mistakenly characterized by Trump, perhaps a result of the need for quick sound bites. Nonetheless, we have a lot of work ahead of us to sharpen the sound bites about negotiation.

It may take the thousands of people trained in negotiation, mediation, and related processes to get the attention Trump gets with one of his Trumpisms, but it is ultimately our responsibility to shape the message we want the public to understand about negotiation and the real work involved in settling difficult matters!

So, everyone in the larger conflict resolution field should take on the responsibility to write an op-ed piece for the NY Times, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, magazines, their local media, etc etc etc. This election season has provided us with an extraordinary opportunity to help educate the public about negotiation and deepen the discussion about how it works.


Maria Volpe

Maria R. Volpe, Ph.D. is Professor of Sociology, Director of the Dispute Resolution Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice - City University of New York, and Director of the CUNY Dispute Resolution Center, a university-wide center focusing on dispute resolution research and innovative program development.  An internationally known… MORE >

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