Gini Nelson\’s Engaging Conflicts

July 31, 2006

Protean Negotiation: Rejecting Orthodoxy and Shifting Shapes

Filed under: Attorneys and Mediators - No Conflict Here!,Ethics — Gini @ 2:21 pm

One highlight for me at the Association For Conflict Resolution’s annual conference last October in Minneapolis, MN, was the workshop presented by Robert Benjamin, M.S.W., J.D., and Peter Adler, Ph.D., President and Director of The Keystone Center, entitled “Stalinist Mediation and the Protean Leader.” Proteus, a minor Greek god, was a shapeshifter and mystic, who would escape from those seeking to capture him by changing shapes. Robert and Peter defined “being protean” as “assessing the parties, the situation and the context and using alternatively or simultaneously, competitive, cooperative, moral and pragmatic tactics.”

Peter has a new article out (with the name above) on protean negotiation. It begins thus (the link for the entire article is found at the end of this post):

Ancient Imperatives

Around the world, in classrooms, board rooms, and airport waiting rooms, the theory and practice of negotiation is awash with advice. Much of it is simplistic and some of it contradictory. One writer implores us to know our bottom line. Another urges us to ignore it and focus on needs. A third says to wait until the last moment to do a deal when the situation is ripe. A fourth counsels us to get in early. At best, the many lists of “dos” and “don’ts” serve as reference points and modest road maps for certain situations. At worst, they misdirect us into thinking there is some grand unified field theory or universal paradigm that, if we master it, will carry us seamlessly through every deal and dispute.

More worrisome among the fashions of the moment is the trend towards fundamentalism in the practice of mediation and facilitation which is closely allied with negotiation theory. While there are many different styles, schools, and brands with names like “collaborative law,” “extreme facilitation,” and “transformative mediation,” most of these seem to devolve to four basic schools of thinking about how humans behave in the face of real or imagined conflict, how they negotiate, and how we might help them. One presupposes that all of us are fundamentally competitive. A second assumes we are, at core, cooperative. A third takes for granted that all of us will seek to do what is morally correct. A fourth assumes we are rational and pragmatic.

These four impulses — pursuing your own fair share, uniting with others to achieve a common end, insisting on doing what is right, and using logic and reasoning to solve practical problems — seem to have evolutionary roots that date back to our origins on the African savannah []. The impulses also lead to different theories of conflict and ideologies of negotiation and mediation that descend from, embody, and personify these impulses. but there is also a fifth way, one that acknowledges the universality and importance of all of them but is not explicitly and strictly any of them. it too have ancient roots. Let’s call it “Protean Negotiation.”

Here’s the link for the entire article: The premier issue of the Engaging Conflicts Today newsletter features an interview with Peter that continues a discussion started with this post. You can sign up for the newsletter by clicking on the “sign up” link in the upper right corner at the top of the blog site.

Biography: Peter S. Adler, Ph.D. is President of The Keystone Center, which applies consensus-building and cutting-edge scientific information to energy, environmental, and health-related policy problems. The Keystone Center also offers extensive training and professional education programs to educators and business leaders and runs the Keystone Science School in the Rocky Mountains. Peter’s specialty is multi-party negotiation and problem solving. He has worked extensively on water management and resource planning problems and mediates, writes, trains, and teaches in diverse areas of conflict management. He has worked on cases ranging from the siting of a 25-megawatt geothermal energy production facility to the resolution of construction and product liability claims involving a multi-million dollar stadium. He has extensive experience in land planning issues, water problems, marine and coastal affairs, and strategic resource management.

Prior to his appointment at Keystone, Adler held executive positions with the Hawaii Justice Foundation, the Hawaii Supreme Court’s Center for Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), and the Neighborhood Justice Center. He has served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in India, an instructor and Associate Director of the Hawaii Bound School, and President of the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution. He has been awarded the Roberston-Cunninghame Scholar in Residence Fellowship at the University of New England, New South Wales, Australia, a Senior Fellowship at the Western Justice Center, and was a consultant to the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.


September 26, 2006

Mediation Styles Include Eclectic

Kenneth Cloke’s new book, The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey Into the Heart Of Dispute Resolution, is a book by an experienced mediator about many things, including his conclusions after many years of a rich and varied practice. Ken will be interviewed this fall and early winter in Engaging Conflicts Today, and has given permission to excerpt portions of his book here. He identifies seven mediation styles. There is not universal agreement about all of them, and there is dispute about some:

1. Conciliative

2. Evaluative or directive

3. Facilitative

4. Transformative

5. Spiritual, heart-based, or transcendent

6. Systems design

7. Eclectic

I’m especially interested in our thinking more about “eclectic,” or “protean” styles (see this earlier post about Peter Adler’s and Robert Benjamin’s “protean” mediation or negotiation style). People are different, circumstances and settings are different, people are different in different circumstances and settings ….

Ken’s book can be purchased directly from his publisher, Janis Publications:

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