Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Ways of Thinking: Negotiation or Appeasement

“I remain convinced that a transformation must take place, a transformation in the hearts and minds of individuals that ultimately creates peace and harmony in our relationships with one another. If we do not link arms to face today’s formidable challenges, our future could be in jeopardy.” Sandra P Thomas, Transforming Nurses’ Stress and Anger’

No question about it! We do need change. We need thinking outside of the box. We need a transformation in thinking of how we interact with others in non-confrontational ways.

One change in a new way of thinking is in our thinking of the necessity to wage war over diplomacy: Do we kill or is it better to talk? Winston Churchill once said to Jaw-Jaw is always better than to War-War.

In our communities we make great efforts to curtail violence. In our communities we provide conflict resolution services. We speak out against hostility in our hospitals, businesses, schools, on the street, and in our homes. Yet on the international stage we accept war as an acceptable method of resolving conflict, supporting America’s hostile actions towards others on the international stage when we oppose and disapprove hostility at home in our daily lives. Talking and trying to work out our differences is labeled by many as appeasement. Why?

Perhaps it is as simple as we do not know the meaning of the word appeasement.

However, most likely the reason why is because Americans have the warrior mindset. We immortalize the warrior. A warrior is our hero. It has been an enculturation in which we have been inculcated with the mythical falsehood that the military is the solution to solving our foreign policy conflicts. A warrior’s seeks to act rather than talk.

There are simply too many preconceptions based on past history and the notion that if we didn’t have a military we would not have a country. “Thinking outside the box” is a breaking away from “traditional or conventional thought to develop a unique, superior solution to a difficult problem. It refers to looking at a problem from a new fresh perspective without preconceptions.

The notion that diplomatic negotiation is analogous to appeasement is simply false reasoning.

The process of diplomatic negotiation begins with opening avenues of communication. In its most basic meaning, the word communication means the creation of understanding. It is bilateral and multilateral, and can be under some circumstances, although not preferred, unilateral.

Communication then becomes negotiation when there is a need for an agreement or a resolution. Negotiation is an interaction of influences. “Such interactions, for example, include the process of resolving conflicts or disputes, agreeing upon courses of action, bargaining for individual or collective advantage, or crafting outcomes to satisfy various interests. Negotiation is thus a form of alternative dispute/conflict resolution.” And, in negotiation there is always a need for diplomacy. Diplomacy means “using skill, tact, and sensitivity in communicating with others.”

Creating understanding, interacting, using skill, tact, and diplomacy are simply not the same as making concessions, albeit negotiation will always incorporate some appropriate form of give and take, it is not synonymous with making concessions -- conciliation, pacification, or accession.

Diplomatic negotiation, however, does.

In an ad hoc way, diplomatic negotiation in conflict resolution should not begin with negotiation. It should not begin at the point where there is a need for agreement -- in many cases it is then too late. This is principally where those who oppose negotiation make their error. If negotiation has had little success in the past it was precisely because the negotiation was started too late in the process to succeed. Negotiation is a process that begins with seeds of authentic communication. Just as with all things, the thing does not begin with the thing in and of itself – a need all of a sudden to negotiate, for example. The things we value such as a car, an automobile, a television, a cell phone, or a computer are the result of accumulative knowledge learned through many modes of communication; when we open up avenues of communication it will lead to the accumulative knowledge necessary for negotiation and the application of diplomacy.

It is the same process in which we engage everyday: we talk to our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and others, and as a result we have a more complete understanding of their feelings, concerns, their needs, hopes and dreams, and who they are as a person. As a result of this communication, when the knowledge gained through understanding is used appropriately, we are all better-off for it.

Moreover, this is an infinite process that evolves over time. There is not an end to this process – it’s ongoing. There is no beginning or ending.

Warrior strategies are always near-sighted and reactive.

We need a new way of thinking, “a transformation in the hearts and minds of individuals,” a new script and a new beginning!