Tag Archives: Negotation

Weekend of Capstones

This past weekend I took much-needed study/family time off to go to the Fall NECR Capstone presentations.  I was glad I did.

Though “capstone” has its own definition in architecture, it also means “…crowning achievement…” which is what these projects were.  Here at Columbia the NECR program ends with each Masters’ candidate presenting their study (thesis actually), and that’s the capstone.

Want to know what’s rough about that?  No, it’s not the presentation itself, because students in the program have to do give several.

No.

The problem is that each person has only ten minutes to summarize a whole term’s worth of work, some 70+ pages of material, and only another ten minutes for questions!

Are you kidding me?  How can anyone do that?

Well they did, and they did a great job (though to be honest several ran over the time limit.)  I learned a lot to be sure, from how emotions mattered in negotiation, to specific conflicts like the dispute on the Bakassi Peninsula between Nigeria & Cameroon.  To see highlights of the international topics that were covered, I built a storify recap from live tweets and pictures from the event.

With some 27-odd presentations lasting over two days, there is simply too much material to cover in a Blog post.  But to get an idea of the topics you can check out this schedule of speakers.  They all did a fine job, and after it was over, several could not believe they were done, save finishing their actual paper on their topics.

One thing is certain, I was impressed with what was shared and what I learned.  Impressed and concerned that the bar for next term’s capstones is set too high.

Why?

Because it will be my turn…

What do you think??

Playing Games for Peace

Ivy League?  Me?  If you had suggested that I’d be attending an ivy-league school two years ago, I would have laughed.  And honestly?  I’d have thought you were crazy too.

But here I am, and the newness has yet to wear off.

Entering this program I expected to be stuck in classrooms frantically taking notes, or living in the library researching and writing papers.  Call me a traditionalist but that’s how I saw the oncoming classwork for the NECR program.  Though a lot of that has come true, I never would have thought that playing games would be a teaching tool.  But it can be as we learned in our Conflict and Social Networks class.

Peacemaker is a game that puts you in the middle of the Middle East, and has you try different techniques and strategies to try and solve the Palestinian/Israeli issue.  It let’s you play as either or both sides, attempting to solve what has been a protracted conflict.  Be warned, playing this game can eat up several hours before you know it.

Not wanting to bring peace to the Middle-East?  Then perhaps saving Darfur is more your speed.  Here you get to worry about 2.5-million refugees and keep the camp functioning.

What about civil disobedience?  Does it work?  Now you can find out  here, without having to make posters.  Though, ironically you may have to pay to play.

Struggling with your finances?  Columbia isn’t cheap as we know, but financing that may not be as challenging as trying to live on a minimum wage.  And now you can try to do just that.

Regardless of topic, using games is an effective method to expose people to some complex conflict issues.  They can help make the situations more “real” than just reading a news article or seeing a story on TV.  All of these games, and most other similar ones, highlight how there are no easy solutions or answers.

Discussion in our class brought out that organizations create these games to educate and elucidate an issue, but also to suggest a point of view.   And game design limits some of the elements and factors in a real life scenario, but users can expect to be exposed to main themes that may defy simplistic solutions.

And players may leave the game with more than a higher-level character, or a virtual house in the Hamptons.

The Language We Use…

In looking through some of the blogs I follow, I came across this post that talks about the misunderstandings that can happen in mediation.  Have you ever had that happen in a class, mediation or a dispute resolution?  Maybe in just a conversation?

My guess is you have.

Even if you haven’t, ever notice how many conflicts, big or small happen because one person says one thing and the other hears something else?  Recently that’s exactly what happened between me and my eldest daughter.

Years ago, I did a year of law school and though I didn’t stick with it, (as it really wasn’t for me) the best lesson I learned was in the Contracts  I class.   The professor said “…words to a lawyer are like scalpels to a surgeon, they are the tools that we use…”

Now, as I learn more about mediation in my program and begin to practice with my internship with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission I understand the power of what that professor mentioned all those years ago.  And how it applies to the whole field of  Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Sure a quick search of the web can pull up articles like this one that cover the write-ups of mediation language.  But I’m talking more about what happens during a mediation, orally and aurally.

And of course there’s the field of non-verbal communications that can tell you a lot, like this article mentions.

So let me ask this – when you communicate, have a conversation, do you consider how you’re communicating?  Not just the content, but what journalists call the mode of communication?

I never did, not really, not until I took a class here at Columbia called “Intrapersonal Dynamics and Conflict” taught by Barry Sommer.  It opened my eyes to the issue of language in communications, and drove home the point my Contracts professor made.

Practicing all this is harder than you think, and can be a distraction from what you’re trying to say.    But when I help with a mediation it’s always in the back of my mind.

So what do I do if I suspect I’m reaching a sensitive point in negotiations?

I pause, I slow down the speed of my talking so I can think ahead as I talk.  And so far that has cut way down on the misinterpretations and miss-communications.

Like most skills, I find that practicing this verbal awareness helps make it more automatic.  Personally, I never want it to become automatic to the point of learned behavior, like driving.  But the more I think about the mode and method of my speech the easier it becomes.  And the less damage control I have to do after the fact.

But I know I have a long way to go to master this skill set.

What do you think?

Here we go!

Welcome to the launch of the NECRblog!

As you can see in the “About” page — this blog is attached to the NECR (Negotiation and Conflict Resolution) program here at Columbia University.

I hope to start conversations between any and all who are interested in the topics of Peace Studies, not only on campus, or even in New York, but across the field.

So let me start by asking just a few questions….

Why are you here?  No, not in the metaphysical sense, (I leave that to the Philosophy Department) but on this page?What do you hope to see or gain from this blog?

You see personally, I hope to do two main things, expand the conversations surrounding Peace Studies, Conflict and Alternative Dispute Resolution, and to learn from the comments, events and other things that we will see here.

To get that going — there will soon be links to other websites that blogs that might of be interest.  So why not check them out and see what you think?

Then you can can come back here and share!

Interested in who am I?  check out the “About” page to learn more about me and where this blog might be headed.

As with everything on this site, feel free to comment, reflect on and yes even grouse about what you see here.

It’s all part of the process of NECR!