There has been so much conflict in political negotiations lately that I wondered if there was a better way.
I first looked to the Hebrew Bible for some perspective on the subject.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks wrote an extensive article, posted at Chabad.org, titled “Conflict Resolution.” He writes about two of the 12 tribes, Reuben and Gad, who both had large herds of cattle.
“They felt that the land they were currently on was ideal for their purposes. It was good grazing country. So they approached Moses and asked for permission to stay there rather than take up their share in the land of Israel. They said: ‘If we have found favor in your eyes, let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.’ ”
Rabbi Sacks then discusses the solution to the request, which had led to conflict.
“The Reubenites and Gadites recognized the claims of the people as a whole and the justice of Moses’ concerns. They propose a compromise. Let us make provisions for our cattle and our families, they say, and the men will then accompany the other tribes across the Jordan. They will fight alongside them. They will even go ahead of them. They will not return to their cattle and families until all the battles have been fought, the land has been conquered, and the other tribes have received their inheritance.
“Essentially they invoke what would later become a principle of Jewish law: zeh neheneh ve-zeh lo chaser, meaning an act is permissible if ‘one side gains and the other side does not lose.’ ”
The negotiations between Moses and the two tribes closely follow the principles enumerated, much later, in the Harvard Negotiation Project. Here are my additional suggestions for successful negotiations:
First, realize that healthy conflict requires excellent verbal communication and listening skills –and can result in better communication and improved relationships.
Before you negotiate, ask yourself:
• What is the issue?
• Is the issue negotiable?
• What are the views on each side of the issue?
• What questions can I ask to gather information and understand the other side?
• How can I explore possible solutions with the other party that align with both our goals?
• What steps can we take to test the solution?
• How and when do we follow-up and evaluate?
To sum up, the main points for successful negotiation are to be proactive, communicate with openness, keep the conversation going, stick to a model/process for managing conflict, and focus on win-win solutions and practices.
Conflict doesn’t go away on its own, but using a methodical process for negotiations and conflict resolution can go a long way toward solving problems with win-win solutions.
PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is an award-winning radio producer, business owner and leader. She is on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence, and is a recipient of the Providence Business News 2020 Leaders and Achievers award. Her new “Positive Aging with Patricia Raskin” podcast is broadcast on the Rhode Island PBS website, ripbs.org/positiveaging.