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Evolved negotiations as an intractable implication of contemporary conflict

We are at a unique time in human history... a time in which we have successfully generated broad and complex systems of human growth quite apart from nature's cradle and guiding impetus of balance and adaptation.

As such - unto ourselves and emulating other organisms - we have built and managed highly efficient and profitable methods of energy and food production, transportation, distribution, communication, housing, waste management, health care, education, administration and defense.

As successful as our means and measures have been - and perhaps because of our success, these systems have ironically begun to collapse under relentless pressures of technologic innovation, global competition for less expensive and more abundant resources, greater social class division, and adherence to failing status quo.

This has created a highly symbiotic situation in which inevitable conflict such as labor disputes, supply shortages, industrial impacts to human health and environment, political policy, and social conflicts are no longer isolated among principal participants in dispute.

Because our every endeavor is inextricably linked to a multi-dimensional framework of systematized support, the rippling effects of contention can engulf distant stakeholders and breach international borders rattling structures distinguished by competing needs, objectives and priorities.

In this stew of competitive unrest and uncertainty, favorable outcome is now more vested in those who are more fortified; enjoy the widest margin of error and loss; and benefit from robust, political connectivity and influence.

In other words, every human system serving population has transcended a competitively driven and diverse quest to serve growing need, only to become very narrowly driven within very narrow channels by fewer people capable of forcing the narrow steerage of civilization... even toward a collision course with self-destruction.

This is not unlike other periods in history in which stagnation has foreshadowed broad social, economic, political and environmental collapse.

This tendency continues to quash diversity in favor of selectively profitable methods and means while actively endangering access to alternatives necessary to innovation and adaptation. This preoccupation, then, seeks to support status quo even when established systems are insufficient in their ability to serve, and, instead, induce social, political and economic distress.

The ability to mitigate the devastating effects of degrading conditions has become rather exclusive to a select few in command of narrowly administered, failing systems.

This, of course, over-burdens a majority of the Earth's seven billion people, and the failing systems to which they feel they must continue to subscribe in order to survive. This further weakens failing systems, contributing to even greater conflict.

As mechanisms of law and justice fall prey to manipulation and corruption, that majority more deeply descend into desperation and despair, seeking ever more efficient ways to secure even basic needs and human rights.

This of course, can and has recently led to violence, cruel competition, and a broad proliferation of humanity's worst tendencies made worse by the advent of destructive technological means driven individually to affect populations globally.

This places us squarely on the cusp of an age in which we must evolve or risk expiration by our own hand.

Our collective society has become so highly structured, selfish pursuits can quickly extend to others and revisit us ever more suddenly and unexpectedly as eroded economic diversity, social and political instability and threats to personal security.

History has taught us that times of warfare and strife are frequently initiated by a scant handful of contributing factors:

  • Self interest;
  • Fear and denial of degrading conditions;
  • Relentless adherence to failed status quo;
  • An active blockade of innovation and access to alternative solutions, and/or, a vacuum of education or enlightenment;
  • Competition for resources; and
  • A lack of leadership including benevolent vision and skill

More than any other factor, fear underpins system failure of every variety.

How negotiation, itself, can become a factor of conflict

Fear of embracing the unknown, or a fear of dissent which may challenge an entrenched, failing and indefensible posture can preempt necessary system growth and impose decay.

We have seen this recently exhibited in the U.S. Congress as political factions failed to demonstrate functional consensus over imminently compelling and shared national economic interests.

As negotiators, resistance to dissenting perspectives as well as timidity can cause us to fear conflict, and adopt more adherent and unyielding behaviors, which can frustrate resolution.

Additionally, fear of conflict immediately minimizes our recognition of root cause and drives us toward an artificially narrowed scope of solution. This makes us less effective and efficient.

Operating in a state of fear and denial drives us toward competition rather than cooperation. This is an unnecessarily burdensome state from which to attempt creative solution. Further, it corrupts the impulse to act less selfishly.

Fear and system failure are larger expressions of smaller symptoms often manifest in smaller disputes involving few principal participants. But, when smaller disputes persist or proliferate, it is often helpful to address the larger cause.

Identifying system failure and reforming it are tasks especially suited to an evolved approach; that is, one which evolves conditions and adversaries while simultaneously securing short term vital needs.

Benefits of a broadened, blended, evolved approach to negotiation

When we embrace controversy in the spirit of fair resolve as a provision of broader solution, we switch from a more competitive view to one of greater potential.

Moving beyond fearlessness to actively and productively engage conflict toward necessary reconstruction can quickly pave the way toward compassion, compliance and productive collaboration among participants in conflict.

This type of approach is demanding of an exceedingly high level of intelligence collection, strategic development, coordination and execution. This is because system failure is often comprehensive and inclusive of ineffective but persistent policy as well as inadequate, perhaps archaic infrastructure. As such, it often extends toward many realms of influence, each acting to support or frustrate the functionality of other realms.

These realms often include institutions of politics and bureaucracies, law, education, media, economics, and social stability.

When successfully orchestrated, an evolved approach can:

  • Gradually dissolve barriers;
  • Displace conditions underlying conflict with innovative adaptation;
  • Stimulate healthy growth and vitality; and,
  • Liberate critical resources toward the evolution of other dysfunctional systems and conflicts.

This allows the negotiator who successfully orchestrates an evolved approach to exponentially strengthen and evolve their own skills, more broadly applying them to critical challenges spanning a spectrum of interrelated, affected realms.

The benefits are obvious. Negotiations which fail to benefit from an evolved approach are frequently those which have been unduly minimized in a negotiator's recognition of extended influential factors, sensitive to and inviting of inclusion.

Evolved Negotiations: A New, Blended and Broadened Approach to Influencing Conditions, Adversaries and Outcomes, By Lisa Bracken


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Copyright © 2011 Lisa Bracken
Copyright ©   2011  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  (October, 2011)