Negotiators should be trained in the same way as undercover operatives in high-risk areas

Ok, I know. It’s been a while, but I have decent reasons for not updating which I think I’d rather keep to myself :D. This little idea is one that came up in a conversation I had with an acquaintance of mine way too late at night with unrecommended levels of alcohol in the blood. While I must admit that I, like everyone else, spout some of the most incredible nonsense when drunk this idea managed to become a diamond in the rough. The idea was stumbled upon but mishandled to the extreme, which is why I’ve now decided to polish it and cut it a little on this blog.

The idea’s principle is simple negotiators in long-term contract or peace negotiations should be trained in a similar way to police or intelligence officers going under cover. This kind of training might appear useless but it does serve a very important puropose. For police and intelligence officers it allows them to dissociate the roles they are playing from their personal lives. Thus allowing the agent to perform the role of a criminal without actually becoming one. But it also works in reverse allowing the agent to better play the role taken on without his personal life and views being apparent in the character being played. This then creates a temporary schizophrenia which the agent can use to his or her advantage.

Seen the enourmous effect and the difficulty of this training one may seem skeptical as to its necessity in the negotiation world. It is however crucial to the success of long-term negotiations that the negotiators are able to do this to some degree. To elaborate the necessity of this temporarily induced schizophrenia let us look at a generic negotiation which I can use to illustrate my point.

Let’s take the situation where there is a border dispute between two countries: Blankia and Sordovia. They agree to come together and negotiate the process and send John and Paula to the negotiating table to bang out a deal. John has a list of requirements given to him by Blankia and Paula has a list of requirements given to her by Sordovia. Now the negotiation is going to be very long and tortuous because this is a highly disputed piece of land and there are many interest groups within both countries that stand to gain an enormous amount by obtaining the land. This means that Paula and John will be seeing a lot of each other for the next few years as they try to reach an agreement which they feel they can bring back to their respective governments to ratify. It is at this point, when John and Paula have been working on the agreement for several months that it becomes beneficial to induce a mild form of temporary schizophrenia. The reason that this would be beneficial is that at this point John and Paula are going to be confronted with the fact that in most cases when one human wants something from another it is beneficial to be friends with that human being and maintain cordial relationships. This, of course, means that a negotiator who is able to dissociate between the friendship with the other negotiator has a key advantage.

The advantage comes out of the fact that while the negotiators are talking and exchanging ideas their ideas will tend to become less and less opposed. The governments at home however do not have the benefit of this exchange of information and will therefore keep the point of view present at the beginning of the negotiation. This then means that the negotiator, to be able to create a deal that will please both the other negotiator and the government at home needs to think along both lines of thought, the initial government view and the evolved view at the table. If both negotiators are able to perform this task which I have labeled as a mild form of temporary schizophrenia then they will be able to create agreements which are more likely to stand up to the scrutiny of both governments.

Therefore, if we want to ensure the maximum success for negotiators on long term negotiations I think that it is crucial that we find some way of adapting current police and intelligence operative teaching methods so that negotiators might be able to benefit from them.

-J

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