Wednesday, 5 September 2007

It only takes one to tango

When I present on Conversational Riffs, a question that repeatedly comes up is how can these methods be of any use if the other person is determined to be difficult.

This is a question of “setting the stage” – how are we going to resolve this dispute? It is assumed that it takes two to tango in dispute resolution scenarios. If the other person doesn’t play ball, then our best efforts are all in vain.

I invite the questioner to turn the situation around.

Why would we allow the aggressive, or difficult party, to set the stage on their preferred terms?

Why should that process take priority over our own? If we give up in our efforts to create a positive dialogue then we are endorsing the other parties approach. We are saying “Our approach is not good enough in this situation. Your approach is right and we will commit to play, argue or fight by your rules.” We don’t want to do that, do we?

That only addresses the issue on one level. Implementing, and getting our approach to stick is another issue.

To be successful in setting the stage, we have to create that space within the dialogue which will draw in the other party. We need to anticipate what motivates the other party to resist and then meet, accommodate or resolve those concerns.

Through our own approach and careful communication we can create a conversation that will carry our colleagues or partners with us.

That is the whole notion of Conversational Riffs. The riff I play in an improvised piece of music will lead naturally onto the next passage. In conversation, the same thing applies. If I can pull out a conversational riff from my repertoire, I can influence how that conversation will progress.

My partner within the debate, argument or whatever, begins to improvise with me in creating a new meaningful, spontaneous dialogue.

Monday, 3 September 2007

The adversarial principle in society - Politics and the media

The title above is the subject of a debate being presented by CEDR and others on 11th September. I am looking forward to it very much as it is an area that I am increasingly troubled by.

A few weeks ago, I read about Cameron promising "Bareknuckle fights" over the NHS. That will help the A+E wards, then. Bareknuckle fights?

Peter Haine, for the other team, had been at it ahead of the Welsh Assembly election last year, same bareknuckle metaphor.

This weekend, we have the ever-macho William Hague making threats to Gordon Brown that he would be "In for the fight of his life" once any election campaign began.

What is it with this ridiculous posturing, this violent, threatening, pugilistic rhetoric? It is supposed, no doubt, to rouse the party faithful and show strong, fearless leadership. It comes across, however, as nothing more than playground taunting.

It is embarrassing and could well be contributing to the public disaffection with politics generally. There needs to be a new dialogue between our parties and the electorate, one that respects the electorates intellect rather than assuming that they can be whipped into a frenzy with this conflict laden, ugly, playground banality.

All in all, I'm looking forward to the seminar. Here's hoping it is the start of a new conversation.