Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Getting to Yes We Can: What the Presidential Campaign Teaches about Dispute Resolution

Twenty-seven years since the publication of Getting to Yes (Fisher & Ury 1981), we have a President-elect whose campaign was based on the slogan of "Yes We Can." The lessons about dispute resolution that emerged from this unprecedented American election come right from the pages of Getting to Yes, a book that must have made an impression on Barack Obama when he was a student at Harvard. First, "separate the people from the problem." Obama attacked policy, not people, frustrating some who said he did not fight back hard enough when he was purposely attacked. Ultimately, however, the electorate favored a positive message over the negative. Second, Obama emphasized objective standards and evidence to support his policies, not gut instinct or stubborn certitude alone. Third, Obama's decision-making strategy is based on generating a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do. As he said in his acceptance speech, "I will listen to you, especially when we disagree." Finally, both candidates demonstrated the importance of personal narrative: telling the people over and over again, who they are and where they came from -- personal stories so compelling that together they got over 117 million people to close the deal with an exercise of the precious right to vote. Let all who are interested in dispute resolution learn from this campaign how to get to yes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Obama's approach to conflict resolution provides a model for all of us, from all different perspectives. I hope his presidency will lead to a more peaceful world.