Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Right Approach to Conflict

No matter what your politics, I imagine that you had to be inspired by today's inauguration. The piece that I heard from our new President that's resonating with me as mediator was this: "To our enemies: We will extend a hand, if you will unclench a fist." The idea of beginning a Presidential term (or any negotiation) with an outstretched hand, and by encouraging the opposing parties to do the same, struck me as rather brilliant. How difficult is it to begin a mediation with a handshake instead of a wagging finger, or a vigorous shake of the head? We're undoubtedly off to a great start and this is good advice that extends beyond grand diplomatic efforts to everyday litigated disputes. There is much to be learned from President Obama. A man of mixed heritage (Kenyan and Kansan) has instincts that allow him to adapt to inherent conflict and feel comfortable--through a simple outstretched hand, and an adaptable nature. Like a chameleon, his personal heritage allows him to glimpse varying perspectives and appeal to 88% of Americans! I, for one, have high hopes that the rhetoric will be an inspiration towards more handshakes, true diplomacy and more peaceful times ahead.

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