Eye of the Storm Leadership
150 Ideas, Stories, Quotes, and Excercises On The
Art and Politics of Managing Human Conflicts
by Peter Adler, Ph.D.
Writings > Protean Negotiation 

Protean Negotiation

From The Negotiator’s Field Book: The Desk Reference for the Experienced Negotiator, Andrea Kupfer Schneider and Christopher Honeyman and, Editors, American Bar Association, 2007.

The Negotiator's Fieldbook

Rejecting Orthodoxy and Shifting Shapes

Being also some Ruminations and Speculations on Evolutionary Impulses, a Minor Greek God, the Literatures of Negotiation and Mediation, Cooperation and Competition, Morality and Pragmatism, Paradox and Dilemma, the Bushmen of the Kalahari, Sun Tzu’s Strategy, and the Management of Four Contradictory Imperatives, All of Which and Each of Which are Perfectly Correct Things to do. [1]

Peter S. Adler, Ph.D.

1.       Ancient Imperatives

Around the world, in classrooms, board rooms, and airport waiting rooms, the theory and practice of negotiation is awash with advice on bargaining and problem solving. Much of it is simplistic and some of it contradictory. One writer implores us to know our bottom line. Another urges us to ignore it and focus on needs. A third says to wait until the last moment to do a deal when the situation is ripe. A fourth counsels us to get in early. At best, the many lists of “dos� and “don’ts� serve as reference points and modest road maps for certain situations. At worst, they misdirect us into thinking there is some grand unified field theory or paradigm that, if we master it, will carry us seamlessly through every deal and dispute.

More worrisome among the fashions of the moment is the trend towards fundamentalism in the practice of mediation and facilitation which is closely allied with negotiation theory. While there are many different styles, schools, and brands with names like “collaborative law,� “extreme facilitation,� and “transformative mediation,� most of these seems to devolve to four basic schools of thinking about how humans behave in the face of real or imagined conflict, how they negotiate, and how we might help them. One presupposes that all of us are fundamentally competitive. A second assumes we are, at core, cooperative. A third takes for granted that all of us will seek to do what is morally correct. A fourth assumes we are rational and pragmatic.

These four impulses – pursuing your own fair share, uniting with others to achieve a common end, insisting on doing what is right, and using logic and reasoning to solve practical problems – seem to have evolutionary roots that date back to our origins on the African savannah.[2] The impulses also lead to different theories of conflict and ideologies of negotiation and mediation that descend from, embody, and personify these impulses. But there is also a fifth way, one that acknowledges the universality and importance of all of them but is not explicitly and strictly any of them. It too has ancient roots. Let’s call it “Protean Negotiation.�

2.       Rumble in the Jungle [3]

Imagine you are a senior official at Pulsar Pharmaceuticals International (“PPI�), a mid-sized drug manufacturer that is seeking bio-prospecting rights in the central Brazilian rainforest. PPI has a standing corporate pledge to “create enterprise that is socially desirable, economically profitable, and ecologically sustainable.� Pulsar has several Brazil-originated medicines it seeks to develop: an extract from the taruma leaf which could treat degenerative arthritis; a slime mold which may yield new therapies for allergies; and the root of the muirapuama, considered an aphrodisiac by certain tribal healers and known locally as "Amazon Viagra."

In the last six months, however, your job has become more complicated. You have learned that you closest competitor, Consolidated Biological Science (“CBS�), is pursuing the same three drugs. Brazil’s Ministry of Trade has recently proposed new regulations and royalty rates that could add huge risks to Pulsar’s investment. The government sees pharmaceuticals as a logical part of its economic strategy and wants to control and profit from them. They are also sensitive to bio-piracy from foreign countries. The Amazonian tribes and their “shaman knowledge� are another potentially volatile issue. They have been the subject of United Nations inquiries into human rights abuses, are an increasingly important cultural icon for South America’s tourism industry, have the sympathies of many urban voters, and control large tracts of land in the interior some of which government would like to see opened for logging and farming.

You undertake a series of exploratory discussions beginning with Minister of Trade, Carlos Mendoza. In public pronouncements, Mendoza has let it be known that the government favors a centralized permitting system and a data bank that will store the knowledge accumulated by "traditional scientists," as the shamans are called. Prospecting rights will then be licensed to accredited drug manufacturers. Privately, Mendoza says he is looking for a reputable pharmaceutical manufacturer to help set up Brazil’s system and hints that whoever undertakes this will have an inside track on early and perhaps discounted permit applications. He also lets you know that he is talking with your competitor, CBS.

You are also in contact with Arturo Terena, one of several elder leaders of the Council of Amazon Tribes. Terena says his people would prefer to set up their own system of patents, permits, and royalties and wants PPI to support their effort and help them form a corporation. They have little regard for the Brazilian government and would much prefer to maintain dominion over their own lands. Terena says that Brazil has committed many historical atrocities against the people of the forests and owes them this last chance at preserving their culture and heritage and benefiting from it in a modern world. 

Not long after and over a dinner in Rio de Janeiro, you talk with John Henderson, your counterpart at CBS. The two of you have known each other for many years. You exchange family news, swap stories about baseball and politics, and then the talk turns to bio-prospecting in South America and the challenges of working with the government on one hand and the tribes on the other. In discrete terms, Henderson telegraphs signals that CBS might be willing to explore some kind of joint venture to help both companies deal with the situation. You thank him for a nice evening and tell him you will raise it with your people.

Back in your office, you comb through your books on negotiation. The problem seems to come down to a series of not very clear-cut strategic choices. Assuming the numbers pencil out, do you trust CBS enough to join forces for what could be a complex and long-term set of challenges with unclear payoffs? Can PPI cooperate on this venture but compete in other places? Would the strains turn the relationship toxic? Either way, and regardless of whether you do or don’t join forces, should you pursue the inside track with Mendoza? Can the government really be trusted? Might they use you to help set up their management system and then have contracts awarded elsewhere? And what about Terena? You know that the tribes have been treated badly but can you and should you ally yourself with them? Is a company that prides itself on “creating enterprise that is socially desirable, economically profitable, and ecologically sustainable� obligated to do so? What would be the impacts of relations with of government of Brazil, and on CBS if you are competing with them?

3.       Four Pathways to Problem Solving       

If I were advising PPI, I think I might, as a starting point, offer up Elder Olson’s 1959 cautionary poem called Directions to the Armourer.[4]

                                                All right, armourer,

                                                make me a sword---

                                                not too sharp,

                                                a bit hard to draw,

                                                and of cardboard, preferably,

                                                on second thought, stick

                                                an eraser on the handle,

                                                somehow I always

                                                clobber the wrong guy.

                                                Make me a shield with


                                                insignia. I'm often

                                                a little vague

                                                as to which side I'm on,

                                                what battle I'm in.

                                                And listen, make it

                                                a trifle flimsy,

                                                not too hard to pierce.

                                                I'm not absolutely sure

                                                I want to win.

                                                Make the armor itself

                                                as tough as possible,

                                                but on a reverse

                                                principle: don't

                                                worry about its

                                                saving my hide:

                                                just fit it to give me

                                                some sort of protection---

                                                any sort of protection---

                                                from a possible enemy


The literatures on negotiation, including those in this volume, suggest other considerations. For PPI to  engage the challenge of discovering new products and bringing them to market, it might want to examine various cultural factors, keep an eye on escalation dynamics, have a passing knowledge of the complexity and chaos concepts, understand agency and representation, hone its skills at in-team bargaining, manage the tides of emotion and affect, and have a good grasp of the slightly different challenges of negotiated dispute resolution (untangling the past) versus negotiated deal–making (crafting the future). Directly in the telescope of this negotiation, however, are some major collisions between the cooperative, competitive, moral, and pragmatic imperatives. The crosshairs look like this:

Played out in the realm of negotiation, each of these imperatives has its own logic, its own bargaining pattern, its own outlook and style, its own assumptions about human nature, its own explanation of conflict, its own theoreticians, and its own zealots. Each also stands in tension with one or more of the others.

In popular writing, competitive negotiation is often considered a natural extension of sport, warfare, Darwinism, and the long and sometimes gruesome struggles between individuals and individuals and groups and groups. In his book Rules for Radicals, for example, Saul Alinsky, a community organizer and champion of underdogs, argued that power derives from money, position, and privilege and since poor people have little of any of these, they must band together and push their way in. His negotiation advice included formulating a clear enemy, causing confusion, fear, and retreat, making the enemy live up to their own espoused book of rules, and infuriating the opposition through strategic ridicule.[5] As different as they may be substantively, Alinsky is not that far away procedurally and psychologically from his counterparts in the business world, someone like Donald Trump, who says: “I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need.  I do it to do it. Deals are my art form.â€�[6]

In scholarly and professional literatures, Alinsky’s rules are a colorful variation of distributive bargaining which focuses on allocating the value at play and maximizing one’s own gains. The themes of distributive bargaining deal with target and resistance points, the dance of demands and offers, the role of position-taking and concession-making, and the use of tactics such as low-balls, nibbles, bogeys, good guys/bad guys working in tandem, and many more. Distributive negotiation tends to be about hard bargaining and substantive winners and losers.[7]

In these same professional and popular literatures, cooperative negotiation is often thought of (and criticized by competitors) as soft bargaining. It focuses largely on the quest for relatedness in ways that are jointly affirming.[8] Lewiki, Raiffa, and others call this integrative bargaining and its themes are mutuality, reciprocity, communication, and the free exchange of information. Where distrust is the assumed condition of competitive bargaining, the creation and maintenance of trust is the bedrock of cooperative negotiation. “Negotiators create a communication system,â€� says Bernard Mayer. “It may be carried over from previous exchanges, or it may be freshly created, and its nature strongly affects how the negotiation proceeds.â€�[9]  Cooperative negotiation is predicated on the search for common ground. It seeks reciprocity, mutuality, and the avoidance of breakdowns because of relationship problems.

Closely allied to cooperation is a third negotiating philosophy that begins with a moral or ethical proposition and builds to what one set of writers has called the creation of “higher ground.�[10] To accomplish this, moral suasion in negotiation takes a fact pattern, invokes a set of principles, builds logic around them, applies them to the facts, and works to bring others to the same conclusions. Many negotiations over larger or smaller matters, especially those that are aimed at disentangling a grievance, begin with one side or the other saying “it’s the principle of it.� Third-parties who work from this same premise often prefer the term “peacemaking� to “mediation� because it implies something greater than making a deal or restoring a relationship. “The moral imagination,� as John Paul Lederach calls it, “has a quality of transcendence. It breaks out of what appear to be narrow, shortsighted, or structurally determined dead-ends.�[11]

Finally, and in counterpoint to the moral impulse in negotiation, is a philosophy of pragmatism and rational problem-solving. Much of the literature on interest-based negotiation might be thought of in this vein. It assumes that people know and understand their needs, that interests can rationally and dispassionately analyzed, and that elegant if not super-optimum solutions can be found. Fisher and Ury’s famous dictums of separating the people from the problem, focusing on interests, generating possibilities, and insisting on objective criteria are an attempt to create a rational, if not quasi-scientific critical inquiry process that leads to a more easily negotiated result.[12]

Even more expressive of rationalistic negotiation is the work of Brams and Taylor who have developed clever protocols that overcome the problem of envy and successfully divide everything from goods and services, to marriages and whole businesses, to the borders and territories of feuding countries “The problem of fair division,� they write, “is old as the hills, but our approach to this problem is new. It involves setting forth explicit criteria, or properties, that characterize different notions of fairness; providing step-by-step procedures, or algorithms, for obtaining a fair division of goods, or alternatively, preferred positions on a set of issues in negotiations; and illustrating these algorithms with applications to real life situations.�[13]

By themselves, each of these negotiating imperatives – pursuing a fair share, uniting with others to make common purpose, insisting on doing what is right, and using logic and reasoning to solve problems – has a particular clarity and utility in the moment of certain facts and circumstances. Yet, taken to excess or transformed into orthodoxy, each runs risk of instability and destructiveness the more attached we become to the impulse. Saul Alinsky and Donald Trump are tough, competitive, goal-oriented poker players accustomed to pushing, pulling, probing, bluffing, and feinting. So was Slobodan Milosevic who evolved into a political monster, consummate warrior, and war criminal obsessed with his intergenerational blood-feud. At the farthest boundary of competitive bargaining lies the seduction of ruthlessness, retaliation, and predation.

Cooperative approaches are also vulnerable. If everyone is trusting, it is easy to be cheated by competitors disguised as cooperators or duped by “free riders.� Neville Chamberlain fell into this trap in his negotiations with Adolph Hitler before Germany invaded Poland. A sole and persistent focus on moral suasion is no more immune than other strategies taken to excess. Unbridled moral preoccupation can turn to smugness, sanctimony, and fanaticism. There is a line, not always distinguishable at first, between the purity of a moral high ground and the fervor of an Osama Bin Laden who would like to eliminate all non-believers. In turn, unchecked rationality and hyper pragmatism eventually overwhelms the collective humanity that links all of us through our hopes, fears, hurts, joys and curiosities. A sole focus on rationality makes us cold. In the extreme, when science goes completely mad, it takes us to the banality of an Adolph Eichman who made death efficient and systematic.

When individuals and groups bargain with each other, the four imperatives play out in complex and nuanced ways and with unpredictable emotional intensities. As the impulses come to control our behavior and as the behaviors amplify, they become more risky, exposed, and dangerous. Fortunately, most of us do not operate from a single value premise. Values compete within us, seeking attention. Though we may all yearn for the clarity that would come from a single gospel of negotiation, the popular and scholarly literatures don’t really tell us how to reconcile them. So most of us, most of the time, do what we always do. We muddle along until we succeed or fail never quite knowing why either of those happened.

4.       Polarity and Paradox

It doesn’t matter if you are a tenant talking to your landlord, an ambassador pressing for security measures on the India and Pakistan border, or Consolidated and Pulsar testing the waters for a joint venture in Brazil: competition and cooperation form a paradox. So too do the pressures of acting ethically and pragmatically. Not every negotiation embodies every tension, nor are these four the only predicaments that come up when people struggle to reconcile different ideas. Nonetheless, inconsistency and contradiction create paradox and paradox fosters what Todd Bryan calls a “strange loop that cannot be resolved to our satisfaction�.[14]

Confronted by the ambiguity and inconsistency of countervailing imperatives, the human mind seeks the purity of “oneâ€� or the “other.â€� We veer away from the discomfort of being or doing “both,â€� split the differing injunctions apart, and resolve the contradictions by insisting that life is one or the other. We are competitive or cooperative, moral or pragmatic, emotional or intellectual, expressive or bureaucratic, open or closed, aggressive or passive. Yet conflict inevitably brings these paradoxes back to the fore. It forces us to confront what is incongruous and requires us to take some kind of action.  

This is not a new problem. Between 480 and 221 B.C., for example, during what is now called the Warring States Period of the Chou Dynasty, a general who would later be given the honorific name of Sun Tzu, wrote a short treatise on how to triumph in warfare. Sun Tzu’s advice was simple and tough. He believed in estimating costs, making plans, positioning oneself for success, maneuvering for advantage, gathering intelligence, staying calm under fire, and wherever possible avoiding unnecessary confrontation. Those sound like the traits of a good negotiator, no less than a good general. And if Leonard Lira is correct, the two are intimately connected.[15]

At core, said Sun Tzu, conflict is not just in the nature of things, it is the nature of things. Conflict is as sure a thing as sickness and health, day and night, joy and sadness, risk and opportunity. The paradoxical nature of conflict is thus something to be mastered and used. He said: “To act on an entire organization is ideal; to break an organization is inferior. To act on an entire corps is ideal; to break a corps is inferior.â€� In sum, he opined, “Those who win one-hundred triumphs in one hundred conflicts do not have supreme skill. Those who have supreme skill use strategy to bend others without coming to conflict.â€� [16]  All of this may sound like New Age hocus-pocus but it is also the common sense of someone confronting the dilemma of achieving competitive victory at the lowest possible cost.   

Negotiation is filled with detailed strategic and tactical paradoxes of just this type. All of them require attention and action. If I am Pulsar, do I disclose information to CBS or withhold it? If I am the ambassador, do I make a first move or wait for theirs? If I am the tenant, do I come on tough or open friendly to the landlord? And more generically, should I meet in their office or insist that they come to me? Do I try to do a fast deal or wait for a better one? Do I come right to the point and start with an offer or demand or establish atmospherics and context first? All of these decisions represent choices in time and each choice potentially has cascading effects, not all of which can be predicted, all of which must be made with imperfect knowledge, and any or all of which could reverberate back negatively as revenge effects.[17]

Ultimately, managing paradox requires us to embrace both ends of the dilemma (because both ends have validity), to then find a comfortable place with the uncertainty that sits between them, and to apply that uncertainty to the negotiation at hand. In negotiations, there are specific things to be done. We can make the dilemmas that usually stay unspoken explicit by giving voice to them. We can seek to define and clarify them to make sure everyone understands them. We can map them by describing the polarities, examining their attributes carefully, and review the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that attend each.[18] Finally, we can use both ends of a paradox to help reframe the opposites into questions that can be answered through negotiation.

The affinity, ability, and tolerance for doing these things are the essence of “Proteanâ€� negotiation. 

5.     The Illusive God of Negotiation    

Amidst the incessant feuding and dysfunctional love lives of the Greek gods, Proteus was an enigma. A minor actor at best, he was one of Poseidon’s less known children, and certainly not the most important. In fact, he resided by himself on an island called Pharos off the coast of the Nile delta, his day job being the tending his father’s seal herds. As such, he was more of a servant than a political player. Yet, Proteus had unique qualities. He was a shapeshifter and a much sought after mystic who could peer into the future and answer the most difficult questions posed to him with great prescience and clairvoyance. Others gods would try to capture him and force answers from him. Proteus would wiggle away from their grasp by changing shapes. It was his way of avoiding the uncomfortable task of telling others what they ought to do, and perhaps of being wrong.

In the late 1960s, psychiatrist and historian Robert Jay Lifton picked up on this notion of psychological shapeshifting in a series of talks he gave for the Canadian Broadcasting System. In his radio essays, Lifton ruminated on some of the cases he had been dealing with, among them, survivors of Hiroshima, victims of brainwashing in China, and young radicals in both Asia and America who found their traditional sensibilities collapsing about them. In the context of great institutional upheavals and rapid social changes, Lifton found some common threads among his disparate patients: a deep loneliness; restlessness and constant flux; a persistent feeling of isolation and disconnection; and a constant and sometimes all-consuming search for authenticity.  Paradoxically, he also found great strengths: an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual rejection of orthodoxy; resilience and an often fluid ability to reinvent oneself; and a sense of inner “many-sidednessâ€� that created a certain gift of empathy and tolerance.

A deeply reflective man and a skillful writer, Lifton synthesized his observations and tried to placed them in a larger context.  He saw a connection between the dislocations of his patients and the historical dislocations of the times.  In so doing, he talked about a new and distinctly “Protean Styleâ€� of identity that he was finding in different cultures and countries. Lifton speculated that it might be part of a more universal response to what we now know as globalization, the unprecedented flooding of images and ideas across borders, the meltdown of the traditional anchors of family and place, and a reaction to our permanently altered notions of nature and culture.

“The Protean style of self-process,� he said, “is characterized by an interminable series of experiments and explorations, some shallow, some profound, each of which can readily be abandoned in favor of still new psychological quests.� [19] Like that ancient son of Poseidon sitting alone with his seals and visions, modern humans are, for the first time in history and on a scale unimagined, becoming shapeshifters, able to adjust and adapt, able to manage contrary imperatives, able to succeed in the midst of complexity and chaos. Foreshadowing some of the ideas of Thomas Friedman three decades later, Lifton contrasted this new Protean style of identity with an older more fundamentalist self conception that he found rigid, unyielding, fearful of breakdown, obsessed with chaos, wary of loss of control, and absolutely self-certain.[20]

“An effective negotiator,� says Robert Benjamin “requires a thinking frame that is adaptive, dynamic, fluid, and shifting and a model of negotiation that can house a variety of negotiation rituals.� [21] As the following schematic suggests, the Protean negotiator is a dancer.

He or she can dance the competitor’s jitterbug, the cooperative’s tango, the moralist’s waltz, and the pragmatist’s four step. One dance may be more comfortable than the others but they are all in the repertoire. The Protean negotiator adapts.

Like Proteus, skilled negotiators seem to be able to reconcile the tensions of inconsistent and confusing impulses that may attend cooperative, competitive, moral, or pragmatic approaches to negotiation. In an instant, they can undertake some kind of emotional and intellectual diagnostic, recalibrate expectations, and reflexively adjust their approach. Paradox is neither distasteful nor uncomfortable for these people. In fact, the ambiguity and tension created by paradox becomes the spawning ground of solutions. Malcolm Gladwell calls this “thin slicing,� a form of rapid cognition and sometimes subliminal conclusion-making of the sort that emergency room physicians, athletes, policemen, and many others use to great effect in everyday life.[22]

Negotiation is an all-too human business, a strange and challenging alchemy of difficult choices. It reflects, says Susan Podziba, Aa chaotic mix of passions, values, interests, emotions, self interest, and altruism.@[23] Negotiation is filled with contradictions, some of obvious magnitude and importance, others small and almost insignificant that can amplify as a negotiation proceeds. It is the job of the Protean negotiator to manage all of these with highest degree of elegance and intelligence possible. It is the job of the Protean mediator to help other negotiators turbo-charge their efforts and make them as humane and productive as possible.

6.       Ancient Imperatives - Revisited

In 1950 John Marshall, an anthropologist and film maker, received funding from the Smithsonian Institution and Harvard University to study one of the last migratory bands of the !Kung people, also known as the San People or Bushmen. Living in small groups in Namibia on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, these people were, and remain, one of the last true hunting and gathering peoples left on the planet. Though few in numbers, they are, even today, what we all were like 2,000 generations back.

The result of Marshall’s work was a film called “The Hunters.â€� It was, among other triumphs, the first use of color film in ethnographic cinematography. The film, which I first saw as a graduate student, is remarkable for more substantive reasons as well. In a slow but mounting drama, it chronicles the story of a hunting expedition by four men from a particular band who have set off to find large game at a time when the group desperately needs a major infusion of protein. The band is small, four or five extended families, with a total population of about 30. Without fresh meat, elders and babies die.  Without fresh meat, women and men lack the strength to gather tubers and hunt.

So the men depart. Over the next several days, in fits and starts, they spot and track various animals without much luck.  They sneak up on a kudu, try to get close, and spook the animal away. They find some porcupines and eat their meager flesh themselves. They spot other animals but are unsuccessful in bringing them down. Finally, they encounter a small herd of giraffes and succeed, after many complications, they manage to lodge a single arrow tipped with poison into one of them. For the next few days we follow them as they track the creature over hard terrain, nearly losing it in the surrounding hills and scrub. Finally, they find the animal in a stand of trees, weakened and abandoned by the rest of the herd. With arrows and spears they battle the still dangerous giraffe and bring it down, butcher and dry it, and begin the journey home.   

Seeing this film again after many years, I now looked at it through the lens of a professional career layered with the dilemmas of hundreds of disputes, deals, and conflicts. I hazily recalled the four hunters as short, tough, skilled men working in tandem to accomplish their objectives. I remembered the dry and torturous terrain and the sense of urgency I felt for them to find food. But this time, I saw something else: their individuality and uniqueness; their quarrels, irritations, and teasings; their moments of stress and their constant and ferocious presence in the landscape. And rising above these moments, I saw four men, each different; four functions in the group, each different; four skills and preoccupations, each different.

Although all of them hunt, one man among them is more skilled than the others. He is strong and competitive, able to pick up scents and follow trails when the others seem baffled. In these moments, the others cede leadership to his knowledge and prowess. The second is a craftsman. He is the technician, the one who fashions the small, intricate, and highly lethal poison-tipped arrows they use, the one who repairs spears and belts and bows. At certain moments, others cede leadership to his knowledge and skill. The third is the shaman, the man who performs small ceremonies along the way and who reminds the others of the rituals that must be done if harmony in the world is to be maintained. At key moments, he leads. And the last is the headman, the man who insists on cooperation when the others are quarreling, the one who wears the weight of their many failures on his shudder, the one who urges them to work together until their goal is accomplished.

Four men, four styles of leadership, four approaches to negotiation, four ancient imperatives that permeate our work as problem solvers in dimly understood ways. In an essay celebrating Marshall’s 1950 ethnography, William Irwin Thompson writes about the historic clash of values that each of these men represent. “The model of four seems to be a persistent one,� he writes; “it recalls the rule of four in the Indian caste system, Plato, Vico, Blake, Marx, Jung, and McLuhan.� Perhaps that same rule is at play now in Pulsar’s negotiations in Brazil, in the tenant’s urgings to her landlord, in the secret ambassadorial talks that are inevitably going on along some border. Says Thompson: we may never know if this structure of four exists in reality or is simply a convenient artifice that we have concocted to try to explain our crude fumblings when we attack difficult problems.

Either way, Marshall’s film hints at something older and more mysterious that permeates the negotiations we are all engaged in. If there is a deep imperative here, perhaps it is a reminder that our greatest individual and collective strengths, taken to excess, inevitably become weaknesses.  

[1] My thanks to friends and colleagues Bob Benjamin, David Newton, Ann Gosline, and Doug Thompson each of whom helped refine the ideas described in this paper.

[2] See Ridley, M., 1996. The Origins of Virtue, Penguin Books, New York; Dawkins, R. 1976. The Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press, Oxford; Ardrey, R. 1961. African Genesis, Collins Books, New York.

[3] This problem is adapted from “Brazil Sees Promise in Jungle Plants, but Tribes See Peril� by Larry Rohter, The New York Times, December 23, 2001.

[4]  Olson, E. “Directions to the Armourer.â€� The New Yorker, 1959.

[5] Alinsky, S. 1971. Rules for Radicals, Random House, New York. For other iconic popular examples, see Trump, D. 1987. The Art of the Deal, Random House, New York. Ringer, R. 1973. Winning Through Intimidation, Fawcett Crest, Los Angle and Koren, L. and Goodman, P. 1991. The Haggler’s Handbook, W.W. Norton, New York, and Schatzki, M. 1981. Negotiation: The Art of Getting What You Want, Signet, New York.

[6] Trump, D. 1987. The Art of the Deal, Random House, New York.

[7] See Lewiki, R. et. al. 1994. Negotiation, Second Edition, Irwin, Illinois and Raiffa, H. 1982. The Art and Science of Negotiation, Belknap Press, Cambridge.

[8] Bush, R.A.B and Folger, J. 1994. The Promise of Mediation: Responding to Conflict Through Empowerment and Recognition, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

[9] Mayer, B. 2000, p. 152. The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

[10] Dukes, F., et. al. 2000. Reaching for Higher Ground in Conflict Resolution, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

[11] Lederach, J.P. 2005. The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace, Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 27.

[12] Fisher R. and Ury, W. 1981. Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

[13] Brams, S. and Taylor, A. 1996. Fair Division: From Cake-Cutting to Dispute Resolution, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

[14] Bryan, T. 2004, p. 886. “Tragedy Averted: The Promise of Collaboration,� Society and Natural Resources, 17:881-896.

[15] Leonard Lira, “Transforming Conflict in Post Combat Operations: The Military profession’s Use of Negotiation Skills in Constrained Environments,�…..(cite)

[16] R.L. Wing, 1988. Chapter 3, The Art of Strategy: A New Translation of Sun Tzu’s Classic. New York: Doubleday & Company.

[17] See Tenner, E. 1997. Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences, Vintage, New York.

[18] Johnson, B. 1992. Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems. HRD Press, Amherst.

[19] Lifton, R.J. 1967, p.4. Boundaries. Psychological Man in Revolution. Vintage: New York.

[20] Friedman, T. 2000. The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, (First Anchor, New York.

[21] Benjamin, R. 2004. “The Protean Sensibility: Reconsidering Approaches to Leadership and Negotiation.� Unpublished Paper.

[22] Gladwell, M.   Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

[23]  AThe Human Side of Complex Public Policy Mediation,@ Susan Podziba, in Negotiation Journal, October 2003, p. 285-290.

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