I have been traveling recently, first to Germany and then to hog country in North Carolina in the U.S.
In Germany, I was delivering a negotiation skills program to the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat. The program was held in a castle on the Rhine in Bonn, in the same room where the Marshall Plan documents were signed after WWII. I know I am not alone in still feeling the presence of WWII so palpably in Germany. In North Carolina, I was mediating a partnership dispute between two hog farming families. As a northerner, being in the rural South, I also notice so many signposts of the Civil War 150 years later. War leaves such a mark!. I, and I know many others, are very much wondering whether we might be able to create a different reality moving forward. What's interesting to me about working with different types of groups -- hog farmers, UN staff -- is the similarities, in the end, of human beings trying to work through difference in constructive ways.
In this episode, I interview Aldo Civico, cease-fire negotiator, peacebuilder and, in the words of George Mitchell, “one of the most innovative leaders in the field of conflict resolution. Aldo talks about how his Austrian grandfather, a resistance fighter against Hitler during WWII, planted the seeds in him to do this work – a man who lived for something bigger than himself. He recounts his professional journey of being inspired by life coach Tony Robbins particularly Robbins’ work with a live conflict on 9/11 using tools such as performance psychology, neurolinguistic programming (NLP), etc. In that experience, Aldo realized that the “Getting to Yes” and conflict resolution frameworks could be radically deepened to create lasting shifts for his clients by incorporating more of these kinds of tools.
Aldo shares with humility one of his early stories of traveling to a warzone in Colombia with the mind-set of “expert” from New York and realizing that he had to throw away all of his notes, re-connect to his purpose of service and listen deeply to the group he was working with. His tale is a great one of adapting quickly to the power of storytelling and simply staying with participants -- with deep listening, no agenda or manipulation --to allow the power of story to unfold. (As I was reviewing this episode for release, I was struck by how Aldo's comments about deep listening very much parallel the tremendous skill I witnessed in my co-mediator, David Gage, as he stayed with a distraught disputant in North Carolina.)
Aldo shares his experience in building rapport with perpetrators of some very dark crimes and understanding how the capacity for violence lives in all of us. He also talks about the need to change the landscape and narrative from “let’s get ISIS” and shares a beautiful image of a young German pianist whose response to the recent violence in Paris was to put his piano on a truck and travel overnight to play Lennon’s “Imagine” for an outdoor audience.
He talks about his vision of the future of conflict resolution work and how building capacity in urban communities to live conflict resolution principles will probably have maximum impact.
There is a lot of learning in this episode. You many want to listen closely, and listen twice.
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Cheers for now,