Towards the end of June, Insight Collaborative President David Seibel introduced me to Mr. Douglas Stone, Founder and CEO of Triad Consulting and co-author of the best-selling book on effective communication and strategic relationship management, Difficult Conversations. Since Mr. Stone is based in Cambridge, MA, I had the great opportunity to meet him in person—Mr. Seibel, Mr. Stone and I all went out for lunch.
I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to Mr. Stone. In addition to being an expert in the field of negotiation and conflict management, he a very light-hearted and amicable person,
In the course of our luncheon meeting, I sought Mr. Stone’s help in developing a relationship with a conflict management professional who was involved in environmental dispute resolution, especially with respect to climate change negotiations. As you might know by now, this is the focus of my Fellowship year.
As a result of Mr. Stone’s generous help, I was able to speak to Mr. Jim Tull, Associate at CMPartners, who was holding a negotiation training workshop for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). The opportunity to take part in this workshop and interact with climate change negotiators, government officials, and ambassadors from all the island states of the world was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to understand their interests and concerns, and appreciate the complexity of multiparty environmental negotiations held at the United Nations.
AOSIS and the Oasis
An oasis is, strictly speaking, the mirage of a tropical paradise replete with water and abundant fruit that weary desert travelers hallucinate about when dehydrated and exhausted. The feeling of elation associated with this vision is the best description I could give you of my reaction to Jim’s phone call confirming that I would be able to attend the training workshop.
In between packing and phoning my parents to tell them about my impromptu bookings in New York, I recalled what I had learned at Insight Collaborative about strategic relationship management: it is important to demonstrate both a willingness to learn more about the people with whom you are interacting as well as an honest appreciation of their background and interests. One way of doing this, I felt, was to research every participant listed in CM Partners attendance sheet.
It was most certainly the right move to make for two reasons: first, in doing this background research I realized whom I should approach regarding the various issues island states faced (e.g., one official specialized in coastal restoration, while another was the lead negotiator on climate change for all states); second, it provided me with invaluable information about which types of individuals and which departments might be interested in more such trainings if I were to successfully arrange a placement in the Pacific.
For three days, CMPartners kindly gave me access to their training material, encouraged me to take on a minor training role when facilitating group feedback or when providing tips during one-on-one negotiation practice, and offered me valuable advice and guidelines during the evening debriefs.
I was thrilled just to be physically present, let alone to develop initial connections with so many different experts and officials for whom climate change negotiations were so crucial to the survival of their nations. I was able to maintain these connections and will most likely be traveling to the Pacific for my final placement, to be a resource in negotiation training while helping facilitate communication between different levels of environmental policy bodies. It is a professional dream come true.