3 Invaluable Lessons from Brian Polkinghorn
- Conflict prevention should be the first line of defense, then conflict resolution.
- When you’re emotionally drawn into something you’re more personally invested in its success.
- Know the conflict resolution process: perspective, language, translate, moderator, referee.
This week, host Sue Dyer speaks with Brian Polkinghorn about conflict resolution both domestically and overseas. Brian elaborates on high-stakes conflict resolution in some of the most conflict-driven nations in the world.
About Guest Brian Polkinghorn (1:35)
Brian Polkinghorn is a Distinguished Professor, Program Director and Department Head of Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution at Salisbury University, and also the Executive Director of the Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution at Salisbury University. Brian is accomplished at all different types of conflict resolution and works domestically and internationally. Brian works in the areas of the world that have the highest conflict and is still able to create agreements. Brian is involved in state and federal conflict and has done a lot of research in conflict resolution.
How the Center at Salisbury Came About and What a Distinguished Professor Is (3:38)
- A Distinguished Professor is a designation stating you’ve distinguished yourself in contributions to the advancement of skills and knowledge in your field.
- The Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution has both a practice and a research side to it.
- The Center is broken into three teams: workshops, research, and academic.
- At the Center, people put into practice what they learn and research – it’s a career launcher.
Brian’s Greatest Strength as a Leader (13:45)
- Brian would rather know the person rather than the project.
- Brian often puts the students first.
- It doesn’t matter who takes the credit as long as you do good work and get the job done.
Some Examples of Projects Brian Has Worked on in Conflict Zones (14:98)
- South Africa: The transition from apartheid to democracy has not been smooth and simple things are difficult.
- The humanity of conflict zones is the most important thing.
- Middle East: The world’s leading people on water and desert research are in the middle east, but they can’t look like they’re collaborating because of the politics.
- When you’re emotionally drawn into something you will take ownership.
How Water Agreements Come to Fruition (23:00)
People come from around the world to make water available in the desert. Because water is so essential it’s possible to use it to bring people together.
What Brian Has Done in Nepal (26:07)
- Brian has worked on the peace process in Nepal.
- Things looked good on paper, but people had different interpretations about what they were supposed to do.
- It’s taken over eight years for the process to get underway.
- When you’re working with international organizations, some are state actors and they have to follow the law, some are not, and they can change their mind.
- You want adversaries to have about the same amount of.
Advice to Construction Leaders Who Must Deal with Conflict in Their Teams (33:45)
- People speak different languages, so collaboration has multiple meanings depending on where you use it.
- You need to know how to deal with the angry public.
- You sometimes have to translate from one language to another and people need to think about being a moderator in language and demeanor.
- When things are really rough make people consider the best-case scenario.
- Perspective, Language, Translate, Moderator, Referee.
How to Better Implement Partnering on Projects (38:19)
- You need to know that there is a framework for partnering.
- Be educated in the process.
- Take what you know works well and then line it up in a formula and make it your own.
The Worst Moment Brian Has Ever Faced (40:30)
When Brian has worked on a project and someone who should have been at the table and wasn’t, or vice versa. Or, when an agreement was signed prematurely, and he realized quickly a mistake was made.
The Best Advice Brian Has Ever Gotten (44:00)
Do what makes you happy. When you enjoy it it’s not a job. When you do something you love and are good at, you are legitimately helping people.
Brian’s Favorite Piece of Tech
Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
Brian’s Parting Advice (47:29)
Do no harm, do something non-contractual to make things easier for others. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Be the person your colleagues want to grow old with.
Resources for Listeners
- Recommended Website: Bosserman Center for Conflict Resolution
- Recommended Book: The Gift of Anger: And Other Lessons from My Grandfather Mahatma Gandhi by Arun Gandhi (affiliate link)
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