Monthly Archives: April 2022

42. Conflict Resilience in Contentious Times

The guest in this episode of Agility at Work is our friend and colleague Bob Bordone. Bob taught negotiation and conflict resolution for many years at Harvard Law School. He also founded a clinic here to give students firsthand experience in settling disputes. That program is still going strong.

Bob has now moved into multi-faceted private practice, serving as a mediator, facilitator, and negotiation adviser. And he somehow still manages to continue his teaching, as well.

The heart of our conversation this day is what Bob calls “conflict resilience.” It’s the ability to sit with, and be present around, those with whom we have fundamentally different views. As he explains, “It’s the capacity to listen with a generosity and openness, and at the same time, share one’s own views with authenticity and grace.” That’s an admirable skill, one that most of us could be better at, especially in these troubling days.

Skill, though, may not be the right word. As Bob describes it, conflict resilience calls on many aspects of our nature. Our empathy for others, along with self-awareness. Clarity about our own values coupled with curiosity about how others see the world. Confidence blended with humility. And perhaps supporting all that, a grounded optimism that engaging with others tends to be better than arming up for battle (or running for the hills).

Bob, a grounded optimist himself, believes we can deepen our ability to bring the temperature down dealing with people with whom we strongly disagree—neighbors, colleagues, and perhaps most challenging, family members whose views diametrically differ from our own.

As you’ll hear, Bob also sees a welcome evolution in the way in which negotiation specialists understand the process. In recent years there’s been a shift from the substantive dimension of negotiation (trading this for that) to the relational, interpersonal dimension.

That certainly is true of Bob’s work, as you can see on his website: A great place to start is one of his featured videos, “Can We Talk? Rules for Engagement for Civil Discourse”: