Getting to the “Why”: Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Education

Often, when people envision a negotiation, they picture men and women in suits, sitting at a conference table, staring each other down. However, after taking a graduate course on Negotiation at my school, the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, I have recently been introduced to the idea that everything is a negotiation.

Every conversation, every gesture, when used in the context of communication, is a negotiation: The idea is that you want someone else to see things the way you see them. You are trying to make them agree with you, in a way; to have their vision be aligned with yours.
The attempt to provide others with a different perspective (and vice versa) seems to me to be a core essential to education as well. Like negotiation, which is a method for conflict resolution, education aims to align visions and foster understanding. So, when you think about it, isn’t it as clear as day that education can help to resolve conflict; that education is a means for peace?
Conflict consists of four different elements: Position, Interest, Feelings, and Worldview. Basically, these four elements tell us what it is a certain party wants, why they want it, how important that object or issue is to them, and then why it is they view that object or issue as important. Education has the exact same basis. You learn about something and then try to conceptualize why that something is the way it is. By getting to the “why” of things, you have a better understanding of other people’s perspectives, which I believe to be the starting point towards equality and peace.  
As the new Religion and Diversity Education Intern, I have learned that at Tanenbaum, this is what they try to convey, every day, through their education program. The COEXIST curriculum, in particular, exemplifies the link that exists between education and the process of conflict resolution. Whether you are trying to negotiate a business deal, bargain about border control, or advocate to children about multiculturalism and diversity, you have to recognize the importance of getting to the “why.” Only then can you reach a sustainable understanding and agreement, and attain the beginnings of what might just lead to peace. 

– Kate Vasharakorn