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Negotiator Safety: Risky Business

By James L. Greenstone

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Negotiators, whether they are negotiating, mediating, arbitrating or any of the other possibilities, may fail to recognize high-risk situations. They may assume incorrectly that because disputants intellectually select to negotiate as their means of conflict resolution, it must follow that they have left their innermost feelings at the threshold of the negotiations venue. To the contrary, the individual’s perception of his/her world will enter the negotiations and must be understood by those doing or facilitating the negotiating. Without this appreciation of the disputant’s perception of their world, the negotiator cannot effectively deal with the behavior of the disputants. Here will be addressed the need for awareness of the potential for, and the prevention of, crises within the negotiations process, and for appropriate intervention if prevention did not occur, and crisis behavior is exhibited. Such intervention may allow the negotiations to go forward effectively. The process of mediation, rather than the other types of dispute resolution, often will be mentioned in this paper to make various important points regarding safety issues. Close examination of this material will reveal adaptations that can be made to all negotiations venues.


It is not unusual that persons deciding to be mediators enter this field without adequate appreciation for the risks and stressors involved therein. This can be seen as the “coffee-klatch” mentality that is pervasive when it is assumed that those coming for mediation come to discuss their dispute in a calm and reasonable manner. While it is true that mediation stresses the need to handle disputes in this manner in order to achieve equitable results, it is often unrecognized that, because much emotion has often preceded the mediation, tension is often very high. Those coming to the mediator for help may be on the verge of experiencing crisis in their life will experience crisis after the mediation is complete. Because this seems to be so, Crisis Intervention training should be part of all training given to mediators.

Negotiator Safety: Risky Business By James L. Greenstone, Ed.D., J.D., DABECI


Copyright © 2013 James L. Greenstone
Copyright ©   2013  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  December 2013 – January 2014