Inspiration through Dialogue

Joshua Weiss

Associate Director, Global Negotiation Project, Program on Negotiation, Harvard University

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

You know, I can't point to one specific incident that transformed the way I saw things, but it's interesting that when you work with people, they're very rigid when they start, and they know the answer to the problem. They see the problem in one dogmatic way and that's the way it has to be. Then, when you're able to help them move from that, that's something that you can't really explain what it's like. And so I think that the experience of seeing people change when they said that they would never change or when they argued to you that there was no reason to change or no need to change, is a pretty powerful one.

A lot of the agreements that I've helped people reach were not ones that they ever conceived of before the process started, and I think that's part of the interest and the allure of all this, is that just talking is not the solution, but when you get people into a room they can go far beyond where they ever thought that they might get to. And I think getting them to talk is a piece of the puzzle. There's a lot more to it, but those changing attitudes and beliefs, it's really amazing to see that happen, particularly when people come in such a rigid way. You know people always say, well, those people are too old to change. Maybe I'm na‹ve about this, but I don't really believe that. I mean, I've seen people who were in the military who are now in this field who really see that things are different, and they're 60 or 70 years old. They've obviously seen it differently. I think it gets harder to change because of habituation and other kinds of things, but you have to be an optimist to be in this field, or at least that's my perspective on it.