Initiating Collaboration in the Midst of a Standoff: What to Do at that Critical Moment

TitleInitiating Collaboration in the Midst of a Standoff: What to Do at that Critical Moment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsSusskind, L
JournalNegotiation Journal
Date PublishedJul-03-2022

Even when “warring parties” know that eventually they will have to talk to one another so that there can be peace, it is extremely difficult to get them to “fast‐forward” to that moment. The reasons for this vary. Sometimes the parties think that “time is on their side”—that continuing the battle will benefit them. Other times, leaders worry how they will appear in the eyes of their own followers if they seem to have lost heart or are ready to give in. A third reason that parties may not initiate talks is their concern that a willingness to do so may lead the other side to assume that they are ready to give up. This article examines a new way of helping parties move forward in such situations using what is called “breakthrough collaboration,” an idea invented by the Consensus Building Institute. Breakthrough collaboration allows parties to take advantage of a critical moment to initiate preliminary trust‐building activities, share information and send messages through a neutral party, and engage in internal efforts that can make it easier to move toward joint problem‐solving. Such efforts can be triggered by a convener (who is not a party) and assisted by a mediator (who may not meet with the parties simultaneously). The goal is to do more than merely encourage dialogue. The hope is that an extended sequence of facilitated activities or events can lead to a shift in thinking on all sides. The key is to know when a critical moment creates an opportunity for breakthrough collaboration.

Short TitleNegotiation Journal