Book Review: Improvisational Negotiation – A Mediator’s Stories of Conflict

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Whether you are at loggerheads with your teenaged son or daughter over household chores or with your co-workers because they are a noisy lot, the problem is the same. How do you explore the difficulty you are having and come up with a compromise? Maybe, reading Jeffrey Krivis’s Improvisational Negotiation: Stories of Conflict About Love, Money, Anger And The Strategies That resolved Them, by Jeffrey Krivis, can help you more creative problem solving.

“In a world where relationships matter more than ever, mediation skills matter more than ever,” said author Jeffrey Krivis. His formula for success in resolving problems appears simple: Instinct + Info=Intuition, Intuition + Knowledge = Improvisation. What is not so seemingly sleight of hand are the author’s considerable finely honed interpersonal and mediation skills. This book highlights these skills as well as his creativity and good old fashioned storytelling. The final product is this highly readable book by a master of the craft of mediation.

IMPROVISATIONAL NEGOTIATION: A Mediator’s Stories of Conflict about Love, Money, Anger – and the Strategies That Resolved Them

by Jeffrey Krivis

ISBN# 0787980382 $35.00

Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint: 2006

Krivis illustrates each of his 10 guidelines for settling a dispute with a story that illustrates the problem with concrete life experience as well as possible suggestions for your next big dispute. I found his story about ways people can cooperate rather than clash highly effective. For example, a grocery association objected to being billed for a “three week training cruise” by a vendor! Krivis spent time building bridges between both parties. An outcome satisfying to both parties occurred. Another story explored the wrongful termination of an employee. The mediation session gave the employee time to explain his side of the story to the employer. After mediation, the terminated employee formed his own company and was re-empoyed by his former employer as a consultant. This book is chock full of creative solutions to seemingly unsolveable problems.

No one can actually read another person’s mind. Or can they? Jeffrey Krivis offers hundreds of suggestions about noticing body language cues, determining the types of people involved in the dispute (according to the principles of Neuro Linguistic Programming), and the using “props” to make mediation participants (or teenagers, or co-workers more comfortable.

From the point of view of someone who is part of a “support staff,” this book is an excellent read. I found the way to handle my noisy co-workers. Workers of every genre, supervisory and managerial staff will find this book a reference tool that they will continue to refer to.

Whether you think mediation is a fine art or a science, Jeffrey Krivis’s book will fit both definitions. He proves that any problem can be solved with a finite recipe: respect, understanding, good listening skills, and the will to solve small problems (before they become huge problems). Before that situation explodes in anger or someone hires a lawyer they should certainly read this book.

You can also read Ten Tips for Negotiating Workplace Conflicts, in which Krivis tells ten things you might do to negotiate, in the right situation.

Sandra Pianin is a talented writer who loves reading books and writing reviews from her home in New York. Sandra started her love affair with film after she saw her first movie screen in summer 1957.