by Trust Mamombe, Zimbabwe

Enter Wilbur Perlot, the Deputy Director of the Clingendael Academy and a ‘Specialist in Difficult Negotiations’ (SDN, my creative acronym).  Here is a man with a non-negotiably long CV. That being the case, our training session did not start according to my preconceived expectations and this is why.

Coming all the way from the diminutive land between the Zambezi and the Limpopo rivers for knowledge-osmosis, our training was supposed to be characterized by the flow of facts from a high concentration (Wilbur) to a low concentration (IPSI participants) and not vice versa. But, Wilbur does not throw seeds of knowledge carelessly and leave them to fall, some on good soil, some on rocks, and some among thorns, to borrow from the biblical parables. Thirty six minutes gone and Perlot was mounting a whole training session around participant contributions and answers to his sporadic inquiries. How much we, the participants, gained from the session was totally dependent on what we hazarded to guess. Thus, we unwittingly negotiated for new concepts by randomly throwing commoners’ limited knowledge at him.

The simulation exercises were such beautiful experiences. I played the role of Special Representative of the United 14420827628_0e45f91a61_z-225x300States of America in the Serbia-Kosovo conflict. For once in my life I knew exactly what I wanted and how to get it. For once I could be genuinely benevolent, particularly to little Serbia. I was uncompromisingly unambiguous about what can and cannot be done to my Kosovo. Better still, I caricatured the United Nations just to put Russia off balance and leveraged my positions through NATO and the EU! My superiors in New York and Washington DC were pleasantly amused.

Then, I was introduced to the stimulating Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument. It turns out that I am fairly collaborative and compromising in my approach to conflict. On a positive note,= though, I am not a competitive person. But a major weakness, I presume, is that I have a magnified avoidance approach!

Wilbur pleaded with us not to be hard on ourselves with regards to the outcomes of the conflict mode test. Instead, he gently urged us to work a little harder on the areas we scored dismally. Please! I for one will not do that. I will take the results seriously and will not go easy on myself in the areas I scored badly; it has such overarching bearing on a negotiator.

And the result of the session?  I’ve got it, Wilbur.  From negotiations, from the way you delivered your training sessions, and I’ve got it from the simulation exercises. I further got it from the TK Conflict Mode Instrument. After thorough negotiations disguised as training sessions, I’ve got it. I’ve got it.

You only palpably said it in the last seven minutes of your stay with us in Bologna. Yes, values are important, processes matter, and so on and so forth, but the short of it is that, most importantly, negotiations are about who gets what! Period. You are such a fountain of negotiation wisdom Wilbur. Thank you!