Friday June 16, 2017
How to work with people you don't like: Tips from this Canadian negotiator
Last year, when the president of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work ending 50 years of civil war in his country, among those he credited was Montrealer Adam Kahane.
"Adam Kahane is a friend of Colombia," Juan Manuel Santos said.
Even Kahane was surprised to learn that a series of meetings he led 20 years ago had such a lasting impact on one of the participants.
Kahane is a conflict mediator and peace negotiator. Nelson Mandela credited him with helping the South African government in the post-apartheid era.
'Adam Kahane is a friend of Colombia.' - Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia
He's also worked in Thailand, Guatemala and at the UN. He's helped resolve some 50 conflicts around the world and he's written four books about his experiences.
Kahane's latest book, Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People you Don't Agree With or Like or Trust, explores everything he's learned in his 30-plus years of negotiating the trickiest of situations.
How to work with people you don't like — that was the lesson Juan Manuel Santos took away from that meeting in Colombia.
Those first meetings were small, but they included Colombians from all the factions in the country at the time, from cabinet ministers to business leaders to left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries.
"I was really surprised that 20 years later, President Santos remembered it, let alone gave it such prominence in his recollection," Kahane tells The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.
"He said that's the time that he realized that contrary to all his political upbringing, it was possible to work with people you don't agree with and you're never going to agree with," he says.
"And that's what he kept in his mind the many years after that."
The growing and troublesome trend
That idea is the core of Kahane's overall work including his latest book, which also explores what he sees as a growing and troublesome trend — something he calls "enemyfying."
"Enemyfying is this: these other people are not simply people I disagree with. They are 'the other,'" he says.
"They are people who I can't work with and what I really want more than anything is for them to just go away, for them to be excluded or eliminated. And whether that's immigrants or political opponents, there seems to be no room to work with them."
'We always have a choice if we want to collaborate.' - Adam Kahane, peace negotiator and conflict mediator
"They are enemies, they must be destroyed and that's the phenomenon I notice more and more."
Kahane says there are four choices when it comes to working with others: collaborate, adapt, force or exit.
"We always have a choice if we want to collaborate," he says.
"We can choose to exit, to force the others or to simply adapt."
Donald Trump, for example, chose not to collaborate but to simply exit the Paris agreement on climate change.
Even then, Kahane says, "They've exited from the agreement ... they may not realize they cannot exit from the climate."
Finding ways to move forward
And sometimes we do have to collaborate — Canada, for example, with the U.S. in NAFTA.
"The way [the Canadian government] is going about it is exactly right. We can't force the Americans to do what we want them to do. We can't simply adapt to the world as they make it. We can't exit the relationship so we have to find a way forward where we can."
According to Kahane, it's possible to work with people even if we don't agree. Collaboration isn't about agreeing on the solution or even the problem, but rather agreeing that they can work together to move forward.
"Fifty years later, the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas do not have the same understanding of the situation they're in," he says.
"But for different reasons they can agree: 'Let's do this and let's do that ... and then we'll see.'"
Listen to their conversation at the top of the web post.
This segment was produced by Montreal network producer Susan McKenzie.