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Power And Trust As Negotiation Strategies And The Lessons Of The Cove

by Victoria Pynchon
September 2009

From Settle It Now Negotiation Blog

Victoria Pynchon
Power And Trust As Negotiation Strategies And The Lessons Of The Cove

Powerlessness and silence go together; one of the first efforts made in any totalitarian takeover is to suppress the writers, the singers, the journalists, those who are the collective voice.   - Margaret Atwood

Every year, a town in Japan named Taiji kills 2300 dolphins and small whales.  This year, that slaughter was halted for a single day because of the activism of the man who trained Flipper for television, Rick O'Barry.  Here's his account of the making of The Cove.   

Below us, just across a two-fingered inlet, was the Killing Cove, where 2300 dolphins and small whales are butchered every year. [/*] It's the place Allison and Alex had infiltrated in 2002, managing to cut the nets and free some 15 dolphins before the two were assaulted by fishermen and arrested.  The killing here is part of a cetacean slaughter that is unregulated by the I[nternational] W[haling] C[ommission], which has no jurisdiction over the smallest whales.  The Japanese don't even have to pretend it's for scientific research.  The government issues permits to fishermen and over 22,000 dolphins, porpoises, pilot whales and false killer whales are killed annually along Japan's coasts.  The meat is sold to school lunch programs and grocery stores and is terrifically high in mercury.  Independent random tests have found the dolphin meat to contain three to 3500 times the levels deemed safe by the Japanese Government.

What did Flipper's trainer want to do?  He wanted to stop the slaughter.  Here's where the Harvard Negotiation article on power in negotiation comes in.  I'll let the authors of the Harvard article speak for themselves.

In order to understand [why the less powerful sometimes prevail against their more powerful bargaining partners] one needs to analyze power as more of a relational and perceptional concept. The relational dimension is captured in Dahl’s definition that A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something B would not otherwise do." For example, most non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are less resourceful than the World Bank. Yet the Bank can enhance the legitimacy of its programs by including NGOs. Over time, participating NGOs could influence the Bank’s agendas to some extent.  Thus viewed, parties with asymmetric resources may well share a mutually dependent relationship.

 It is also worthwhile to note that power sometimes lies in the eye of the beholder. A party’s decisions may be shaped as much by its perception of the situation as by objective reality.  Zartman and Rubin, in studying power in negotiation, define it as “the perceived capacity of one side to produce an intended effect on another through a move that may involve the use of resources.[A]s Fisher and Ury have pointed out, the resources a party owns do not necessarily translate into effective negotiating power, which is much more context-specific. The authors cite the example of the US, which “is rich and has lots of nuclear bombs, but neither has been of much help in deterring terrorist actions or freeing hostages when they have been held in places like Beirut"

The common tactics under a power-based approach include coercion, intimidation, and using one’s status and resources to overpower opponents. 

One tactic omitted from the list of power-based tactics is one of the most compelling -- the strategy used by Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi and, yes, anti-abortion activists -- bearing witness and shaming.

 

There are many moments of shaming and bearing witness in The Cove --   the moment when activist O'Barry holds his iPhone before the eyes of the Japanese official who has just told him that cateceans are killed quickly, with surgical precision (you can see that moment in the trailer here).  There's the day O'Barry, who has been permanently barred from IWC's conferences, walks in with a flat screen television strapped to his chest and silently moves in front of each row of delegates, showing them the video of the slaughter in the Killing Cover.  And then, at movie's end, the wrenching scene of O'Barry standing in the middle of a crosswalk in Tokyo, that same flat screen  on his chest, silently bearing witness as thousands rush past him and a few, half a dozen perhaps, stop in their tracks to watch the footage of the fisherman in the Killing Cove that he and his team gathered at the risk of their freedom and perhaps their lives.

It appears that the slaughter was halted for only a day.  Here's O'Barry's account of that day  (excerpt below):

I vowed to be back in Taiji when the dolphin killing began. I’ve often been here alone, or accompanied by a few environmentalists. Sometimes, I was able to talk a major media organization into sending someone.

When I got off the bus at the Cove this afternoon, I was accompanied by my son Lincoln O’Barry’s film crew, a crew from Associated Press, Der Spiegel (the largest magazine in Germany), and the London Independent.

I was talking with the police, as the international journalists stood around listening, suddenly a camera crew arrived from Japan! And then another! And then still another!

You have to understand that this is SO IMPORTANT. These TV stations have REFUSED to cover the story in Taiji for years and years. NOW, for the first time, they have shown up, with cameras rolling.

The Cove movie led to the strong action by the city of Broome, Australia, in suspending the sister-city relationship with Taiji. So now, the Japanese media are sitting up and listening, for the first time.

[A]ll Japanese will soon know about the cover-up that has occurred by the government in refusing to stop mercury-contaminated dolphin meat from being sold to unsuspecting Japanese consumers and children.

But Taiji can change this image of shame, if they want to. I will be telling them that the town of Nantucket used to be the capitol of the whale killing industry in the US. Now, it uses its history of whaling combined with whale-watching to market tourism very successfully. Whales and dolphins are worth more alive than dead. Taiji can do this, too. But the killing has to stop.

Alas, the cessation of the killing lasted only a single day.

 Once shameful national behavior has been exposed (a contentious or power-based negotiation strategy) the weaker parties (people vs. governments) must build their negotiating strength through trust.  As Power and Trust in Negotiation and Decision Making asserts:

Identification-based trust is grounded in empathy with another person’s desires and intentions and leads one to “take on the other’s value because of the emotional connection between them.”  It often exists among friends. Fostering understanding and friendly ties may therefore be a step to engender identification-based trust. For example, Reagan and Gorbachev developed a cooperative relationship in the late 1980s partly because they had repeated face-to-face talks over the years.  Reagan also sought to cultivate a non-hostile atmosphere in these talks by appealing to common interests, actively diffusing tensions and using his sense of humor. Because friendship and liking tend to generate trust and assent – sometimes in a subconscious fashion – Cialdini observes that salespersons often befriend their customers before promoting their products. Trusting someone in certain situations may thus come with risks of manipulation or exploitation

In asymmetrical power relationships, the building of trust among activists is necessary for the formation of a grass-roots coalition capable of overwhelming more powerful parties (perceived economic and national interests as well as that most powerful of impasse creators:  the status quo) with passionate commitment to an idea and the hope that the idea can be made a reality.  

O'Barry's documentary is a call to action that asks us to respond to our "better angels."  If enough of us hear the call and respond, there is no power that can stop this movement to stop the killing. 

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice."

______________________

The Harvard Negotiation article is a gift from Don Philbin who directed his Facebook readers to  Power and Trust in Negotiation and Decision-Making:  A Critical Evaluation at the Harvard Negotiation.  If you have any interest whatsoever in the dispute resolution techniques of negotiation, arbitration or mediation and you're not following Don (whose Facebook page is here and whose tremendous LinkedIn Arbitration and Mediation Group is here and whose group blog Disputing is here) you're missing the Mother of All ADR Aggregators and your life is the poorer for it.

*/  There were reports that international pressure caused the suspension of the annual dolphin hunt but the linked article from the Japan Times suggests that it resumed on the second day of the season on September 2.

Biography


Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all types of business torts and contract disputes.  During her two years of full-time neutral practice, she has co-mediated both mandatory and voluntary settlement conferences with Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Alexander Williams, III and Victoria Chaney.  As a result of her work with Judge Chaney in the Complex Court at Central Civil West, Ms. Pynchon has gained significant experience mediating construction defect litigation.  Ms. Pynchon received her J.D., Order of the Coif, from the U.C. Davis School of Law. 



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