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Dealing with an Angry Public

by Larry Susskind
March 2009

From Larry Susskind's blog on the Consensus Building Approach

Larry Susskind
On April 30th and May 1st, I offer a two day training program called Dealing with An Angry Public (www.pon.execseminars.com).  Along with my Harvard Business School colleague Michael Wheeler and Jeff Ansell, a well known Canadian journalist and media consultant, we show how a consensus building approach can be used to reshape interactions with various publics that are angry with you -- either because of what you have done, what you propose to do or what you stand for. Most of what passes for media training in such situations focuses on getting the right message across. We teach how to go beyond that and interact with angry publics by (1) acknowledging the concerns of the other side; (2) encouraging joint fact finding; (3) offering contingent commitments and promising to compensate unintended but knowable impacts; (4) accepting responsibility, admitting mistakes and sharing power; (5) acting in a trustworthy fashion at all times; and (6) focusing on building long-term relationships. 

In my award-winning book with Patrick Field by the same name (Dealing with an Angry Public, Free Press, 1995), we offer a whole series of illustrations that show why merely "sending messages," however they are framed, is not nearly as effective as face-to-face negotiation that aims to confront and resolve differences head-on. Too much of the crisis communications literature side-steps the need to negotiate.  And, almost all of it falls short because it assumes away the possibility of applying a mutual gains approach.  No matter who is angry at you or for what reasons, you can advance your interests by knowing the right way to interact with people.

If you refer to this blog when you register, we'll cut the registration fee by $500. Whether you work in the public sector or the private sector this highly interactive seminar (which will give you numerous chances to role play different kinds of conflict situations) can be of enormous help. More than 2500 people from all over the world have given our Angry Public seminar an average rating of over 14 on a 1 - 16 scale.

Biography


Lawrence Susskind was born in New York City in 1947. He graduated from Columbia University in 1968 with a B.A. in English Literature and Sociology. He received his Masters of City Planning from MIT in 1970 and his Ph.D. in Urban Planning from MIT in 1973. 

Professor Susskind joined the faculty of the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planningin 1971. He served first as Associate Head and then as Head of that Department from 1974 through 1982. He was appointed full professor in 1986 and Ford Professor of Urban & Environmental Planning in 1995. As head of the Environmental Policy Group in the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT, he currently teaches four courses (Negotiation and Dispute Resolution in the Public Sector (11.255), International Environmental Negotiation (11.364) taught jointly with the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Multi-party Negotiation (11.257) taught jointly with Harvard Law School, and Use of Joint Fact-Finding in Science-Intensive Policy Disputes (11.941)), oversees a research budget of approximately $250,000 annually, and supervises more than a dozen masters and doctoral dissertations a year.

From 1982-1985, Professor Susskind served as the first Executive Director of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School-- an inter-university consortium for the improvement of theory and practice in the field of dispute resolution. He currently holds an appointment at Harvard as Vice-Chair for Instruction, and Director of the Public Disputes Program at Harvard Law School. Professor Susskind is responsible for an extensive series of action-research projects, the training of senior executives, and serves on the Editorial Board of Negotiation Journal and as head of the Clearinghouse at the Program on Negotiation. He has developed more than fifty simulations (distributed by the Clearinghouse at the Program on Negotiation) that are used to teach negotiation, dispute resolution, and consensus building throughout the world. 

Professor Susskind is one of the country's most experienced public and environmental dispute mediators and a leading figure in the dispute resolution field. He has mediated more than fifty complex disputes related to the siting of controversial facilities, the setting of public health and safety standards, the formulation and implementation of development plans and projects, and conflicts among racial and ethnic groups -- serving on occasion as a special court-appointed master.

 



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Website: www.lawrencesusskind.com

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