McLean’s Daniel Shapiro Joins Former President Obama at Amsterdam Leadership Event

October 16, 2018

On September 28, 2018, Daniel Shapiro, PhD, founder and director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program, gave the keynote address at the Forward Thinking Leadership conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He joined leaders from around the world to examine the challenges caused by changes in business, technology, and politics and find creative ways to solve problems and create new opportunities. The conference also featured a question-and-answer session with former U.S. President Barack Obama, as well as panel discussions and seminars on leadership.

In his talk, Shapiro drew on research he conducted at Harvard Medical School and McLean for his latest book, Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts. He discussed how globalization, technology, social media, and other factors have changed ideas of individual and group identity, which have made conflict resolution more difficult. “In my talk, I explained that many people find it very difficult to find their place or their identity in the modern world, so they tend to move back toward ‘tribes’ that they feel a family-like connection to,” Shapiro explained. “We see it in the U.S. with Republicans vs. Democrats. We see it in global trends around extremism. We are very divided on the local and global level.”

Dr. Daniel Shapiro
Daniel Shapiro, PhD, at the Forward Thinking Leadership conference in Amsterdam

These divisions, Shapiro said, have created tremendous problems for individuals in business, government, and other fields when attempting to solve problems and negotiate effectively. “Leadership is difficult in this modern era, because the conflicts that we’re dealing with tend to threaten our identity,” he said. To address this problem, Shapiro offered two approaches. First, he presented a method to appreciate divergent perspectives. “We need to move beyond our little bubbles to try to more deeply understand the other when faced with an emotionally charged issue,” he explained.

Next, Shapiro suggested “building affiliation.” “Affiliation is a tool to bridge the divide,” he said. “We need to shift the focus from us vs. them to the two of us sitting side by side, working on the same challenges and problems.”

Shapiro said the goal of the Amsterdam conference was to “inspire and educate,” and he pointed to the interview with former President Obama as being particularly effective. “He made several simple but elegant points about why it’s important for leaders to stay authentic and connected to the people they’re leading,” Shapiro reported. These points, he said, gave the conference attendees a “deeper insight” into the importance of human relations in negotiations.

Photo credit: Dan Taylor

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