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An End to the Middle East Conflict

How to LEAP into the conflict and solve it

You can’t effectively deal with a situation that requires transformation with a transactional approach

Psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion said that the purest form of listening is to listen without memory or desire.

By that statement Bion meant that when you listen with memory you have an old agenda that you are trying to get the other person to conform to and when you listen with desire you have a new agenda that you are trying to get the other person to conform to.  However in neither case are you listening to their agenda.

Listening with an agenda is what being transactional is all about.  When the implicit agenda is self-preservation (Israel) or ideological preservation (Hammas), both sides’ explicit behavior is fueled by fear beneath.  For Israel it is the fear of annihilation; for Hammas it is going against a sacred belief and commandment to destroy Israel and risk going against your core identity.

To counter this, both sides of the Middle East conflict need to utilize Purposeful Agendaless Listening (PAL).  And the purpose?

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After an agreement is made that neither side experiences 10×6 regret, rescinds what they agreed to, attempts to reject and renegotiate and/or begins yet another round of renewed conflict, both sides feel that they achieved a “higher purpose” that was fair to everyone.

The 10×6 approach is an elaboration on the model that Suzy Welch proposed in her brief, wonderful, transformative yet overlooked book: 10-10-10: 10 Minutes, 10 Months, 10 Years A Transforming Idea.  In her book, Suzy says that when you are thinking of making a decision and before you make it, consider the consequences to you 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years after you make it.  Then let those consequences inform what you decide.

As we look at the Middle East Conflict, it is clear that fear belies much of the difficulty of coming to an agreement.  However fear of the other side’s reaction may not be as great as fear of the reaction from both yourself and your own side: 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months and 10 years (10×6) after to you make it.

  • 10 minutes – buyer’s (a.k.a. agreer’s) remorse – this is where you are suddenly seized by the doubt of, “What have I just agreed to?”
  • 10 hours – obsessive self-doubt is about having the obsessive part (which most negotiator’s have) of your personality replaying your decision ad infinitum and fearing a superior will rip you apart for giving away too much
  • 10 days – retaliation of the pundits, talking heads, opposing political party and Internet weighing in with all sorts of Monday (through the whole week) morning quarterbacking
  • 10 weeks – this is where it is still holding and even though it may not have been a great agreement, it was one that was fair to both sides
  • 10 months – this is when you begin to believe that each party can actually begin to move forward building upon the agreement
  • 10 years – history will say this was a smart and wise decision and will be grateful to and honor all those who helped it happen

Whoever is brought in to help mediate the Middle East conflict needs to step in and listen separately and deeply to each side to gain full “buy in” from each.  To do that each side would need to feel fully heard and understood and each person representing each side would also need to feel fully heard and understood.  One way to achieve that would be to employ the LEAP method of overcoming resistance created by Dr. Xavier Amador explained very well in his aptly titled book, I’m Right, You’re Wrong, Now What? Break the Impasse and Get What You Need.

  • L = listen – after which the other person feels heard in an uninterrupted fashion
  • E = empathize – after which the other person feels understood both intellectually and emotionally vs. misunderstood and worse, presumed upon
  • A = agree – after which the other person feels that you have agreed with something they said (even if it’s not all that they have said) and fully agree with how they could come to feel the way they do and to have responded with the stance and position they have taken
  • P = partner -after which the other person feels that you are partnering with them vs. fighting with them to push some initiative forward

After employing the LEAP method, each party should have “bought in” to what the mediator has discussed with them to listen to something the mediator might now propose.  The mediator should check with each side that they have felt listened to, heard and understood and the mediator should wait until each side says, “Yes,” to having felt that way.

If you think this is all too soft and irrelevant, what do you think the effect on negotiation with anyone would be if in instead of using LEAP you did the opposite:

  • Tune Out instead of Listening
  • Judge and jump to conclusions instead of Empathizing
  • Debate and be adversarial instead of Agreeing
  • Refuse to cooperate instead of Partnering

Sadly, too many negotiations follow the above instead of the LEAP method.

For the next step the mediator should propose to both sides in both of their presence:

“I have spoken with each of you separately and you have both agreed that I have heard and understood each of your positions.  Is that correct? (Wait until they both respond, “Yes”).  I am here to tell you that there is a solution that can be arrived at that we are not yet close to.  Before I describe to you what that solution is, I need to tell you something that is off limits and a deal breaker in this negotiation.  And that is anything that will annihilate, destroy or undermine the ability for the other side to exist, live and hopefully thrive.

The solution that can be arrived at must meet the following criteria, which is that there will be no regrets or attempts to rescind and renegotiate it 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months and 10 years from now.

I can see from the reactions from each of you that my response and what I have laid out is not what either of you had in mind, but as a mediator, I feel compelled and duty bound to serve as a shepherd and guardian of a solution that can be reached that fulfills the above criteria.

To that end, I would like you to now go back to your advisers and stakeholders for a period of 48 hours and then return with that solution that will not destroy the other side and that will fulfill the criteria of being something you can agree to without regret or need to re-negotiate 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months and 10 years from now.  And I would like you to explain why you came up with that solution so that the other side can begin to understand you better.

There is an added benefit if you each do come up with something that in 10 years history will see as not only smart and wise.

If you succeed at this, what you come up with and how you come up with it will be seen as the best example ever developed of how conflicts can be resolved in the world and that is something the Nobel committee, will look favorably upon.  Imagine what you’ll be able to tell your grandchildren!

This part of the negotiation is adjourned and I look forward to seeing you in 48 hours to continue on this most honorable of journeys. And remember the eyes of the world and Internet are upon all of us.”

Ironically this paradigm changing solution is hidden in plain sight.  The problem both sides and the rest of the world is having is that you can’t change or even see a new paradigm from within an old one.  Until we can see that “transactional myopia” (win today, find something new to win at, win tomorrow all at someone else’s loss) is an idea whose time has come and gone we won’t be able to transcend our present paradigm in order to transform the world we all live in.

Mark Goulston, MD, is the author of the new bestselling book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

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