Click Here To Listen To The NEGOTIATEx Podcast

Key Takeaways

  • Five key conflict modes are identified - competition, cooperation, accommodation, avoidance, and compromise - with each mode exemplified by a different Star Wars character.
  • Changing from a default conflict mode is possible, but it requires a conscious, strategic choice, as illustrated by Darth Vader’s shift from competition to cooperation.
  • Understanding one’s default conflict mode is important to avoid unconscious biases influencing negotiation. Frequent cognitive reassessment can prevent these default modes from taking over.
  • There are different negotiation approaches - the competitive win-lose approach and the cooperative win-win approach that aims for mutually beneficial resolutions.
  • Successful negotiation requires the flexibility to switch between different negotiation styles, similar to how a Jedi uses various techniques and skills.
  • It’s important to have a diverse set of negotiation tactics and to make intentional negotiation decisions, much like pivotal choices made in the Star Wars saga.

Executive Summary:

Hey everyone, welcome back to the NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are continuing our conversation with Noam Ebner and Chad Austin, negotiation experts and contributors to the book Star Wars and Conflict Resolution

In part A of this episode, they discussed their experiences and strategies in negotiation and conflict resolution. Drawing on personal experiences, they explored how understanding diversity, self-awareness, and shared humanity can facilitate effective negotiation. 

They also delved into the unique challenges of teaching conflict resolution in varied contexts. In this one, they discuss a wide range of similar topics. So, without wasting any time, let’s get straight to the meat of the matter.

Unveiling the Interplay between Star Wars Characters and Conflict Resolution Strategies

Nolan resumes the conversation with Noam  Ebner and Chad  Austin by asking about their contributions to the book, “Star Wars and Conflict Resolution.” In particular, the focus is on the chapter “Resolving Conflict,” which looks at different conflict modes and strategic choices that individuals default to in a conflict. 

Noam responds by explaining that these modes, which he categorizes as competition, cooperation, accommodation, avoidance, and compromise, are deeply ingrained personality elements that develop early in life.

To illustrate these modes, Noam uses examples from the Star Wars franchise yet again. Anakin Skywalker is used to represent a competitive model as he is constantly engaged in competition and trying to win, from pod racing as a child to later in life as Darth Vader. 

Finn, on the other hand, is used as an example of cooperation, as he always works with others. C3PO is seen as an accommodator, always willing to surrender or give others what they want. Lastly, Uncle Owen (Owen Lars) is pointed out as an avoidant who would rather not get involved in conflicts.

Noam highlights that while it’s possible for people to act differently from their core programming, this requires a conscious decision. Without this decision, they will typically default to their ingrained conflict mode in any conflict situation.

Noam Explores the Feasibility of Deviating from Default Strategies through a Star Wars Analogy

Moving on, Aram poses a question to Noam about the ability to move away from our default conflict mode and make deliberate strategic decisions in negotiation. He asks whether such a shift is possible, given the powerful influence of our ingrained conflict modes. 

In response, Noam highlights the importance of understanding our programming and how challenging it can be to deviate from that.

Citing Darth Vader from Star Wars, he highlights the potential for change. Darth Vader is characterized as highly competitive, yet in a pivotal scene where he fights Luke on the catwalk in Cloud City, he surprisingly shifts from competition to cooperation. After nearly killing Luke, Vader offers collaboration, inviting Luke to join him. 

Vader attempts to negotiate on the basis of interests, trying to provide Luke with incentives that resonate with his deep sense of identity and meaning. Those incentives included offering to complete his training and proposing to rule the galaxy together as father and son. 

Noam emphasizes that this shift to a highly cooperative approach represents a conscious, intentional, strategic choice made by Darth Vader, indicating that it is possible to move away from our default conflict mode.

Embracing Self-Awareness in Conflict Transformation

Next, Noam discusses the importance of intentionality and self-awareness in conflict transformation. He asserts that it’s essential to understand the existence of personality-based conflict modes and to be familiar with one’s own default mode. Otherwise, individuals may unconsciously fall back on their ingrained responses when facing conflict, thinking that their reactions are contextually appropriate.

Noam advises that during the preparation phase for negotiation or conflict resolution, it’s crucial to scrutinize chosen strategies to ensure default modes do not influence them but are contextually, culturally, and personally suitable. He also suggests examining negotiation goals to ensure they are not driven by a competitive, avoiding, or accommodating personality but genuinely represent what one needs to achieve.

During the negotiation process, challenges and oppositions may occur frequently, triggering an individual’s default conflict mode. To counter this, Noam recommends taking breaks for cognitive reassessment. These breaks can be as short as a few seconds for breathing.

These moments allow for a mental reset and help prevent the default conflict mode from taking over. Lastly, Noam advocates for delaying decision-making, especially towards the end of a negotiation, to avoid the potential influence of unprocessed emotions or reactions that might sway one towards a less optimal outcome.

Contrasting Win-Lose and Win-Win Negotiation Paradigms

After that, Chad discusses how the negotiations depicted in Star Wars provide examples of different negotiation approaches and paradigms, especially the contrasting mindsets of win-lose and win-win negotiations.

In the win-lose scenario, Chad gives the example of the haggling scene over the price of passage to Alderan, primarily involving Han Solo, Ben, and Luke. Here, the negotiation revolves around a single resource – the price – and the finite sum to be divided. This approach, according to Chad, is quite similar to many real-world negotiations people encounter daily, like buying a car. 

However, many individuals may find this type of negotiation unsettling due to the competitive nature of it. The belief that for one party to win, the other has to lose can generate tension and potential conflicts.

On the other hand, the win-win, problem-solving negotiation approach is demonstrated in the interaction between Yoda and Ben over the training of Luke. Initially, Yoda adopts a positional stance, flatly refusing to train Luke. 

Ben, however, transitions into problem-solving, delving into Yoda’s underlying concerns and trying to address them to reach a mutually beneficial resolution. This approach aims to satisfy the interests of all parties involved rather than clinging to rigid positions.

Chad’s Training Exercises and the Power of Flexibility, As Illustrated by Luke Skywalker’s Journey,

Moving on, Nolan asks Chad to share his most important training exercises for those new to integrative negotiation. The latter strongly believes that the journey to mastering integrative negotiation is a process of continual practice and learning. For him, the key exercises to learn and master as a young negotiation padawan are as follows:

#1 Learning to go beyond positions 

Instead of merely focusing on what someone wants, a good negotiator should learn to ask why they want it in a non-threatening way. This helps to uncover the underlying interests and concerns.

#2 Developing good questioning skills 

The art of asking good questions is crucial. It’s not about the negotiator but rather, it’s about the other side. Understanding their story and interests and developing a trusting relationship can help create a deal that satisfies both parties.

#3 Generating options and evaluating them 

Negotiators should create a safe environment for brainstorming ideas, then move on to evaluating these options separately. This discipline helps in arriving at the most mutually beneficial solution.

Regarding the interplay between distributive and integrative approaches in negotiations, Chad emphasizes that successful negotiators should draw on both approaches to assess and respond strategically and authentically. It’s not just about win-lose or good-evil dynamics but about the flexibility to switch between negotiation styles as the situation demands.

He uses the example of Luke Skywalker’s character arc in Star Wars to illustrate his point. From A New Hope to Return of the Jedi, Luke evolves from an emotional, reckless young man to a confident Jedi master who uses various techniques and skills. 

Luke’s transformation is seen as a metaphor for a novice negotiator’s journey to becoming a master, learning from failures along the way and growing into a more thoughtful, strategic, and adaptable negotiator.

Drawing Lessons from Star Wars for Real-World Negotiation

In their closing remarks, Noam and Chad share their thoughts on how Star Wars can inform real-world conflict resolution and negotiation practices.

Noam highlights the importance of having a diverse “toolbox” of negotiation tactics. He points out that the Jedi, while generally proficient in conflict management, often fell into the trap of relying on a limited set of strategies. This occasionally led them to act in ways that contradicted their values. 

All in all, Noam’s takeaway is the necessity of intentional and strategic movement between different approaches to conflict and to avoid being a “one-trick pony” in negotiations.

Chad, on the other hand, highlights the role of choice in Star Wars and in real-world negotiation. Noting that many character arcs and plot points in the Star Wars series revolve around pivotal choices, he underscores the importance of intentional decision-making in effective negotiation.

As they wrap up the podcast, both speakers express gratitude for the opportunity to share their insights and enthusiasm for Star Wars. 

Thank you for listening!


Nolan Martin : Hey everyone, thanks for joining us on the NEGOTIATEx Podcast. We are continuing our conversation with Noam and Chad, if you haven't already checked out part A of the show, be sure to do that first. Let's jump into the conversation.

NM : We'd like to look closely at the chapters you both authored in part two, Resolving Conflict. Noam, your chapter deals with conflict modes and strategic choice. Could you summarize what these go-to natural responses we have? And who you see as people that embody these different modes in Star Wars.

Defaulting to Conflict Modes: Unveiling The Personality Traits Of Star Wars Characters (01:12)

Noam Ebner : Let me try to nutshell this, and let's see if I'll be successful in anything. The notion of conflict modes and styles is a fairly well accepted approach to understanding us in conflict. It's not agreed by everyone, but it's pretty well accepted in the field that most of us or all of us have a default mode of dealing with conflict that we default to when we fall into these situations. And of course we find ourselves in conflict situations all the time.

And some of us, let's say, just as a quick example, some of us tend to be highly competitive and try to vanquish the other. Some of us take a step back and try to avoid conflict. And these are the two easiest examples to give because if you are one or the other type, then you know that just by hearing me saying, if your mode is to rush in and you know, try and win the game, that means that your style, your mode, your default mode is a competitive mode. And if you find yourself trying to, I just hope you know nobody's angry at me and I hope this doesn't turn into a fight, then you have an avoidant mode.

And these modes, essentially they're personality elements and they're deeply ingrained and basically, I mean they're in place. Developmental psychologists would be able to tell you exactly when they're in place, but they're in place very early on. And so the idea is that we default to one of four or five modes. One of them is competition, cooperation, accommodation or yielding, just giving the other party what they want, avoidance, trying to avoid the conflict, trying not to get involved. And a fifth mode is compromise. Trying to split the difference, split the issue under contention.

And there are many examples in the Star Wars world of most of these, not of all of these, there's no one more competitive in the Star Wars universe than Anakin Skywalker. And you followed his arc and remember that from a child, even though he gave without any thought of in return, he was one heck of a competitive pod racer. And then he turned into, you know, Anakin Darth, ‘Mr. If you're not with me, you're my enemy’. And that was only in the middle of his arc. So he saw everything as a competition. Think about his conversations with Obiwan, his teacher.

Obiwan is trying to teach him and he's always fighting with him. Think about his interactions with Padme, even as he is wooing Padme, he's wooing her through one upping and sniping and badgering and harassing and all sorts of things. Some of them that are more, you know, flashing red emergency lights than others. But generally speaking, it's all competitive.

And on the other hand, let's say cooperative people, one good example is Finn in the sequel trilogy. From the moment we start seeing him just try and get him to stop offering you his hand or taking your hand and doing things together, he always works with other people. That's his default mode. There aren't many people in Star Wars who try to avoid conflict because it's sort of a hero movie, right? There aren't many cowards and avoidance isn't a cowardly trait at all. But it's often sort of conflated with that. And so it doesn't read, well, it's Star Wars, not ‘Star Surrendering’. And so there is one character in Star Wars who is just looking for someone to surrender, and that's C3PO of course, right? [laugh], ditto goes for accommodation, you know, just give them what they want.

So, it might be that C3PO is more of an accommodator than an avoider, and I think that that's probably likely. And one avoider is Uncle Owen who doesn't want to get involved, at least as he was portrayed in episode four, he was more developed when we saw him in the series, Obiwan Kenobe. He has a deep avoidance rate. And the idea behind these conflict modes is, yeah, we can act different than what our conflict mode than what our core programming is, but in order to act differently, we need to decide to act differently. And if we don't consciously decide to act differently, we're largely going to act according to these modes in all of the conflicts we find ourselves in.

Aram Donigian : Yeah, that really gets to you posed this beautiful question and I was going to ask you to answer it. I think you're starting to lead us there in terms of being able to move away from our default mode. What you wrote was successful negotiation requires constant strategizing, choosing between tactics, considering options, and other aspects of deliberate decision making.

In short, to negotiate well, we must choose and then you pose the question, but as such choice possible, given the power of our default conflict mode, can you answer that and maybe give an example from Star Wars?

Negotiating Destiny: An Exploration Of Free Will And Conflict Modes In Star Wars (05:33)

NE : The overall approach as to sort of mode I connect it like with the notion of destiny in Star Wars, this originally started out as something that turned into a very philosophical question of destiny and free will. Do I have to do what I'm programmed to do or can I make my choices for me? And then I said, no, no, that's for Star Wars and philosophy. We're at Star Wars and negotiation and conflict resolution here. Let's bring that down to earth. So what's the notion of destiny or pre ordination in negotiation and conflict? So that's our poor programming, our poor personality, psychology of our personality. And so changing from that, moving aside from that is really difficult, particularly at first.

And yet it is possible. As an example, best example in Star Wars and example that I give in the chapter is the example of Darth Vader, who is, as I said, the most competitive person, but yet there's this moment, one of the first deeply competitive scenes we see him in fighting with Luke on the catwalk in Cloud city. And all of a sudden once he's vanquished Luke and he's about to kill him, he suddenly reaches his handout and he starts saying, join me, come with me. He starts offering him collaboration. He starts seeking cooperation with him and he starts offering Luke all kind of incentives to work with him.

He basically starts to engage with Luke in interest-based negotiation, par excellence, trying to find what can I offer you that'll make it worth your while in a deep sense of identity and meaning to join the dark side, join me and I'll complete your training. You're looking for a teacher, right? Because your last teacher sort of left you, oh wait, that was me, but still you need a teacher, you know, join me and we'll rule the galaxy together as father and son, right? Haven't you been looking for that affiliation all your life?

So all of a sudden you see him shift to this highly, highly, highly cooperative and interest-based mode that is absolutely not the Anakin/Darth Vader we see in most of his scenes where he's just as likely to force choke you as ask you to move out of the way. He knew that that was the approach he needed to take in this strategic situation. So he made that conscious, intentional strategic choice.

AD : Nice example.

NM : Yep. And Noam, I really appreciate your focus on intentionality and transforming conflict. So could you talk to those behaviors as you see it critical for remaining intentional in both the preparation phase and also while in the moment or at the table?

Conquering Default Mode: Strategies For Conscious Decision-Making In Conflict (07:56)

NE : Well, one thing to note is that you can't be intentional about this kind of shift unless you are aware of the existence of these personality based conflict modes and you are familiar with your own. If you're not, you're usually at least going to be implementing your default programming and thinking that you are making contextually apt choices. So the first thing is, you know, read the chapter or you know, learn about it in a hundred other ways, in a hundred other books, assuming you've passed that, then you run into the fact that conflict keeps posing these situations in which we feel threatened or which we feel countered in which basically in which someone else is telling us no. And basically every time anybody else tells us no, or we even imagine the other person telling us no, our conflict mode reveals its head because oh, I know what we do when people don't want to give us what we want and it tries to take over again. So it takes a lot of ongoing intentionality.

So that means that in the preparation mode you need to double to second check your chosen strategy in order to make sure that it's not a default mode fed driven strategy, but rather it's contextually and culturally and personally suited. You need to check the goal that you're setting for yourself, asking whether my goal might not be driven, my high aspiration or my low aspiration might not be a competitive personality, an avoiding or accommodating personality move rather than this is what I actually need to get.

As you go along in the negotiation, you're going to meet these moments of ‘no’ or of challenge a thousand times as you go along. And that's why things like taking breaks in the middle for reassessment of cognitive reassessment, 10 minute break or a day break or a week's break can be very helpful. Taking short breaks in the middle, and this could be a two second breathing break where you just don't respond very quickly and you sort of unhook yourself from that default mode taking over, can be very, very valuable.

And in general, I'm a fan of the, not deciding at the table at the last offer of the final. I'm a fan of doing everything you can in order to step away and say, great, I'm really happy we reached that. How about we take a day to think about it? I'll give you my answer in X. And even though you might be pressured to give your answer on the spot, I do my best to work around those because I know that there's always a chance that something has taken over my thinking process and it just seems to be the right thing to agree to at the moment, but it's really not.

AD : Chad, let's switch over to your chapter. You discussed the art of negotiation as taught in Star Wars. How do you see the characters we all know so well as demonstrating differences in what you kind of term as win-lose or zero sum versus win-win or maybe a more problem solving approach or mindset?

Lessons From A Problem-Solving Jedi And The Art Of Interest-Based Negotiation in Star Wars (10:52)

Chad Austin : Thank you for the question. This goes again to that initial appeal to Star Wars movies, looking at, A New Hope, and watching that as a kid and seeing the introduction of different types of negotiating approaches and paradigms was a way of, if you will, bringing me into the force and how you negotiate. Let's start with an Alderan. One of the first negotiations I saw as a youngster was over the price of passage to Alderan. And I would describe that sort of as that win-lose mentality, just a couple of elements when we start looking at a framework on how do you negotiate every credit, every dollar that I get is one less that you get and you see Han Solo, Ben, and Luke to a lesser extent, what are they primarily negotiating for? Only price, and they’re using certain tactics, it's a very finite set problem solving, or excuse me, not problem solving approach to try and divide up those resources and that scene doesn't take very long. And so that's an example. I can class, I can show and cadets can relate to it because they know, hey, I may not haggled over Starfly passage, but maybe it's going to be over an F-22 jet. Or most of them have bought a car and they're intimately familiar with it. And before we move to the other problem solving model that I'll talk about, is a lot of cadets find that they don't like this type of negotiation, this win-lose, that competitiveness, just like Noam was talking about. Maybe they adopt that conflict style and in order for me to win, you have to lose. And they find that conflict unsettling. Interesting, depending on how they handle that, it's usually like a day one or day two lesson that may create a reputation that follows them throughout the rest of the semester that they might have to overcome.

Moving a little bit later into the movie and the series, that's where we get the introduction, particularly I think with Yoda once he's a character and Ben as more senior, more wise in folks to realize I don't necessarily have to win and you don't necessarily have to lose. Let's figure out what's really going on here and what are we talking about. Sort of that problem solving, interest based negotiation. And one of the first sequences I saw that were following the story and going, hey, they did a pretty good job, was when there was a negotiation between Ben and Yoda over the training of Luke. You know, it started out sort of as positional, I will not train this boy, I will not train him.

And then Ben demonstrated sort of this problem solving, trying to figure out, well what is it that's really concerning Yoda? Yoda was concerned about recklessness and emotion and being too old. And then what did Ben do? Well, let's problem solve, let me bring in a different element that maybe we're not using in this win-lose. And let's talk about Preston. You trained me once, I was once young and reckless and addressed some of those underlying concerns. And it makes me think of the quote used, I think a few times in the movies, “there's another way”, it's more complicated, however, it's far more rewarding. It's the idea of let's do win-win. Let's maybe start with what we identify as a problem.

Let's uncover behind those positions. Like if you were looking at an iceberg on Hoff just above the waterline, you'd see the tip. You might think, well that's the position, that's what someone wants. This problem-based solving. Why is that? What is it we're trying to satisfy? And then coming up with creative options and trying to do that. As Noam said earlier, this is just that real introduction to folks who are reading the book who might not have a background that they can begin to think intentionally about, well how am I going to negotiate? What skills can I possibly draw upon to become a better negotiator?

AD : Yeah, beautiful.

NM : Chad, you state that integrative negotiation takes practice. As a negotiation Jedi master, what are the key exercises that you believe are essential for a young negotiation padawan or youngling to learn and master?

The Art of Negotiation Explained From The Lens Of Luke Skywalker And Yoda’s Character Arcs (14:40)

CA : Terrific. Well, drawing upon Yoda as a mentor, I'm almost at his age, I'm getting there. [laugh] So, I tell my students like, I'm your coach, we're going to work together. This is a skills-based course. Repetition, practice, intentionality, strategic choices are welcome to make you your natural ability and bring you to hopefully that Master Jedi level. And just to highlight a couple of things that we work on, I discussed in the chapter is, one is just learning to go beyond that position that we've already talked about, what somebody wants to figuring out why? What's the skill there? And maybe simply learning how to ask the question why in a non-threatening way.

And you'll see students and hopefully the readers of the book when they start to not just take something at face value but ask why or help me understand that. I'll have that epiphany, have that moment where like, wow, there's a whole lot going on here. And part of developing beyond just the why is the skill in developing good questions, there's an art to it.

I was a journalist in college and one of the things that I learned that I tried to pass on to cadets, and I think that helps make me a good negotiator is it's not about me, it's about the other side. It's about learning the story. It's about learning what their interest is. It's about developing that relationship for trust so that people can begin to share information that might be exploited by another.

And these questions will help you assemble the puzzle pieces for a deal that's both profound professionally, but then also personally. Another skill we try and develop as well, how do you satisfy those interests? Generating options and being disciplined, like as we go from being on the Millennium Falcon to swinging that light saber around to being very intentional and having a skill and learning to have, hey, there's actually two steps.

There's the generation, we're going to create a safe environment and we're going to just brainstorm, draw upon the force and come up with lots of great ideas, hopefully. And then we'll move into the separate phase of evaluation. And students, at least mine, they struggle with this. And that's where I really do see the skills course. And think of Star Wars like, hey, we need to slow down here, you need to be intentional. It's like, I'm Yoda and we're in Dagobah, and you're doing one arm handstand. You're juggling all these different elements and you have to be precise and thoughtful.

AD : So Chad, near the end of your chapter, you shared this wonderful insight that our choice between distributive and integrative approaches is not really about lose-win, evil-good, Sith-Jedi, dark-light, rather successful negotiators draw on both approaches to assess and respond strategically and authentically.

Could you share a little bit more about this insight and specifically how do you see Luke's character arc as demonstrative of your point?

CA : Great. Well a, you'll remember when we were teaching in the classroom together, we would often start with a really basic slide. And over the course of the semester, we would begin to unpack all of these skills, all of these approaches, all these techniques that students would learn throughout the semester. And we would try to explain to them, there just isn't one way. You have this incredible Jedi tool belt where sometimes you're going to draw upon your lightsaber, sometimes you're going to draw upon your force power.

Sometimes you're in negotiation, you're going to have to switch over to the win-lose mentality when there is a fixed resource. And you're going to have to use that skill to haggle over credits. Other times you're going to need to broaden and use this problem solving base. You need to be flexible, you need to go in having intentionally thought as a Jedi warrior would think about what's success, what's the strategy for getting there? And then deploy and utilize all of your tools. It takes time to get there. And by the end of the semester, that initial slide, as it's unpacked, there's that moment where students will look at, holy cow, I really did learn a lot and have lots of different things that I can draw upon.

I think of Luke Skywalker, when you think of A New Hope, when he starts out his hair here's kind of long, he's very emotional, he rushes into things, he speaks his mind, he's not particularly intentional and then maybe all shared this nerd moment. I still remember, I get chills in a nerd sense when I think about it. At the beginning of ‘Return Of The Jedi’, holy cow, who's this guy? What's Luke Skywalker? He is in this black outfit, his hair's cut and he walks into Jabba's Palace and he has all of these different techniques and all of these different skills that he uses. And there's confidence that I think is projected on the screen that resonated with me.

I wanted to be that Jedi master. I wanted to uncover what Jabba's Interests were. I wanted to have a backup plan. And I think over time, part of the appeal is seeing that arc of Luke and seeing the times also when he failed along the way, the skill of a good Jedi, the skill of a good negotiator is learning and reflecting. And there's so many moments when I watch these movies over and over again trying to figure out what to write about. I think Anakin and Luke really offer some of the richest cinema history to draw upon character arcs and their ability to relate it to negotiations.

I was cheering for Luke from the beginning, but at the end he also earned my respect and I wanted to be like, and he became an aspirational character. And that's what I want my students to see when they enter day one or day two and they see me negotiate with them and they say, I want to be like that Yoda guy. I want to take my raw talent and I want to get skilled. And then hopefully I can, what can be done?

NM : [laugh]. Great insights. Thank you. Noam. Your co-editor Jen Reynolds wrote a chapter on mediation. You're both trained in practicing mediators. How do the concepts that Jen writes about show up both in Star Wars as well as in your work when you are serving as a third party mediator?

The Subtle Instances Of Mediation Principles And Strategies In The Star Wars Universe (20:28)

NE : Well, how long have you got [laugh] [laugh]? But I set this up and Chad answers the question, but I'll set it up by saying this. So Jen's chapter is brilliant in the sense that she took upon herself to write a chapter on mediation in Star Wars. When you view Star Wars, the 11 movie saga start to finish, you realize that there's not a whole lot of mediation in there. There's a lot of conflict, there's a lot of negotiation, there's a lot of other stuff. Very, very little things that can be identified as, oh wait, here are two parties coming together with the assistance of a neutral third party to sit down, and no.

And in fact the sort of central example that she played off of throughout some of her chapter is the example of the fight in ‘A New Hope’ between Darth Vader and Admiral Motti, I think. Vader found his lack of faith disturbing and force choked him as a result. And Tarkin walks by and says, okay, you know, Vader enough, like release him. And Vader says as you wish and releases him. That's not exactly mediation, you know, as we teach, practice or study it. But that's sort of one of the only overt two parties are really, really fighting and somebody comes and does something non-coercive to end it. Like Tarkin can't really pull rank on Vader, but still Vader releases. And so there's hardly any mediation in Star Wars.

And yet, as Jen points out in the chapter, mediation is more than a process in which you know, more than a table set up like two sides and a third party setting up. Mediation is a worldview or worldviews, it's a set of values, it's a set of core principles. And when you think about those core principles, so what is mediation about?

Mediation is about voluntary participation and conflict or its resolution. Mediation is about communication, bad communication, hopefully enhancing it to good communication. It's about recognizing that everybody has a reason for being involved in a conflict. It's not just that one person is evil and the other person is good. Generally there's more to it than that. It's about understanding that conflict usually doesn't end with one person vanquishing the other. Even though it often seems to us that that's how our conflict is going to end. And that mediation is about repairing relationships, whether it's an ad hoc relationship in the room, we can bring it to a level where we can speak to each other and work things out or improving relationships on a deeper level, on really transforming relationships. And transforming relationships whether to solve this problem or to transcend ourselves or to plan a better future.

So, all of these are core elements of what mediation is about. And we see those core elements play out in, you know, microdynamics and larger dynamics in every mediation room. And Jen suggests that all of those are what Star Wars are about also. Star Wars is about second chances. Star Wars is about choices, about whether to fight or leave. It's about whether to engage or avoid, it's choices about whether to build relationships or run away from relationships. It's about good communication or you know, it's about negotiating or aggressive negotiations. And ultimately the victories in Star Wars are not one by blowing up the Death Star. Although we continuously fall into that pattern and say, well if we just blow up the Death Star, it'll be okay. No, it turns out that the empire builds a second Death Star. Oh we blew that up. Oh no Starkiller Base. What do we do now, right?

And it turns out that when you look at the movies, you find that all of the movies in the end, the conflicts were resolved through interaction. The conflicts were resolved through repairing relationships through second chances, through growing through conflicts, through seeing each other in a new light. All of these things that we talk about all day in mediation are really the underlying themes of Star Wars, even though it's easy just to see the flashy, flashy blasters and X-wings and lightsabers and think that it's all about clashes. So Chad, where do you see that?

From Dark Side to Reconciliation: Mediation's Journey in Star Wars (24:41)

CA : Wow. How long do you have as you said? I think what resonates with me from the movies and Jen's article and practical experience, boy, that role of emotion. Both in the movies and in the mediation and understanding and not giving in, if you will, to the dark side where it can be corruptive and it can break down deals and it can wreck your satisfaction with life in your place in the universe. But being as a mediator, like a Yoda or a Ben figure as opposed to Palpatine in a guide, putting people in touch at least initially and a mediation with what's brought you here, what are the feelings you have? Let's let that electricity come out of your lightning bolts, let's get it off your chest, let's work there. And then as we work through some of those emotions, because as Noam said, this is a voluntary process, what's really behind some of that, let's say the heart emotion, it's a desire for reconciliation.

And at the end of the day, as bad as Darth Vader Anakin was, what did he really want to do? He wanted to, once he was in touch with his feelings, he wanted to reconcile with Luke Skywalker. And I think that emphasis on reconciliation in a mediation and that desire to do so can really unlock many of the things we're talking about. How do you get to, yes? How do you solve that problem? How do you bring peace to the galaxy in your workplace? Because it's no fun having conflict going on where you're trying to blow up each other's ‘Starkillers’ or ‘Rebel Base’, that sort of thing. And then finally, I just say from Star Wars, I often think, boy, if we could just get these people in a room and talk through things, we probably have a much more peaceful resolution.

So sort of that reminder at the end of the day, with a good guide and a good process in mediation, a safe space, if we learn to understand one another, it goes back to my earlier point, we have so much in common and more often than not we can find a solution.

AD : Yeah, what you both said kind of reminded me of the Bill Ury concept of step into the balcony. And it really seems as you kind of, that's something that Obiwan or Yoda, as you master the force you're able to do a little more effectively. Critical as a mediator. Pretty important as a negotiator too.

So, we hear that episode two is in the works. What can you tell us about this intended direction? Is it too late to submit a proposal to you? If so, how do you get into episode three? What can you tell us about this next piece that's coming out?

Part Two Of Noam’s Book And Exploring Fan-Centric Conflict Analysis (27:07)

NE : So I'll start from the end. It's definitely not too late for episode three, which is sort of my way of saying that we hope to do more projects in the future, both on Star Wars but also on other pop culture phenomena. We started with Star Wars because of our love for Star Wars and because we're both so Star Wars fluent. But you could take just about any TV series, you know, movie, movie saga that has these large scale fandoms and work with it.

You know, think about Game of Thrones or Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and smaller ones as well. And so we hope to be doing some of those. So check in with us in a few months or in a year or hopefully you'll hear from us,

AD : We're going to be. Nolan and I have a great idea for Andor, if nobody's taken that one yet. So.

NE : So I would love to have a book on Andor, which is just, you know, chock full of conflict and resolution issues, both large scale because it's about the rebellions formation and also just the same interpersonal interaction. It's wonderful. So the next book will not include Andor, we stuck to the movies because we're sort of sticking to the common denominators, what most people have seen.

We want to do other books on the extra material, which is wonderful material for conflict. Andor, The Clone Wars, and The Mandalorian, and Mors. So episode two note, sorry, but we've already had a call for paper, had another rush, just like the first time. Turns out that there are a lot of us nerds out there in the galaxy. We went, we were overwhelmed once again with these proposals and choosing them is always the hardest part because there's nothing wrong with any of them. We chose a little different approach and maybe this is like the difference between the last book and the next. In the first one, one of the things we're very careful to do is to include sort of basic intros to, right? So a chapter that introduced mediation and discuss in the start, that introduced the basics of negotiation as Chad wrote and introduced it in Star Wars. The basics of arbitration and some of the basic dynamics of conflict. You know, things that, let's say that our conflict courses wouldn't be complete without or you couldn't even get started without them. And in the second book, we’re not taking that sort of basic conflict curriculum approach to this. And rather we're taking a more viewer-centric approach and saying, you know, how do people watch Star Wars and how would they like to read about Star Wars?

So, in this book we just decided to focus on movies or on trilogies and we said let's just hear your ideas for conflict topics in Star Wars, but think about conflict topics that can be, you know, fully addressed within a single movie or within a single trilogy at most. And we think that that's a fan-centric idea because all fans have their favorite movie or have their favorite trilogy or generationally, they were brought into Star Wars on a certain trilogy and perhaps they have the favorite trilogy to love and their favorite trilogy to hate.

And people you know, deal with this differently. And interestingly, so we wanted to make it more of a book that no matter what your Star Wars story is, you would have a section like a large swath of the book that was just tailored for you. And so that's the organizing principle of this book. because in the end, this is not a conflict curriculum, it's not your typical conflict course. This is reaching out to all of those fans who are fans just like us, and we're trying to open a door to bring them into our world through Star Wars.

AD : We're going to look forward to that next episode, next book coming out. So we'll look forward to that.

NM : All right, well thank you both for the wonderful insights that you shared with us today. As we prepare to conclude, do you have any final thoughts to leave with our listeners on how to use the force to become better, more effective negotiators, conflict transformers in their lives?

Noam And Chad's Closing Words: Intentionality, Strategy, And The Power Of Choice (30:49)

NE : Okay, do I have an insight? Well, I have 12, but do I have one? You know, I want to say something that I think runs a little counter to what Chad said before, but as an overall insight, perhaps Chad will agree with me, you talk about the Jedi toolbox and how they had multiple approaches to conflict and indeed generally speaking they did. But I think the one thing that Jedi suffered from is they did suffer from a certain constrained mindset of how you deal with conflict that led them into acting differently than they intended to in differently than their values.

You know, once the Jedi mind trick didn't work, Jedi only had one other go-to move. And that was, I'll put it this way, for people who are, you know, dealing with peace and justice in the galaxy, they were blasting and light sabering their way like an awful lot of time. And I think part of it is because in terms with dealing with conflict, they were overly reliant on the force and in sort of wizard-like tools. And they didn't have a rich negotiation toolbox like everybody else. All of us here in this galaxy who are not Jedi, we need a much richer toolbox to get along.

So my one insight from Star Wars is the Jedi couldn't afford to be one trick ponies, right? We certainly can't afford to be one trick ponies. We need to be able to be intentionally and strategically, as I said before, able to move between different approaches and have more than one tool in our box. I'll leave it at that

NM : Over to you, Chad.

CA : That's great. Hopefully the Jedi is all on the cutting room floor. All those other tools that they could have employed. I think the insight for me that I would leave is choice. The importance of choice in Star Wars. When you think about almost every character arc, so many plot points are, there's the choice, do I join the alliance? Do I strike someone down? Do I give into the dark side? And it was an intentional choice often and intentional choices are part of being a good negotiator. So that's what I would say as a negotiator, think about choice, be intentional, and may the force be with you always.

NM : Thank you both of y'all. Want to be the first to say thank you so much again for being on the podcast and I'll turn it over to Aram.

AD : Yeah, I'm going to say thank you both as well and thanks for those final two insights, many tools in our toolkits, the power of choice. You've given us the skills I think like the Millennium Falcon to be able to navigate or negotiate the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. Feel very confident that our listeners will do that and I hope they've had some fun as they've listened to. And I'll just say, may the force be with you both always as well.

NE : Thank you. Thank you everyone.

NM : Yes. Thank you very much for listening to the podcast. May the force be with you and we'll see you in the next episode.

Featured EpisodesWe host some of the smartest minds in business

Join The NEGOTIATEx Team.

It is our promise that we will deliver massive value to your inbox in the form of new content notifications, exclusive content and more. Join the team today.

    Contact Us