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Key Takeaways

  • Diversity and challenging preconceived notions are crucial in effective conflict resolution. Different people have diverse perspectives shaped by their cultural and environmental contexts.
  • Self-understanding and recognizing shared humanity can facilitate successful negotiation and conflict resolution. Being in unfamiliar environments can prompt self-reflection and a deeper understanding of oneself.
  • Teaching conflict resolution at service academies involves unique challenges and responsibilities, including being a mentor and role model, focusing on ethics, and preparing students for impactful roles.
  • Adapting negotiation and conflict resolution teachings across diverse contexts is essential. It’s necessary to overcome resistance from students questioning the relevance of negotiation skills to their fields.
  • Chad believes popular culture can offer valuable insights into conflict resolution strategies. His work on the ‘Star Wars and Conflict Resolution book is influenced by his lifelong passion for Star Wars.

Executive Summary:

Hey there, folks! We’re thrilled to have you join us for a riveting new episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. We are delighted to host Noam Ebner and Chad Austin to discuss their work which they discuss in their book ‘Star Wars and Conflict Resolution.’

Noam is a professor of negotiation and conflict resolution at Creighton University. He has worked internationally as an attorney, negotiator, mediator, and trainer, including leadership roles in community mediation programs in Israel. Noam has also published widely on negotiation conflict and its resolution and is currently co-editing the second episode of his popular book, ‘Star Wars and Conflict Resolution.’

Coming to Chad, he is a professor of law at the United States Air Force Academy, specializing in teaching negotiations, law for the Air Force officer, and advanced topics in the law of armed conflict. Chad is also a contributor to ‘Star Wars and Conflict Resolution.’ 

Additionally, he is a volunteer mediator for the Colorado Federal Executive Board and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Warsaw Faculty Law School. He serves as a judge advocate general in the Air Force Reserve.

In this episode, the speakers aim to explore the intersection of conflict resolution and the Star Wars universe. So, without any further ado, let’s jump right in.

Embracing Diversity through Cross-Cultural Experiences and Challenging Preconceived Notions

Firstly, Noam talks about how his personal experiences living in different cultures and environments have shaped his approach to conflict resolution. He emphasizes the importance of understanding that different people have diverse perspectives on what is normal and how this shapes their understanding of situations.

Drawing a metaphor from a scene in Star Wars “A New Hope,” Noam compares his cross-cultural experiences to Luke Skywalker’s first steps into a larger universe. He details his journey from New York City to Israel as a child and then back to the United States, this time in Jacksonville, Florida. Each place, he observes, is very different from the others and has contributed to his realization of the world’s vastness and diversity.

According to Noam, these different environments have made him aware of the preconceived notions he might bring into new situations. This awareness helps him to avoid making assumptions when he is in a new environment, whether it’s a classroom or a mediation room in a different country or even a legal situation in a different legal culture. 

His main takeaway is the importance of treading with caution and avoiding assumptions, as one’s perspective of what is “normal” may not align with that of others in a different culture or environment.

The Power of Self-Understanding and Shared Humanity in Conflict Resolution

Subsequently, Chad shares how his experiences studying and living abroad have significantly influenced his approach to conflict resolution. Two main points stand out from his reflections.

Firstly, Chad mentions how being in unfamiliar environments forces a deeper understanding of oneself. He suggests that being in a new place, particularly when you’re uncomfortable, prompts self-reflection. This self-awareness, including understanding one’s strengths, weaknesses, and conflict style, is crucial in effective negotiation. 

Recognizing the characteristics of others involved in the negotiation, particularly when they’re from different cultural or geographic backgrounds, is also essential.

Secondly, Chad underscores the commonality among people despite their differences. He shares his experiences, from casual chats in England and France to serious negotiations in war-torn Baghdad, highlighting that regardless of the setting or context, people share similar desires for respect, value, and mutually beneficial solutions. 

He strongly believes that this awareness of shared humanity leads to the confidence that solutions can be reached even in situations that initially appear alien or intimidating. A skilled negotiator or mediator, he suggests, uses their curiosity to find this common ground and come up with viable solutions.

The Unique Challenges and Responsibilities of Teaching Conflict Resolution at Service Academies

Next, Chad discusses his experiences teaching conflict resolution at service academies like the United States Air Force Academy and Annapolis. His reflections highlight three key differences in this context:

#1 Relationship With Students 

Chad highlights that his role goes beyond being a teacher. He serves as a mentor and role model, guiding students on their journey to becoming officers. His teaching is not only about getting the best business deal but also about molding good officers, emphasizing aspects like relationship-building, respect, communication, and joint exploration of alternatives. 

#2 Focus On Ethics And Character 

As part of developing “leaders of character,” Chad’s courses at the service academies also focus on ethical considerations in negotiation. He recalls an incident where a student questioned whether he was teaching them to manipulate people, leading to deeper reflections on his teaching approach.

#3 Ultimate Client And The Responsibility 

Chad sees an immense responsibility in preparing his students, who are often at the beginning of their journey, for potentially high-ranking military roles that can impact the world significantly. He alludes to the potential for conflict resolution in geopolitical hotspots like Indo-Pacific, Iraq, Russia, and Ukraine.

Chad briefly contrasts these experiences with teaching civilians, who often bring their personal experiences, perspectives, and practical knowledge into the classroom. He observes that civilian students often adopt a harder bargaining approach in negotiation.

Adapting Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Teachings Across Diverse Contexts

Noam builds on Chad’s observations by sharing his experiences teaching in “non-service institutions,” which include various public and private universities around the world. However, he notes that there is a parallel in service orientation as he currently teaches at Creighton University, a Jesuit institution that aims to educate students to serve others and improve the world.

He uses the analogy of the Star Wars character C3PO, who can communicate in many languages, to illustrate the role of a teacher. Ebner emphasizes the importance of adapting teaching methods to the specific context of each institution and each program – be it a leadership program, social work program, management program, law program, or negotiation and conflict resolution program.

Despite these varied contexts, he finds many commonalities in what students need to learn about negotiation, regardless of whether they are in a leadership position or not. The fundamental aspects of negotiation remain largely the same, while the differences lie mainly in the frames of understanding through which students are taught to see the world.

Another challenge Noam highlights is overcoming resistance from students who question the relevance of negotiation skills to their respective fields. In his experience teaching in Israel, for example, where many students have military backgrounds, some students initially struggled to reconcile negotiation’s collaborative approach with their experience in hierarchical military settings. 

However, throughout the program, these students came to recognize that negotiation is an essential part of their roles, regardless of where they are in the chain of command. Understanding and navigating these pathways of learning is a fascinating aspect of teaching for Ebner.

Leveraging Star Wars to Broaden Reach and Relevance of Conflict Resolution Education

Moving on, Aram asks Noam about his recent collaboration with other conflict resolution experts on the book ‘Star Wars and Conflict Resolution.’ He is curious about the inspiration behind this work and how the conflict-rich Star Wars storyline can offer insights into conflict resolution.

Noam responds by highlighting that he has wanted to write this book since his first negotiation class, noticing the strong connections between the Star Wars narrative and the principles of conflict resolution. 

However, as his career progressed, he felt the need to link this idea to a larger purpose. He often encountered the realization among students that conflict resolution skills were not just valuable for their professional lives but were universally beneficial. This idea led him to envision the transformative effect on the world if everyone knew more about handling conflict constructively.

That being said, he admits that traditional teaching methods can only reach a limited number of people, and there are several barriers like lack of awareness, cost, and time commitments that restrict wider access. Therefore, Noam has been exploring ways to scale up the reach of his teachings, such as through massive open online courses.

This desire to teach on a larger scale, combined with his mutual love for Star Wars with co-author Jen, led to the idea of using popular culture as a tool for teaching conflict resolution. 

Noam acknowledges that while he may be unable to draw a large audience to listen to him talk about conflict resolution, a renowned franchise like Star Wars could help. Afterall, it already has an audience of millions who might be open to learning about conflict resolution if presented within the familiar context of Star Wars. 

A Deep Dive into Pop Culture’s Role in Understanding Conflict Resolution

Next, Aram asks Chad about his motivations for joining Noam and Jen in their project. In response, Chad mentions remembering being thrilled when he first saw the call for proposals because he felt the topic was tailor-made for him. 

He recounts his first engagement with Star Wars as a child and describes how it deeply resonated with him throughout his life. The project presented an opportunity to delve into why generations have been captivated by Star Wars, quoting “the ways of the Force” and identifying with characters like Han Solo, Darth Vader, or Palpatine and their methods of resolving conflict.

Chad found writing the chapter also provided a chance to explain his work in a more accessible way to friends and family, using Star Wars as a common reference point. He reiterates a promise he makes to his class on the first day: that he will teach them to see the world differently. 

He believes there are lessons to be learned from popular culture, be it Star Wars, Seinfeld, or Peaky Blinders, and that these can offer insights into conflict resolution.

Chad, Noam, Aram, and Nolan discuss a lot more on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. Write to us at team@negotiatex.com and share your thoughts on this very informational podcast episode.

Thank you for your time!


Nolan Martin : Hello and welcome to the NEGOTIATEx podcast. I'm very excited for this one. Aram has been dreaming of this day and it has finally come. If you aren't watching this show, you're going to want to watch this one. So make sure you go to our YouTube channel and check out this episode. But Aram, I will kick it over to you because I know you are excited.

Aram Donigian : [Strange Noise]

That was my best impression of a Wookie. Folks, welcome to what I hope is going to be a wonderful program as we combine two different galaxies here, the galaxy in which we live, and a galaxy far, far away. So, let's start with introducing our guests. And a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was a kid in a movie theater who watched one spaceship solely being pulled toward another by a tractor beam. Today that kid, Noam Ebner is a professor of negotiation and conflict resolution at Creighton University, practicing as an attorney, negotiator, mediator, and trainer.

Noam has helped clients around the world work through complex issues and navigate sensitive situations. He's originally from New York and he has lived in Israel for many years, training mediators for the Israeli court system, and played leadership roles in establishing several community mediation programs. Noam has published his research on negotiation conflict and its resolution in numerous places and is co-editor of the book ‘Star Wars and Conflict Resolution’, which is what we're going to talk about today. He co-edited that book with Professor Jen Reynolds of the University of Oregon, and he is now working with his co-editor on episode two of their popular book. Maybe we can get some highlights of what that may look like as we go through this.

Joining Noam, we have Chad Austin, who has spent his professional life trying to bring balance to the force, a professor of law at the United States Air Force Academy. Chad teaches negotiations, law for the Air Force officer and advanced topics in the law of armed conflict. I had the great privilege of teaching alongside Chad for a couple years at the Air Force Academy and we are good friends. He has presented his scholarship throughout the world, focusing on teaching pedagogy and international and humanitarian law.

Additionally, he is a contributor to this book, ‘Star Wars and Conflict Resolution’. Chad has taught negotiation to federal agencies, is a frequent guest instructor at the Air Force Negotiation Center of Excellence and serves as a volunteer mediator for the Colorado Federal Executive Board. He was a Fulbright Scholar to the University of Warsaw Faculty Law School and also serves as a judge advocate general in the Air Force Reserve holding the rank of colonel. In 2008, Chad deployed to Iraq to negotiate with Iraqi entities to help restore judicial capacity and for his service was recognized as the 2009 Air Force Reserve Judge Advocate of the year. Let me add, that Chad's views expressed on our program are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the US Air Force Academy, the US Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the US government. With that, let me say hello there and thank you both for being on our program.

Noam Ebner : Thank you so much. Welcome.

Chad Austin : It’s an honor to be here. Thank you.

AD : Thanks. Listen, you both have legal backgrounds and you've spent time abroad. How have your experiences influenced how you think about conflict resolution as well as how you approach its application, whether in working with students, clients, or anyone else in your own personal and professional lives?

Noam’s Experience With Embracing a Multicultural Universe And Navigating Diverse Perspectives In Conflict Resolution (04:07)

NE : If I can jump in, first of all, I have to stress that my views are my own personal views and do not reflect those of the official rebel alliance in anyway, [laugh]. And then coming back to our galaxy, I'll say this, there's this wonderful scene in A New Hope where Luke, you know, practices with his lightsaber for the very first time and he's deflecting those bolts from the little floating bowl. And he feels like a little like his first tingling of his first spidey sense of the force, so to speak. And when he succeeds and he, ‘yeah, you know, I did feel something’ Ben Kenobi tells him, you know, you've taken your first steps into a larger universe. And I think that in a very literal way as well as a figurative way that, travel or being from more than one place really had that impact on me.

I moved to Israel when I was a child. I spent around 30 years there. Israel was very different than New York City. Now I've moved back, I'm living near Jacksonville, Florida. Israel's very different from Jacksonville, Florida, which is very different from New York City [laugh]. And in every way, you know, it's banal to consider, all, you know, to say, oh, it's very different. But when you bring those differences into our world, so you realize, yeah, it really is a big galaxy out. And there are a lot of people out there with a lot of very, very different views on, well, everything.

But first of all, like, what is normal [laugh], right? What is usual and what is extraordinary and out of the usual. And so anytime we go someplace, we come with our preconceived notions of what is right, what is wrong, what is normal, what is abnormal. And we can't help but impose those on our readings of the situations that we encounter there.

So when, when I walk into a classroom in one country or another, or when I walk into a mediation room in one country to another or I consider a legal situation, you know, recognizing that I'm might be in a one legal culture or another, the first thing I remind myself is either you aren't from here, so don't assume anything. Or even if you think you are from here, you're not really from here. You're not from here. [laugh] Tread with caution. Right? So that's my opener.

AD : Yeah. Thanks Noam

Exploring Common Threads: How International Experiences Helped Chad Enhance Conflict Resolution Skills (06:23)

CA : Yeah, for me, probably one of the most formative experiences of my life was studying abroad when I was a junior in college and went overseas. And how I think that ultimately related to my thoughts about conflict resolution in the application and a couple ways. One is I think being abroad and being somewhere else where you're not comfortable, that's when you get to know yourself. You think about yourself differently. You're interacting, as Noam talked about, you're in a different place, you think differently and identity is such a core characteristic of your ability as a negotiator. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, your conflict style, knowing and learning about the folks on the other side of the table or the other country, if you will, in a different world.

And that perspective I think really put me in touch with myself in thinking in a different way. The second is, I think it's so simple, but it's true. The commonality amongst people, even though there's conflict, whether I was chatting with someone at the pub in England or or having a croissant in Paris with some students, or sitting in the middle of a war zone in Baghdad and trying to negotiate with Iraqi judges and investigators.

We all have the same things in common respect, sense of value, the desire, hopefully for win-win solutions. And that commonality and that awareness of that led to, I think what I would say is some confidence. The confidence that solutions can be reached, that what at first might seem so strange because people are from different areas or different galaxies or a green skin depending on the alien in Star Wars, that there's something that a good negotiator, good mediator in mind with their curiosity and find that commonality and come out with solutions.

NM : You've both spent considerable time focusing on teaching pedagogy while working at higher education institutions. How does teaching a topic like negotiation at Creighton and at the Air Force Academy look similar or different?

Empowering Future Generals: Conflict Resolution Training At Service Academies (08:10)

CA : That's a great question and that caused me a lot to reflect on it. Most of my teaching has been at a Service Academy. I've been teaching at Annapolis first from 2000 to 2002 and then subsequently at USADA. And I have to frame that first is I have the privilege of teaching a full 40 lesson course. So my experience is going to be different than the short courses that I do with civilians and federal agencies.

Kind of focusing though on the service academy aspect, number one is I'd say my relationship with students. I'm not just a teacher in the classroom. I'm part of the long blue line, if you will. I'm not a service academy grad. My role in teaching conflict resolution is not about, well, how do you get the best business deal? How is it, you can divide up the pie, but it's the idea of serving as a mentor, as a role model, as someone who's walking this journey with them, much like Luke, if you will, at the beginning and walking with them as they develop into officers.

I had an epiphany that a few years ago teaching conflict resolution and talking with the cadets about it was practicing negotiations and good conflict style skills makes them good officers. And so that's really shifted my focus in the classroom, particularly with military officer candidates on focusing that, hey, of the things we talk about in the class, it's not just going to be necessarily about getting the best deal. It's about relationship, it's about respect, it's about good communication, It's about exploring alternatives together, and these people that, these young students that I'm working with, another bonding factor between us is again, not being a Service Academy graduate, is this incredible respect that I have for them for that age. Doing something I know I could not have done, unfortunately in some cases giving their lives in service of their country and just leads to this really interesting journey together in the classroom.

Additionally, something I thought about is slightly different is the focus on the ethics and character as part of negotiations. What I have found in my experience is with all the emphasis on the Air Force Academy or the other academies developing leaders of character, well that's reflected in negotiations. And my students in the classroom are often much more curious about that. About six years ago when I was sort of a mid-level negotiations teacher, I remember one of my students saying, Professor Austin, are you teaching us to manipulate people? Is that what you're doing here?

And that led to some really interesting thoughts about how my approaches and what we're doing with negotiations. And it also gave me that sensitivity that we're doing more than just learning skills in this skills class. And then finally, I would just say from my perspective from the service academy is when I look at the ultimate client, I took a look at the Army knowing that’s Aram’s background and being a West Point grad and about 37% of the Army's generals are a West Point graduate.

And so with that, there's that awesome responsibility to prepare these young people who are at the beginning of their journey. They're on Tatooine, if you will, and are going to have this incredible potential sense of responsibility that in many ways can impact the world. When we talk about conflict resolution, potentially an Indo-Pacom area or in Iraq or in Russia and Ukraine.

Quick pivot to civilians, then I'll defer mostly more on this. I love working with civilians. I love working with the gray hairs, if you will, those who have a little bit more experience in the world who bring to the classroom their perspectives, their approaches, their ability to pull from their tool belt and lead to a different type of discussion. Oftentimes, just anecdotally, I notice they're much more of a hard bargainer. And so our class often takes a slightly different approach.

Communication And Understanding: Uniting Negotiation Pedagogy Across Institutions (11:48)

NE : I wanna respectfully respond to the question, but really what I want to do is ask Chad follow up questions. I bet it's not only [laugh], but sort of thinking how I might piggyback. So sort of in piggyback response. So, my career has largely been spent in which Chad might call sort of non-service institutions, let's call them public and private universities and colleges in different places around the world. Although some of those institutions such as the one I teach in now, Creighton University sees itself as a form of service institution that it is a Jesuit institution.

And the ultimate goal of education in Jesuit pedagogy and approach is to lift the world, to create graduates who go out and set the world on fire, improve the world. And of course there's the religious connotation of that, but there's also the very practical notion of simply living lives that are in service to others.

So there's one corner in which we juxtapose or overlap. I think that a lot of being a teacher is being like C3PO. It's speaking 6 million forms of communication, [laugh] every time I find myself in a different institution or a different framework with an institution that both poses new challenges, sort of how do I teach this stuff in a way that is relative and helpful and meaningful to the people who've come to study in this program or in this institution, whether it's a leadership program or a social work program or a management program or a law program, or as I teach now in a negotiation and conflict resolution program. So it's a little more on the nose. And the interesting thing that I found is that a lot of the work is very similar.

It's not as if there's anything essentially different in what leaders need to know about negotiation and what followers or everybody needs to know about negotiation. There are some unique things, but the essential elements of it are largely similar. And so a lot of the differences have to do through the frames through which these students are being taught to see the world or taught to impose on the world or their areas of activity in addition to the frames, which other issues like the country it's taking place in, the public or private nature of the institution, and the overall framework also impose this side of frame. And ultimately a lot of these things have to do with forms of communication. Sort of what tools do I have to open doors to make students recognize how much they need this, apply it to their own lives, realize how much they can help this, and hopefully motivate them to take this above and beyond anything I can teach. And so, for each of these frameworks, you need to learn an entirely different set of reference.

As you said, I originally came from a legal background, so I was a fish swimming in water, but teaching this in a law school, when I went to teach us in a school, let's say a department of social work, that was something really, really different. In a school of education that was something really, really different. In school of management and so on. And a lot of that had to figure out how to open these doors and so there's a lot of translational work involved.

Another interesting thing is that sometimes the important role of the teacher is overcoming resistance, let's say the resistance of why do you think we need this stuff? Or why do you think this stuff is relevant? For example, I do not have Chad's experience and yours, but having taught in Israel, and I haven't taught, let's say in the Israeli military college of course, but you know, I can't walk into a class and throw a piece of chalk. Not that I would, but you know, you can't throw a piece of chalk without hitting a dozen people who have served in the military in one capacity or another. And so they might have different sorts of resistances that stem from wait, but we're used to operating in hierarchies and there's something flattening or seemingly flattening about negotiation. How do those two work together? Then of course, by the time they make their way through the course, they suddenly realize, oh wait, when we're in the military, still, no matter where we are in the chain of command, 90% of the time we are negotiating.

But they need to go through a different process in order to realize that than let's say a law student or a managerial trainee. And so just understanding and learning those pathways is always fascinating.

AD : Yeah, no, thank you both for those responses. I wanted to kind of set the conditions a little bit for, as we get into your book for things that have influenced your thinking and in how you approach it, both as practitioners and teachers. Now, Noam, recently you co-spearheaded a collaboration with a number of other conflict resolution experts to write this really wonderful book and I'll hold it up again for folks, ’Star Wars and Conflict Resolution’. Can I ask, you know, what was the inspiration for this work and how does a storyline, just brimming with conflict, also offer insights into resolving or transforming said conflict?

Star Wars And Conflict Resolution: Harnessing Pop Culture To Empower The World (16:43)

NE : Well, I think I wanted to write this book. I know I wanted to write this book since the end of my first lesson in a negotiation course. The connections were so obvious and I wanted to do my class assignments, making these connections and so on. And as I got into academia, I always knew that someday I'd write whatever, a book, a monograph, an article, whatever that made these connections. But as I progressed through my, both my practice career and my teaching career and sort of set this off for a while, I realized that there needed to be a higher purpose to this. I mean, I could do this for fun, but it would be great if I could latch this onto a higher purpose. And as I worked in the field, I found that a lot of my work was in, I mean, as I said before, sort of teaching this material to students from all of these different areas and hearing very often or saying, of course very often, you know, “oh, I don't only need this in my work as a lawyer, manager, teacher, social worker, educator,” whatever it is.

I mean, everybody should know some of this. And just imagine if everybody knew just a smidgen more about how to deal with conflict in a constructive way. Think about the difference that would make to, and fill in the blank. Because here, you know, I'm going to, I'm not scared to sound corny, think of what a difference that can make in the world, but also if you can think about a profession and how it would handle itself or you know, or think about managerial styles and leadership styles and how they would play out differently if everybody does knew a little bit more.

And so, as I did my best to spread the word, so to speak, through teaching, I realized at some point, yeah, but all of my teaching work, and for all of everybody's teaching work, we're just a drop in the bucket. So I might teach and train, you know, when I'm really working full-time teaching and training heavily, you know, I might touch 2000 people, let's say by 2000 students for at least let's say a day's training. Okay. Most years are not that way. Right. I teach 200 graduate students in a good year nowadays, okay. There are 8 billion people in the world, everybody needs to do. So I'm not alone and I know I'm not alone, but you know, when you think of how many are out there doing this work. So, there's a lot more to be done.

So, I've been thinking about ways in which I can scale up and help others scale up their teaching. And part of that involves removing barriers. Like, people don't know about this. They don't know they want to study it, they don't know that they have a need for it. Some are real barriers such as, you know, tuition, the time it takes to dedicate to a program. I teach in a master's program, students pay a lot of money for the, you know, dubious benefit of studying with me. And yet there are a lot of people out there who can't, won't, or shouldn't, you know, shouldn't pay that money for it because they have other things to do with that. And so what about all of them?

So I've been involved in projects such as teaching a massive online open course. Like an internet level, how can we reach thousands of people at once and other projects that of these ‘teach the world’ nature. And as I met with Jen and we, we discussed our mutual love of Star Wars and the different things we could do with it. What formed more than anything else was the notion that I can't draw an audience of a million people to listen to me talking about conflict resolution. I've tried, I haven't figured it out. Maybe you guys can. I hope this podcast is as successful.

However, but there are things out there that have ready-made audiences or fandoms of not just a million people, but 10 million people or a 100 million people or hundreds of millions of people. And if there might be some way to pitch the wagon of negotiation and conflict resolution to the wagon of all of those, or any of those pop culture phenomena, then maybe, maybe, maybe we could start scaling up to that vision of where we want to be. And that's how Star Wars and conflict resolution as this project and as this book bringing together 25 authors to participate in it and bringing, you know, another 25 to work on the next book. And writing a book that is not for people in our field. The book is for everybody. It's for anybody with even a bit of a Star Wars background. And that's who our target is and that's who we're hoping to reach with this book.

AD : Yeah. The ability to take this story that is known practically, universally, right? And, apply it to this concept of conflict resolution. Chad, what were your motivations for joining Noam and Jen on this effort?

From Fan To Scholar: Unveiling the Lessons Of Star Wars For Conflict Resolution (20:55)

CA : Still remember when I saw the call for proposal come in and I was wow, if anything had been specifically tailored for me, it was this concept, this topic, and I think all of us probably on this podcast, if you think for a moment, what was your first engagement with Star Wars? And not to overstate, was that a moment in your life. And for me, this is the first time, when I saw Star Wars as a little kid, that displaying my age. My dad took me to the theater and there was a line around the building and we couldn't see the movie. And then we came back and we still couldn't see the movie. And then I saw the movie and it was unlike anything I'd ever seen. And it deeply resonated with me and it's resonated my whole life. And part of it is this book, this chapter, gave an opportunity to really do some deep thinking. Why is it myself, my students, many generations quote “the ways of the force”, why we identify, whether it's with the Sith, the Jedi, why we identify with certain ways that Han Solo or Darth Vader or Palpatine, resolve conflict.

This gave a chance to do some deep thinking on it. And for me also, I'm going to paraphrase what I think I heard Noam say at a conference recently about this. Writing this chapter gave me an opportunity to tell my family and friends, here's what I think about and here's what I do in a way that's accessible to you, rather than reading my 40 page reading assignment with eyes or glazing over because they can relate to Star Wars. And it also fulfills, what I always tell my class on the first day is I'm going to teach you to see the world differently.

And when we start looking through negotiations, whether it's Seinfeld or Peaky Blinders or Star Wars, it's not just entertaining. There are lessons to be learned here. And writing this book chapter and reading the chapters of others has finally, has given me just this incredible appreciation for something that's been a part of my life for, I don't know how many decades now. I get to see the world differently. I get to be a part of something that's on Amazon and see positive reviews from people I wouldn't normally engage with from different disciplines. And it's sort of a culmination of my nerdiness and I'm very grateful for.

NM : Well thank y'all for sharing. So your book is broken down into two parts. Part One deals with the sources and dynamics of conflict while Part Two deals with resolution. As you look at the chapters in part one that deal with things such as power, emotions, identity, biases and so on. Are there any key ideas from your peers that surprised you? Or headline, what you consider to be core issues around conflict, oath in Star Wars Galaxy and also in our world today? And I'll kick it over to you Chad.

Understanding the Complexity Of Identity In Conflict Resolution With Parallels to Darth Vader (23:33)

CA : Great segue from the last discussion. I think being a part of this book and reading through part one is reading what other experts have written, really expanded my understanding of some core concepts. I've always been a believer in identity and I've experienced that, you know, where do I fit in this office? How do I relate to people? And then I read this chapter, chapter four, ‘Who's Your Daddy. Identity, Conflict, and the Transformation of Darth Vader’. You had me right there. Cause I love Darth Vader. I've always found his transformation, his journey particularly interesting. And then this expert, Danielle Blumberg walked me through that transformation, through Star Wars and gave me some new pieces. She expanded my understanding of identity by talking about, well there's the internal and there's four different areas. The autonomy, the desire to be an individual, your community, whether you want to be Jedi, whether you want to be Sith, where is he fit in, the intimacy, that craving that I have as a human being or Anakin as a character wants to have with Padme or his son Luke later on.

And then meaning, and what was really interesting for me and it has caused me to approach things differently is that internal conflict, much like Anakin, between those four different pieces of identity and how that impacts how I engage with the world and how others on the other side engage in the world.

And from a nerd perspective, I always struggled with the scene when Anakin turns over to the dark side after he kills Mace Windoo. I was hoping for a gladiator moment, there's that Maximus turnaround slave and face me and you see the acting on his face where he just pauses and says nothing. And he turns realizing his entire life had changed.

When I saw this in ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and Anakin, I was like, oh, he just didn't capture that moment. But this article, there's a great description about it really wasn't about Anakin so much, it was about Palpatine and Palpatine reframing Anakin's new identity as Darth Vader giving him meaning, giving him intimacy, giving him a purpose. And all of a sudden I can finally appreciate that scene that I looked forward to for 20 some years. So I'm now thinking of identity differently and I appreciate the scene much like I do of the scene in Gladiator.

NM : Yeah. Great. Noam, what about yourself?

Drawing Comparison For Negotiation With The Star Wars Dark Side: Embracing Palpatine's Strategic Acumen (25:50)

NE : Well, first I just want to promise Chad that in book two soon coming out, there's a chapter that's focusing on the leader as negotiator. And it takes Salacuse’s model of The Leader as negotiator. It's doing a comparison between Palpatine's leadership style and negotiation style as leader and Padme. And of course a lot of the negotiation leadership moments for Palpatine are with Anakin. And the difference between those two chapters this time we're going to see it fully from Palpatine's point of view.

So, which is something that you, and I think a lot of Star Wars fans will be really, really interested in. He’s the ultimate baddie. And everything which he was doing, in some ways it's so right. It's so well thought out, it's so planned, it's so strategic, it's so perfectly calibrated. And so there must be a lot to learn from him. And I wonder if we can manage to learn from him without going, you know, the extra mile and turning to the dark side as Anakin did.

And you know, I think that's my own segue into answering your question, which is I was delighted by just as Chad said, reading the book as it came in. In sort of bits and pieces and early drafts as editing the book. I learned so much about conflict and about Star Wars from just reading the chapters that other people wrote. It absolutely vindicated the choice that Jen and I had made to work with a cast of authors instead of just writing the book ourselves. And one of the reasons was, because you know, we have our perspectives. We could write a book, but it won't be as interesting because it won't have all these voices. And we learned so much from this process and as we did, I realized that we were undergoing the same process that we hope that readers would undergo. And that process is sort of, I think that a Star Wars fan, if you can tell them something that will make them see Star Wars in a slightly different light, they'll extend you enough credit to allow you to tell them another something that might make them see themselves or our world in a slightly new light.

In other words, the bridge, the Star Wars fan. And here I'm also speaking as a Star Wars fan, the bridge is first of all, you know, tell me something I don't know about Star Wars. You know, prove your cred, bring out your full nerdiness. And show me a new angle and then, that makes sense. Okay, keep going. And I found myself lost as all of these authors kept going.

So, Chad's chapter, which is just a basic introductory chapter to negotiation. Still, I have these moments in reading in which I just stopped, you know, and said, “huh”. And I've been practicing and studying and teaching negotiation for about 25 years now. And I still have these ‘huh’ moments. I hadn't seen Star Wars that way and hadn't seen negotiation that way. Another thing that Jen and I expected is that people are going to use this opportunity at which they're doing something completely different in order to not only write something new about Star Wars, but to write something new about conflict, right? To write something new about conflict or negotiation that simply has not been written in the traditional research. Just new ideas because you're freer to play and you're also working with a very particular set of incidents and dynamics that you're studying. You can't make up the incidents and dynamics as we sometimes do in class. Let me give you an example and then we make up an example that fits the model. right?

No, you need to explain what you see on screen. And so people came up with some really interesting ideas. So just a topic that comes to mind is Deb and Emily Cai discussing the notion of first strike of a preemptive strike. One of the great controversies in Star Wars is the notion of Han shooting first at Greedo in that very first early scene in the Cantina. And you know, in the study of conflict resolution as opposed to in military academies, the notion of when should you launch a first strike? When should you shoot first? That's not a topic that conflict resolution professors find themselves discussing, because largely the answer is, well preferably never. Right?

And that's living in the real world. And also, you know, expanding our view of conflict to recognizing what is more and less effective in conflict. There are other answers to that. So one answer in our chapter takes an ethical viewpoint and applies some international law. I had a conversation recently with an economist talking game theory and when should you shoot first? You know, according to game theory, Han shot first more than once across the Star Wars saga. Other people shot first. Why did they shoot first then? And perhaps why didn't they shoot first in this other scene? And what can we learn from that about how to engage well in conflict? So I'm just learning a lot. .

AD : Very Interesting.

NM : Hey everyone, Nolan here. I'm going to have to jump in and end today's podcast for part A of the show. Be sure to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast if you haven't already. And join us next week for Part B, this awesome interview.

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