Master Mediators

What makes a good mediator?

Numerous qualities must be shown to earn such a title. There are reasons why good hostage negotiators are worth their weight in gold. Their form of conflict resolution work takes place under extreme duress, in situations involving great emotional upheaval, and occurs in the glare of considerable exposure. They are a vital resource in the fight to retain order in today’s world. What can we learn from these master mediators?

Jack Cloonan’s bona fides run from 25 years working in counterterrorism for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He served as an expert in his field for much of that time, and much of it was spent negotiating and interrogating members of terrorist groups for information. Few clients would be as reticent to strike a deal as his were, but he retained a remarkable track record. He is among the finest in the intelligence community at aggression management and conflict resolution.

Cloonan recently gained exposure for his anti-torture advocacy. His reasoning fall directly in line with a basic tenet of conflict resolution: do not escalate, and manage aggression. He was able to obtain information using classic methods of conflict resolution: patience, humility, a calm demeanour, creating trust, and building rapport. His methods were so well-regarded that several other intelligence agencies requested to witness his abilities, first-hand, for training purposes.

Watch his manner of interaction. Even while being interviewed, his stance, his words, and his polite manner are an outstanding example of the control and focus that a master negotiator and conflict resolver must exhibit. As a result of the application of these techniqes, Cloonan – since retired – was able to aid national security by providing remarkably accurate information to the FBI, considerably moreso than via the more aggressive methods propagated by the Central Intelligence Agency. Conflict resolution applies across a vast spectrum of human interaction, and each case will, by nature, be somewhat different. But the basic tenets of conflict resolution remain similar, regardless of the differing aims or origins of the issue at hand.

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