cover image Possible: How We Survive (and Thrive) in an Age of Conflict

Possible: How We Survive (and Thrive) in an Age of Conflict

William Ury. Harper Business, $32 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-328690-0

In this optimistic guide, Ury (Getting to Yes with Yourself), cofounder of Harvard University’s Program on Negotiation, distills lessons on resolving conflict from notable episodes in his career. His framework involves keeping an eye on the bigger picture, imagining solutions that allow both sides to claim victory, and involving third parties affected by the discord to broker agreements. For instance, he illustrates the importance of considering options that appear impossible by explaining that in the early 1980s, U.S. and Soviet officials shrugged off the recommendation made by his Program on Negotiation for the creation of nuclear crisis centers, which the superpowers could use to communicate and deescalate in the case of a nuclear crisis. However, Ronald Reagan’s 1985 meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev changed the political calculus and led to the centers’ establishment. Elsewhere, Ury shares how careful listening helped him convince Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to let tensions between his supporters and political opponents cool over a Christmas détente in 2003, and how thinking through conditions that would allow the Colombian government and the guerrilla group FARC to see themselves as winners helped the parties agree to end their violent dispute in 2016. Ury’s high-profile personal stories lend credence to his methodology, and his unwavering faith in “our ability to deal with our differences constructively” inspires. The result is a humane and hopeful program for resolving apparently intractable disagreements. Agent: James Levine, Levine Greenberg Rostan. (Feb.)