Negotiating at an Uneven Table: A Practical Approach to Working with Difference and Diversity
By Phyllis Beck Kritek
Summary written by Brad Spangler, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Kritek, Phyllis Beck. Negotiating at an Uneven Table: A Practical Approach to Working with Difference and Diversity. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass, 1994.
Negotiating at an Uneven Table: A Practical Approach to Working with Difference and Diversity presents the author's reflections -- based on her own experiences as a nurse -- on the range of options available when one finds himself or herself in a disadvantaged, disempowered negotiating position. These reflections are primarily based on Kritek's own life experiences, rather than on texts or theories regarding conflict resolution. The aim of relating her own experiences is that she hopes it will fill in some of the gaps she has recognized in the literature on conflict resolution and contribute to the constructive resolution of issues surrounding "uneven tables." In addition, the majority of chapters also include stories and exercises that are meant to illustrate Kritek's points. This book is an atypical discussion of negotiation and conflict resolution and offers some true insight from an experienced author.
The work is divided into three parts. Part One, "Creating the Context for Dialogue," discusses the author's premises for the rest of the book and sets the context for the balance of the discussion on dealing with uneven tables. These opening chapters cover the biases that conflict analysts, practitioners, and negotiators regularly bring to the table. She argues that oftentimes these biases reinforce what she sees as problematic, even fallacious, conceptual frameworks grounded in the notion of "dominance power." How to recognize an uneven table -- as well as techniques that one might use to imagine alternatives to that unevenness -- are also covered.
Part Two is entitled, "Traditional Approaches to an Uneven Table." Kritek's goal is to offer new ways to think and act when one is sitting at an uneven table. The chapters on traditional approaches possess a generally negative tone, as she does not seem to approve of them. The first two chapters of this section focus on manipulation as a traditional approach to unevenness. Chapter Eleven is about maneuvering techniques, which essentially build on the methods of manipulation discussed in the previous chapter, but are generally more elaborate strategies for balancing unevenness. Chapter Twelve discusses how children may react to being a part of a negotiation. In Chapter Thirteen, Kritek discusses the difficulties and potential rewards in moving beyond traditional approaches to an uneven table. Expanding on the previous chapter, the author then attempts to point out spaces for imagining new approaches to an uneven table.
The first two parts of Negotiating at an Uneven Table: A Practical Approach to Working with Difference and Diversity set up the final part, "Constructive Ways of Being at an Uneven Table." This final part offers Kritek's views on a new and improved strategy for coping with uneven negotiating situations. It is a conceptual and practical guide to how to confidently and constructively participate in an uneven negotiating situation -- what she deems "new ways of being." In addition to two introductory chapters and two conclusion chapters, Part Three includes ten separate chapters on the "ways of being" at an uneven table that Kritek advocates. The ten ways of being she describes include:
- Find and inhabit the deepest and surest human space that your capabilities permit