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Book Review: ‘Tear Down the Wall: Be Your Own Mediator in Conflict’ by Grande Lum

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TEAR DOWN THE WALLDidn’t our grandmother always tell us that we could attract more bees with honey than with vinegar? A version of that old chestnut is in a clever new book by negotiation expert Grande Lum, who is now working for Obama’s team at the Department of Justice. In a situation of conflict, Lum advises that you ask your adversary to be your mentor — I’d say that’s akin to the “honey approach.”

In his newest book, Tear Down the Wall: Be Your Own Mediator in Conflict, Lum distills years of experience as a professional negotiator for governments, businesses, and organizations into 87 distinct gems of wisdom.

According to Lum, it was his longtime mentor, the late Roger Fisher (coauthor of Getting to Yes) who suggested he “write something useful on how people can better work out their problems.” Over the years, Lum had kept notes about things said or done that transformed adversaries into allies. The result is this concise book with 87 strategies, each one artfully explained using stories and examples to bring it to life.

Some of Lum’s ideas focus on self-awareness: e.g., “Separate the position from the person,” or “Blame keeps you a victim.” Others are more about strategy: “Quiet anger draws the other person to you,” or “Get bored by the conflict.” Still others are counterintuitive, such as “Move to their side.”

This book is not intended to be a full course on systematic negotiation. Rather, it’s like an elegant collection of pointers that, when applied, are highly effective at creating movement in a situation where two parties have arrived at a stalemate, or are merely slogging through a quagmire so slowly that progress seems hopeless.

Readers may recognize Lum as the author of The Negotiation Fieldbook. What’s great about his new book, however, is that it could be as useful in a terrorist hostage situation as when talking to a teenager. Business people, social workers, parents, spouses, teachers, and anyone else who is regularly involved in mediating conflict will benefit from this professional negotiator’s wisdom, experience, and practical insights. And if you use the honey approach and your adversary doesn’t budge, Lum has 86 other tactics for you to try.

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About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.