Artwork for podcast Resilience Unravelled
Beth Fisher-Yoshida - Negotiate differently
17th July 2023 • Resilience Unravelled • Russell Thackeray
00:00:00 00:26:09

Share Episode



Resilience  - Negotiation – Conflict Resolution – Mindset – Authenticity – Bias – Cultural Difference

In this episode of Resilience Unravelled, Dr Russell Thackeray talks to Beth Fisher-Yoshida, a global expert and educator in intercultural negotiation and communication. She’s the program director of Columbia University’s Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution and a negotiation consultant for the United Nations. IN this podcast Beth talks about how everyone can make a difference by being open to learning how to negotiate differently.

Beth talks about negotiation and conflict resolution and the importance of having a flexible mindset when operating in different cultures or dealing with conflicts, the challenges posed by media polarisation and the loss of objective news reporting. She also touches on the importance of debate and learning from arguments, even if one doesn't "win."

Beth highlights the importance of being open-minded, adaptable, and respectful in relationships and learning, the challenges of bias and cultural differences that affect negotiations and the different contexts in which negotiations occur. She also outlines the tools and skills necessary for successful negotiations as well as the need to be both a teacher and a learner. She then touches on the concept of authenticity, emphasising that it does not mean being uncontrolled or inflexible but rather embracing all facets of oneself while adapting to different contexts.

Main topics

  • The importance of having a flexible mindset when operating in a different culture
  • the importance of listening and considering another person's point of view
  • tools and techniques for negotiation
  • the language of conflict resolution
  • the importance of debate
  • how you can learn from losing an argument


1: Introduction - Russell Thackeray introduces Beth Fisher-Yoshida - 00:00-00:23

2: Background - Beth talks about her background and how she got interested in conflict resolution and negotiation - 02:02-03:29

3: Language and Conflict Resolution - Russell asks Beth about the development of language in conflict resolution and negotiation - 04:32-05:53

4: The Art of Debate - Russell and Beth discuss the importance of debate and the possibility of losing an argument while still learning from it - 08:21-09:01

5: Learning and Adapting - Russell and Beth talk about the different ways of learning and adapting to different cultures and environments - 11:23-13:42

6: New Story, New Power: A Woman's Guide to Negotiation - Beth talks about her book, New Story, New Power, and its contents and structure - 17:34-20:12

7: Negotiation Tools and Techniques - Russell asks Beth about some of the tools and techniques for negotiation that are discussed in her book - 20:20-21:17

8: Real-Life Examples - Russell Thackeray and Beth Fisher-Yoshida discuss some of the real-life examples of negotiation that are presented in her book - 21:17-22:45

9: Conclusion - Russell Thackeray and Beth Fisher-Yoshida wrap up the conversation and discuss how to find out more about Beth Fisher-Yoshida and her book 24:02-25:06

Action items


Transcription with Beth Fisher-Yoshida

Russell: Hi, and welcome back to Resilience Unravelled. With me today on a day of days is Beth Fisher Yoshida. Is that okay, Beth? Is that how you like it pronounced?

Beth: Yes, that's fine.

Russell: A Fisher-Yoshida accent and New York by the sounds of things.

Beth: Well, I have to say that people from New York don't think it's an accent, but, yes, I'm from New York City, and that's where I'm recording from today.

Russell: Brilliant. Well, thank you very much for joining us. Perhaps you can just tell us a little bit about what it is that you do, a little bit about your background.

Beth: Sure. So, I am a professor of practice at Columbia University. I direct a master's program in negotiation and conflict resolution, and I do work in organisations and communities, helping people develop better communication and negotiation skills and trying to address any kind of conflicts that may occur. And most recently, I published a book a few months ago, New Story, New Power a Woman's Guide to Negotiation that I suppose we'll talk a little bit about today.

Russell: Definitely hope so. So, have you got a background in conflict resolution? Is this a passion or has this been a career for you?

Beth: Well, it kind of happened accidentally by many years ago. Being from New York, I lived in Japan, and I met conflict head on because the style of how a New Yorker is and the cultural norms of Japan are not exactly the same. So, I became very interested in intercultural communication and intercultural conflict. And through there, I just sort of branched into looking at conflict resolution and negotiation more broadly and also in communities and organisational contexts.

Russell: And there's a lot written and said about multicultural or transcultural differences, what's the mindset needed to be able to operate in a different culture what do you have to be able to do?

Beth: Yeah, it's a good question. I think one of the most important things is really having some flexibility of mindset we're familiar with our own patterns and our own ways of doing things, but it doesn't mean that's the only way. So instead of looking at something judgmentally to say, well, this is good, this is bad, just think about, oh, that's different. I wonder why they do it that way. And just entering with flexibility and curiosity to learn more. And then at the end of the day, you can decide whether you stay the same or not, but at least give people that space so you can understand where they're coming from.

Russell: In a sense that's good practice for anyone in any culture, in any part of the world, isn't it? That would be a useful place to have a useful place to be mentally.

Beth: It sure is. And I think that in today's world with the internet and the speed of communication and mobility, we're really always in multicultural settings. Because even when you think about age or gender or ethnicity, whatever it is, there's so many different orientations that you have to really have that mindset all the time.

Russell: And it's quite refreshing that we're starting to think this way because I suppose I don't know when the seed change happens but somehow we're starting to notice differences. I mean, some people are very resistant and think there's a way, a one way, but actually the world's become multifaceted whether it's COVID or not, I don't know and I think we're starting to develop the language. 20 years ago, sometimes you didn't have the language to describe the way people were we just sort of knew they were different, but we didn't know how. I just wonder what you think about that as a conflict resolution person seeing the way that language is developing. Is that useful?

Beth: I think it has two different effects. One is I agree that there's new language, new way of thinking, a little bit more acceptance. And on the flip side of that, I think it's also developing more resistance because people are fearful of change people sometimes feel defensive, they feel that they're being accused of something and being blamed for conditions being the way they are. And so, I think there are two different ways if I look at the extremes, two different extreme ways of reaction and then everybody in between hasn't that.

Russell: Always been the case?

Beth: Probably. I think though, because of the media and because of the internet, we see more of that. Many years ago, you used to be in your own town, and you only knew what was happening in that town. Now you know what's happening around the world instantaneously and because we keep seeing the same images again and again, we lose perspective on whether that's a single occurrence or that it's happening a lot all the time but you.

Russell: Tend to find as well that we build this confirmatory bias, don't we? Because actually we tend to look for the evidence that we believe to be true. So, I noticed in the States you don't really have a news service, you have a belief service, don't you? The news is sort of structured to tell you what you really want to believe. I was watching the arraignment of Donald Trump on both CNN and Fox at the same time. There were two different events. I think it's interesting, I mean, I know that's exaggerating for effect, but it's something strange about the world, isn't it, that I wonder if we're losing that bounded rationality we used to have, so we're getting the tools to allow us to have the ways to deal with conflict, but we're sort of being marginalised and polarised, perhaps.

Beth: Yeah, it's interesting you say that, because I was just saying, I think yesterday what happened to just presenting the news? Just present the news, don't tell me what I should think or believe about it, just present the news, and let me make my own decisions. I've lost patience for listening to everybody with an opinion on the news in quotes, because I don't really care about that, I don't care about your opinion. If I want to know, then I'll seek it. But that seems to be like the dominant voice today is people's opinions. And you have to listen, I think, to a variety of news networks, even the word news, right, because just to get the different opinion, I want to know what like-minded people think and I really want to know what people who don't think like me think. I want to know what their belief system is.

Russell: And it's so convincing when you listen to that story again and again, it doesn't leave room for other stories or other perspectives.

Russell: Yes. And this is interesting, isn't it? Because actually, to be able to manage conflict communication, you have to have not necessarily the empathy, but you have to have that perspective. Don't need to be able to stand back and consider another person's point of view and consider that they might be right. And that's quite a challenging thing, isn't it? Especially if you're in relationship type conflict or extreme work breakdown conflict. Often the victims are right.

Beth: Yeah. But if you're listening to that single source of information all the time and that's the only source of information you know, then you believe you're right and you believe that is the only way of thinking. You've never had to be pushed to be in a situation where you had to understand somebody else or you had to learn how to get along with other people. So, the more we segregate people and into groups of like thinking, then you have a group think mentality which is not healthy.

Russell: No. So, I think there's a skill, isn't there, in actually having debate where I'm parenthesising this. You lose your view does not win the day. And I think the art of debating has sort of disappeared because all we have now is the art of feelings being facts, opinions being evidence. And what we've lost is that ability to negotiate, lose and win and have that system where we learn from that without being bent out of shape. And it's possible to lose an argument, as it were. I know the words win or lose could be tricky, but it is possible to lose an argument and learn something tremendous in the process and come out winning further on down the line.

Beth: That's right. It's interesting that in the past couple of years, the expression evidence based has become more popular. So, this is true because its evidence based. But then the other side of it is, well, how do you decide what equals evidence? How do you decide on data? Right? You have a mindset, and you see certain things, but you don't see other things. So then are you really seeing the data the way it is? Are you selecting already through your bias, your implicit bias, you're already preselecting the data that gives you the evidence to support your point of view? So, it does get very closed circle unless you push yourself to be open, to be flexible, to say what else is going on? What's another side of the story that I'm not seeing? But that's important as well.

Russell: You've done something that you did a lot of me, that I lived in another country for a long period of time, and it forces you to change. It forces you to change your worldview, it forces you to change your perspective in the context in which you operate because actually you're on your own and you're facing well, in Japan, 120,000,000, in my case, it was the Middle East, so Africa. And somehow you have to be able to adapt. And you learn the skill, don't you? And part of it is being respectful enough to listen and being respectful enough to actually open your ears. And I don't know if we learn that skill actually at all, unless you're throwing in the deep end and such like maybe you do in relationships, I don't know.

Beth: Yeah. So, if you don't do that, then it's very lonely, right? Because you're the odd person out in that culture. They didn't ask you to come there. You came there. And so, you have to figure out, how am I going to live? But I think it does need special attention sometimes. Some people naturally are good listeners and they do have flexibility in their thinking. But I think for a lot of other people, it's a learned skill and a learned attitude. And you have to see the advantage, like, what is in it? For me to even want to do that, there has to be some kind of motivation, intrinsic or extrinsic, there has to be some kind of incentive that makes you want to do that and learn because it can be uncomfortable and even painful sometimes to be in situations with belief systems that are so far from your own.

Russell: Yes, it is. To be encouraged. Why did you go to Japan? It's interesting without digressing too far from the point.

Beth: No, well, the short story is that I have an art background. And when I looked at Van Gogh Museum and he collected Japanese woodblock prints and did painting interpretations of them, I said, that's what I want to do. So, I had these visions of grandeur that I was going to do all that and write poetry. And I began studying calligraphy with a woman in New York, a Japanese woman, and then she asked me if I want to go to Japan and live with a family and teach English. And eventually I did, and so I went, and the rest is history, so to speak. So, I did study art and calligraphy in Japan for six years. When I was first there, again, another form of language. And it was very interesting, too, because for me, from junior high school, college, I was an art major. And then when I went to Japan and started studying art, it just shows you the cultural difference.

Beth: The teacher said to me, this is the way you hold the brush, and this is how you put the ink on, and this is where the rock goes, and this is where the tree goes. And for the first six months, I was so annoyed. I was so angry. I felt so insulted. He has no idea, blah, blah. And then one day I started crying by myself and I said, why are you so angry? And then I realised I should just chill, just relax and be open to the learning. And then I ended up loving the guy who's like a grandfather figure. And the woman who was teaching me calligraphy was like a grandmother figure. And it was wonderful. I developed a wonderful relationship with them. But I needed to go through that pain and that struggle and then to realise, what are you doing? You're asking them to teach you, but you're resistant.

Beth: They're teaching you. So, I needed to back down and relax a little bit about it, which I did.

Beth: And I think what we've done in the west is we've sort of translated learning is it always has to be this shared cooperative experience. And actually, if you don't know, you need to be told. And if your arrogance gets in the way of being told, then you never get to the point of getting skilled, never mind mastery and such like. But it's a funny thing in education. I know you do work with youth and such a conflict, places that you have to be taught. And sometimes the teaching process has to be given to you. It has to be spoon fed, isn't it? Because then it's faster in the long run. That's how you get faster exponentially is to learn quickly. And its interesting work in different parts of the world where they have a more dogmatic way, a more structured way, perhaps that's a better way of learning.

Beth: And then actually their higher education is much more flexible than ours sometimes because actually they've learned the skills of thinking. They've been taught to think and then they've been taught to gain mastery in thinking and then they've been allowed to use it. Whereas often we have so much floppiness and flexibility that we never really learn the first bit. And I think that's probably where we get into our issue with what we’re saying earlier about the polarity of view and such like.

Beth: Yeah, I think it's all about relationship, it's all relational. And so, as a teacher, I think you also have the mindset of being a learner because I may have something I want to teach, but I need to understand you and where you're coming from and your context and your background in order for me to be able to teach you what I want you to learn. In a way, that's relationship, which is the same thing as I talk about in negotiation, it's really about I have to continue to learn who I am because every time I'm interaction with somebody else, a different side of me comes forward. It doesn't mean I'm duplicitous or anything. It doesn't mean that. It means that I am multifaceted too, just like every other person is. And so which part of me is going to really surface in that relationship? And I need to be mindful of that because our dynamic is going to bring out a part of me that I may like or not like.

Beth: And I need to know what to do with that and how to be connected to that person, which is the same as being a teacher and a learner. I can teach, but I haven't finished learning right? So, I need to have that constant mindset of being open to learn.

Russell: So that multifaceted approach, that way of adapting and being many sides of your own self, well, how does that sit with the idea of authenticity?

Beth: It's all me. It's all based on my experience and what I've developed and what I've honed and how I've polished it and mined it and so on. But I think there's nothing inauthentic about it. It just means that if I need to be quiet in certain situations, then I'm going to be quieter. If I need to be more talkative, that talkative side of me is going to surface, or maybe my humorous art or maybe my research side. So, it's all me. But it's just which part is going to be pulled forward depending on the context and who I'm in relationship with.

Russell: I absolutely love the way you express that because I have a real problem with people who say I'm being authentic because I'm just deploying myself in a random, uncontrolled way and you have to accept me because I'm being authentic. And that, to me, is not authenticity. I think you're right. I think we are more like diamonds, and we have facets and shapes and such like. And it is all of us, and sometimes we're quirky and miserable and grumpy and we're not going to do jazz hands because we don't want to, or we can't. And leaders are allowed to have because leaders, surprise, are people, too. People think there's some sort of superhero type figure. It's just not like that, is it?

Beth: No. Well, I think people who have the attitude, this is me, take me the way I am, or take me or leave me, then I think, okay, but where's your flexibility and adaptability to being with other people? Because if we're all in a group, some cultures have an orientation towards harmony more than others. And individuality is good in some contexts, but there has to be something harmonious and something you're willing to suppress temporarily because other things need to surface to get along with other people. We're all in this interdependent world and we have to figure it out or we're going to have conflict.

Russell: And also, if you're not getting what you need, you have to change. That's the point, isn't it? So, you've written a book. What was the motivation? Obviously, I can understand the motivation for the broad idea of the book because it's your thing, isn't it? But why focus it on women particularly?

Beth: Yeah. So, over the years, through my educational experiences and different kinds of workshops and so on, I noticed certain patterns in the way women negotiate. And I was curious about it. So, I looked at the research to see what's going on, and there's a lot of contradictory research and my orientation is really building on what works. So, I wanted to interview women of all different experiences, either junior, mid-career or senior, to find out what are some of the strategies and tactics they use in their negotiation that works for them. And so, I interviewed hundreds of women to try to get to the essence of what are some of the tips that they have, the tactics that they use. And I decided to put it together in a book that's very practical but grounded in theory and experience, but lots of practical tips and tools that people can use and help themselves from day one as soon as they open the book with their negotiations.

Russell: And there are things which are sort of unique or special about women that they need here which is different to any other gender.

Beth: Yeah. The main thing, which should be every gender has their own unique aspects, would be the social stories that women grow up with, whatever culture they're from, about what does it mean to be a woman and how should women behave and then what should they do? So, if a woman is told to be likable, it's going to be very hard for her to advocate for herself. If you're from a cultural orientation where you need to respect your elders, it's going to be very difficult to advocate for yourself when you're negotiating with somebody more senior. So, we all have those cultural influences. And for women, it's really about the gendered aspects of being a woman.

Russell: Yeah. It's that being nice thing, isn't it? Being good?

Beth: Yeah. A good girl and nice girl.

Russell: The good girl, nice girl. I see this in psychology all the time. Yeah. Is the book about skills or is it about awareness or is it about the summation of the interviews? Is it more academically? I mean, who's it for? Who would get the best benefit?

Beth: It's for any woman and any man who's an ally of women and wants to know what women are thinking. So, there are four sections. There's some conceptual stuff up front just to lay the groundwork. Then a second part is looking at different contexts in your family, in the workplace and relationships. The third part is about the preparation process and post negotiation, different tools you can use. And the fourth part has three developed case studies using the tools going from preparation process into post negotiation.

Russell: And is it a complex negotiation, like a work-based thing, or is it a relationship type?

Beth: All types of negotiations.

Russell: So, you've got a particular process that people work their way through?

Beth: Yeah. There are a variety of tools you can use in the preparation phase that take you, and you use the tools that are most relevant to you for that particular negotiation.

Russell: Right. Okay. Can you give us an insight to one or two of those things, particularly that would be useful?

Beth: Yeah. So, for example, in a workplace situation, when you are with somebody else there and the organisation values individual contributions, but they also value teamwork, how are you going to negotiate your role inside of a team? How are you going to negotiate with other people? And so on. How do you come together but also differentiate yourself in the family relationship? There's one case study with a brother and sister. How are they going to negotiate dealing with an aging parent? Because they have their old stories about who they are as young men and young women to each other. So, they have to mature their relationship. In a married couple, almost married couple, they're thinking about where they go because of job mobility. And if one person's career is taking them in one direction, how do they negotiate the other person's career as well? So very real-life stories taken from my research and my interviews.

Russell: Yes. It's quite interesting in America at the moment because we're seeing a difference in the way that women operate with the difference between what some women are saying in some parts of the country versus what other people with that. Women are advocating in other parts of the country. Having just come from the southern states. It's a very different culture to New York and such like. How do you deal with women who have such contrary views to yourself?

Beth: It doesn't matter what my belief system is. It's really about teaching them how they can get more about what they need and want from their negotiations, whatever their point of view is, whatever the content is that they're negotiating. And just like in the US, there is no one type of woman, there are many types of women. I think that's probably true in most cultures around the world. Years ago, somebody said to me, oh, you're from the US. Women are so liberated there. And I said, well, it depends on where you're from. Not everybody's equally liberated.

Russell: And your point about the social structures is key and of course what you have is people. It's very hard to see your own social structure when your part of it. It's this someone somewhere has to hold a mirror up and if you're wrestling in your own mixing on the metaphors now, but if you're suddenly unhappy, it's usually because of that social structure you're in and it's about how do you gain the skills to get out? And that's not always negotiation, isn't it? Sometimes it is actually conflict, and conflict is a valuable skill that we have to have. I don't know what your views on this. I think we're too frightened of conflict, so we don't have enough of it and therefore we don't become comfortable with it because we're not assertive enough to actually be able to argue sufficiently well as the skill that we're talking about earlier.

Russell: Yeah, I think so. I think that it just doesn't feel good to be in conflict and I think negotiation feels so good at the same time, doesn't it? Let's be honest.

Beth: Maybe, but that's a very short-lived experience. But the repercussions afterwards are not worth it. So, I think negotiation is also one approach to managing conflict.

Russell: But someone once said to me, I mean, someone said to me once, and I've always believed that conflict is just a manifestation of difference, but whilst conflict is inevitable, fighting is optional. And I've always liked that as well because actually, I think that's the point. We confuse conflict with physical fear rather than actually say conflict is just difference working. So, for me, diversity is always represented best by the amount of conflict we have. But yes, punching, bullying, slapping, not advisable. I've just noticed the time sorry; I was just absolutely shot past. I've been fascinated by what you're saying and thank you, I've fully enjoyed it, even if you haven't.

Beth: No, I have.

Russell: So, tell people how they can find out more about you, Beth, and how they can get hold of this book.

Beth: Sure. The book is sold on Amazon and other booksellers, and I have a website. I'm also at Columbia University so if you really want to find me, I am not hard to find.


Good. So, it's Beth Fisher-Yoshida. New story, New power. A woman's guide to negotiation. And obviously Beth this will be in the show notes. Closing thought. Beth, what would you like people to go away thinking about? About what you said? What's the thing you'd like them to have in their mind?

Beth: Everybody can make a difference, and everybody can do something differently. You just have to be open to wanting to learn how to do it differently.

Russell: Very good. It's been an absolute pleasure and privilege to spend time in your company today. I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to finding out more about you. I want to have a good read through that website, so thanks so much for spending time with us today.

Beth: Oh, thank you. It's been a very interesting, stimulating conversation. I agree.

Russell: No problem. You take care.