Opening night at the symposium: “Shut up and listen”

Misha Glouberman was the opening speaker for the 2013 Syracuse Symposium.

“Shut up and listen.”

This is how Dympna Callaghan, interim director of the SU Humanities Center, began the 2013 Syracuse Symposium, “Listening,” on Thursday night at the Hall of Languages.

Callaghan explained that her previous sentence wasn’t meant to insult. Instead, it was the title of an article written by Misha Glouberman, the opening speaker for this year’s symposium.

Glouberman is a Harvard-trained negotiator, expert in theater improvisation and a professor at the University of Toronto. He flew to Syracuse to present “How to Talk to People About Things,” an abbreviated version of a six-week course he teaches at Toronto University on negotiating and communicating.

More than 100 students, faculty and community members attended the lecture.

Glouberman said he had a very specific piece of advice for students at Syracuse University: go take a course in conflict management.

Glouberman said that if people think about how much time they spend trying to come to agreements with others, or try solve conflicts – they would realize that it is a huge time consumer.

He recommended that people take at least one entire afternoon out of their academic career to be dedicated, solely, to learning about how to deal with others.

Ana Paredes, who watched Glouberman’s lecture with her teenage daughter, said that she can apply Glouberman’s negotiating techniques in their home. Paredes is a student at the executive master of public administration program at SU.

Glouberman led his presentation by engaging the audience, and asked each person to start a conversation with someone in the room whom they didn’t know.

Loud exchanges filled the lecture hall.

Glouberman explained that one of the first steps to avoiding conflict is to get to know and understand the person you’re dealing with.

In the hour-long presentation, Glouberman invited the audience to think about life situations where negotiation is involved, because “we negotiate all the time,” he said.

Melissa Luke, an associate professor at the counseling and human services department, said she liked how Glouberman talked about having cultural empathy toward others, especially in as diverse a community Syracuse’s.

Cynthia Gordon was interested in the talk on both a scholarly and personal level. Gordon, an associate professor and chair of the department of communication and rhetorical studies, liked when Glouberman talked about the idea of the “battle mentality”: a situation in which people enter a conflict predisposed to fighting without having thought of a solution to the problem.

Patricia Roylance, an english professor at SU, enjoyed the engaging format of Glouberman’s lecture, and especially liked that he had members of the audience engage in conversation amongst themselves.

The most important lesson Roylance took from Glouberman’s presentation: “If you want people to listen – listen.”


Photo: photojunkie / Flickr

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