My activities these past four weeks fit mainly in two categories. The first is a continuation from the month of June- learning content, observing trainings, and sometimes helping to deliver modules at Insight trainings.  The material for Insight trainings stem primarily from two world- renown books. The first, Getting to Yes, by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and later, Bruce Patton introduces the theory behind interests-based negotiation and encourages readers to separate people from the problem when negotiating. The second book, Difficult Conversations by Sheila Heen, Doug Stone, and Bruce Patton, builds on Getting to Yes, by offering different ways to look at difficult conversations when people ARE the problem.

Insight takes these Harvard-based theories and is particularly good at applying the material to the rest of the world. Insight works with a wide variety of non-profits, companies, and government institutions, in domestic and international settings. This month I had the opportunity to observe Negotiation Skills Training and Difficult Conversations Training at a software engineering company in the Boston area and I observed a Negotiations Skills training for junior associates at a major US-based bank in New York.

Every time I observe these trainings I am scanning for tips in presentation style, phrasing that seems to resonate with participants, and taking notes on how Insight consultants manage energy in the room. In addition, I am deepening my understanding of the material. I typically leave the trainings with more questions than when I arrived. Such is the life of a life-long learner though! One has to become comfortable with always have more things to think about and unanswered questions.

The second activity is searching for international placements. Starting in September, I will embark on a 9 month trip around the world. I will organize a series of 3 to 4 placements with organizations abroad in a kind of “uber internship”. My work, of course, must relate somehow to the mission of the fellowship: promoting the study and practice of conflict management. But the type of organization, location, and scope of work is up to each fellow to plan individually.

You can imagine how difficult it has been to narrow down any of the options. In fact, one of the most overwhelming things about the summer so far has actually been how much choice I really do have. I was grateful to David (President of Insight), when we sat down to talk about why I was stressing out so much. He gave me a great piece of advice, when we think about a negotiation in the short-term, it leads to a certain set of moves and emotional responses. Feeling like every placement must be “perfect” and that I need to go everywhere in the short time span of a year is overwhelming. However, if we can cultivate a more longterm mindset, we make different moves and have different emotional responses. Viewing this year and these placements as just the first three or four placements in a lifetime of work helping others gives my mind room to breathe. It makes room for brilliant exercises like the one Carl Conradi (2011 Insight Fellow), suggested, he said “make a list of the services or activities you’d like to provide during your year”.

So one evening I sat down and made a list. Now, that list might change but when I have conversations with potential placements, I am better equipped to respond to their needs because I have a better idea what I can and would like to provide. This has helped closed the door on some possible placements and is opening doors to new ones even as I write.