My curiosity was drawn recently to the very public showdown on ITV’s Loose Women. This commentary by CEDR’s Andy Rogers on the argument that got out of control, and which subsequently attracted a significant amount of coverage, exposed the fundamental flaws in the show’s understanding of conflict resolution.

It took a moment and then I saw it. The intention may well have been ‘reconciliation,’ but ITV effectively shot themselves in the foot the moment they decided that Janet Street-Porter should be dressed as a Judge.

Why is this so key? Although the intent may have been well-meaning, the impact was to set the context and thereby the behaviour for all involved, as one of judgement. For with judgement comes blame, and setting out who is right and who is wrong. What naturally flows from this is an expectation of punishment, which is why people adopt such defensive, entrenched positions.

Frankly, there was never going to be any reconciliation because the scene had been so strongly set; what we saw play out on live TV was people snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, a great deal of harm and serious damage to both corporate and individual reputations.

Is there an alternative approach?  Most definitely yes. There is a wealth of knowledge and skills that could have been applied such as: who should and shouldn’t have been present; how could they have been better prepared; what more positive adaptations might have been made to the physical environment; which ‘first impression’ techniques may have been applied as part of the opening, critically; far better use of active listening skills dynamically and finally an ethical use of influencing skills. All aimed at moving hostile opponents towards a more mutually-beneficial learning conversation.

Although just the tip of the iceberg, these suggestions are the key characteristics of the skill sets used globally by the best negotiators and mediators, whether in the context of saving friendships, a career, a business critical deal or reputations,  these are ‘skills for life’ and I love discovering and sharing them.

Philip Williams is a former Director of Hostage Negotiation for the Met Police and one of our lead negotiation trainers. He brings his experience of negotiation in global crises to the world of business and works with leaders globally to help them advance their skills and capability.