Photo Credit: Birds on a Wire by Flickr.com user Kiwi Flickr

Why I listen to Talk Radio: Confessions of a Mediator

I am a talk radio addict. I listen to everything, including certain hosts you wouldn’t expect someone of my persuasion to listen to. I am fascinated both by hosts and callers, what they say, how they express themselves, what they are afraid of and what they are proud of. As a mediator of public policy and natural resource disputes I encounter all kinds at the negotiating table, and by hearing this range of random voices on the radio I can get a glimpse into what makes these people tick. And what do I hear, what is the subtext of almost every caller? The need for respect. This mirrors my experience mediating highly controversial disputes. Beyond the technical data, the scientific models, the latest research lie some basic needs. Those who are fighting want from the other side respect and fairness. It’s that simple. Once that is in place, we can talk details of resolutions. And so I was gratified to hear—on the brief news break between talk shows—a report on a speech by Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani, a man after my own heart apparently. In a speech that I wish had received more attention he said that all Iranian citizens, whether they voted for him or not, have equal civil rights. And, he said, sending a message to the US and Western Allies, “The only way to interact with Iran is to have dialogue from an equal position, creating mutual trust and respect and reducing enmities. Let me state it clearly that if you want a positive response, talk to Iran not with a language of sanctions but a language of respect.” I hope that Obama can respond in kind. Would that it were that simple—two leaders offering each other respect and finding a way to a peaceful solution. But I know it’s not that simple because I listen to talk radio….