Learning How to Transform our Conflicts

No Bigger Challenge, No Bigger Opportunity 

So says Rob Sokol, the new Managing Director of OEF’s eXperimental Negotiation Initiative (xNI). Learn about Rob’s journey to OEF and the vision he is pursuing with William Ury to awaken our innate capacity to transform conflict into creative negotiation.


There is no bigger challenge and no bigger opportunity in today’s troubled times than learning how to transform our conflicts.  Conflict seems to be increasing everywhere we look – polarizing our families, our workplaces, our communities, our countries, and our world. Instead of solving problems, people are fighting and blaming each other.  Or giving up altogether, giving in, and ignoring real issues, allowing them to grow worse over time.  Conflicts are increasingly poisoning our relationships and paralyzing our ability to act.  No surprise that more and more of us feel pessimistic about the future and the world we are leaving to our children.  We are living in times of crisis but the problem, we believe, is not conflict in itself.  Conflict is natural, part of life.  We naturally have different perspectives and different interests.  Conflict is how we learn, grow, and change.  Paradoxically, we may need more conflict today, not less, if we are to bring about the changes we seek and address the manifest injustices and inequalities around us.  The real problem is not conflict, but the destructive way we deal with conflict.  Our fights are destroying relationships, goodwill and trust, resources, and lives. Our fights – or avoidance of them – are preventing us from solving our problems and making our lives better.   Thankfully we have a choice. Conflicts can be unhealthy or healthy.  We can deal with conflict destructively — in a way that destroys value.  Or we can engage our differences and deal with conflict constructively — in a way that creates value.  We can transform, in other words, change the form of conflict from destructive arguments, ruinous lawsuits, political bloodbaths, and wars to creative negotiation, democratic elections, and other nonviolent methods for handling differences. 


Over the past seven years, xNI (a program and partner of OEF) has worked with William Ury to distill his more than four decades of experience helping leaders find constructive, creative, and collaborative ways to deal with their deepest differences.  We seek to generate widespread growth of a movement based on William’s mindset and method, working to transform problems in the world, and we plan to do it with humble audacity, strategic empathy, grounded imagination, and radical collaboration. Over the next few years, xNI aspires to plant the seeds that will eventually grow an ecosystem of individuals and organizations who will help “pass on” William’s teachings as a way to equip and empower individuals and teams to transform their own conflicts – big and small.

Rob’s role at OEF as the Managing Director of the eXperimental Negotiation Initiative (xNI) is to complete the incubation process for the program and lead it into a sustainable future. He will do this by working with William Ury and OEF leadership to build an organization that awakens human capacity to transform the most difficult conflicts into creative negotiations.