The Power of Endings

In essence, the power of endings lies in their ability to shape our future interactions. Whether in crisis negotiations, international diplomacy, or everyday negotiations, recognizing the influence of endings and practicing humility can lead to more positive and fruitful outcomes. So, as we cross the finish line in various aspects of life, let's remember the significance of endings and approach them with thoughtfulness and grace.

Josh Ether

10/8/20212 min read

Endings play a crucial role in shaping our future beginnings, and understanding their significance can lead to practical and relatable outcomes. To illustrate this, let me share a story about my friend Angel Calzadilla, a crisis negotiator based in Miami, Florida.

One day, Angel was called to an incident involving a man named Paris. Paris had climbed a tower, holding three suitcases over a barbed wire fence, and was causing a commotion by throwing down leaflets. The situation quickly escalated, with a crowd gathering, traffic being disrupted, and the SWAT team being summoned. Angel's role was to persuade Paris to come down and diffuse the crisis.

Initially uncertain about how to communicate with Paris, Angel and his team devised a unique solution. Using a helicopter, Angel wrote messages on large sheets of paper, which Paris responded to with nods or shakes of his head. Hours passed, and the negotiation became a race against time, requiring a helicopter refueling. Eventually, Angel convinced Paris that coming down would give him an opportunity to share his message with the media.

When Paris finally descended, the exhausted SWAT team wanted to swiftly remove him from the scene. However, Angel intervened, reminding them of the promise he had made to allow Paris to speak to the media. Despite the weariness and impatience, Angel insisted on honoring that commitment. Paris was granted his moment to express his demands, including peculiar requests like fewer asphalt roads and an end to Russian pornography.

Now, the story takes an intriguing twist. Months later, after Paris had been released from incarceration, he was found with an actual bomb. However, he was not considered a threat to society. On Easter Sunday, Angel received a page, summoning him to another scene where Paris had climbed a pylon, making similar demands. This time, the negotiation was swift and smooth because the trust and rapport established during the previous interaction influenced their second encounter.

This tale illustrates the importance of endings in crisis negotiations. Instead of treating them as one-off incidents, Angel recognized the possibility of repeat interactions and the value of maintaining trust and follow-through. It reminds us that even in unusual circumstances, an initial ending can shape future outcomes.

Expanding our perspective to a larger scale, consider the end of the Cold War. Decades of tension between the Soviet Union and the United States finally culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall. While many celebrated this as a victory for the Western countries, President George Bush approached the situation with remarkable understatement. He understood the necessity of continued cooperation with Soviet leader Gorbachev. By refraining from gloating, Bush preserved the groundwork for future collaboration.

This principle extends beyond international relations. In negotiations, it is crucial not to gloat or display excessive satisfaction after reaching a favorable agreement. Just as Bush's modesty fostered ongoing cooperation, maintaining a balanced demeanor can preserve relationships and pave the way for future engagements.