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William Ury’s Possible: How We Survive (and Thrive) in an Age of Conflict 

William urys possible how we survive and thrive in an age of conflict

William Ury is a long-time student of the art of negotiation and mediation. He originally got a Ph.D. in Anthropology but decided to apply it to something practical: Negotiation.

He helped found the program on negotiation at Harvard Law School. He’s always loved reflecting on what leads to negotiation successes and failures. He’s worked on every continent in both business and politics.

He’s always sought to answer, “Can’t we find a better way to deal with our differences than threatening everything that we hold precious?”

William has spent the last 45 years designing better ways for humans to reach agreement in difficult circumstances.

He recently wrote “Possible: How We Survive (and Thrive) in an Age of Conflict.” He shares why he wrote the book in episode #437 of Negotiations Ninja.

The art of what’s “Possible”

William’s book is nothing short of an injection of hope.

When William started writing the book, he had no idea how timely it would be. More geopolitical conflict is happening in 2024 than William has seen in his lifetime. Ukraine, the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, China—the list goes on. Conflict is off the charts.

Yet, we live in a time of enormous opportunities and abundance. Humans are far better off than decades ago. There’s nothing we can’t accomplish if we could work together. But conflict is increasing, polarizing us, and poisoning relationships. How do we navigate these times?

It’s time to become a “possibilist”

William is able to see the negative possibilities that exist for our future but is a true believer in human potential. We’ve barely tapped the potential we have to deal creatively, constructively, and collaboratively with impossible conflict. William terms himself a “Possibilist” because he’s seen it happen before.

He was in South Africa during apartheid and watched as—against all odds—the conflict was transformed because of Mandela. He was in Northern Ireland and saw decades of conflict begin to shift. He was an advisor to the President of Colombia. They’d experienced 50 years of civil war with millions of victims. Within seven years of hard work, the team was able to end the longest-running war in the Americas.

William has seen the worst of humanity but also how conflict can bring out our best. He wrote the book, to sum up what he’s learned from a lifetime of experiences as we navigate these times.

What can we do in these challenging times?

William challenges every reader: Join him and become a possibilist. Believe that we can take conflict and find opportunities that can make all the difference. William’s dream is to form a worldwide league of possiblists—people willing to tackle the world’s toughest conflicts.

If we can transform our conflicts, we can transform lives and transform the world. If not us, who? If not now, when? What can we do for future generations?

William shares what he’s learned from decades of global mediation and negotiation in episode #437 of Negotiations Ninja. Don’t miss this episode.