Ripeness Theory and the Oslo Talks

In: International Negotiation
Pruitt Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14260 USA

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Readiness theory, an adaptation of ripeness theory, helps to resolve some problems with the latter set of ideas. Readiness theory holds that all kinds of progress toward conflict resolution result from the existence, on both sides, of: motivational ripeness (motivation to achieve de-escalation) and optimism about finding a mutually acceptable agreement. The motivational ripeness that led to the Oslo agreements resulted from the circumstances that obtained in the Middle East just prior to the talks. But optimism mainly developed during the talks themselves, by a circular process that involved: a steady growth in working trust, a perception that the other side was represented by a valid spokesman, and perceived common ground. Given the high level of motivational ripeness on both sides, good offices by a small country – Norway – were exactly what was needed. The critical elements of the Norwegian intervention were: assurance of absolute secrecy, provision of facilities that encouraged intimacy between the delegates, and arranging for meetings over a long enough period of time for the components of optimism to emerge and a possible agreement to be developed. Another source of the Oslo breakthrough was the existence of several critical bridge people prior to the emergence of the motivationally ripe moment.

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