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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2008

T C 357 • Managing Human Differences in an Adversarial World

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43715 T
5:00 PM-8:00 PM
PAR 304

Course Description

People are easy to get along with until two or more of us get together. From boudoir to boardroom, from war room to courtroom, managing human differences is an omnipresent and enduring challenge. Too often, when dealing with conflicting beliefs, wants and aspirations, humans default to adversarialismCin law, international relations, business, politics, and even religion. So pervasive is the aggressive mindset, according to Deborah Tannen, that American society has become the Aargument culture.

Because managing human differences is multifaceted, we'll delve into psychology, communication, game theory, logic, complexity and chaos for insights on the operation, costs and benefits of the strategies we pursue in dealing with our differences.

To address our Aargument culture, it's not enough to advise others on what they must do: we've all got to get better. For that reason, while it is valuable and perhaps most comfortable to engage in detached exploration, you will not be allowed to stop there. You will be challenged to not only engage your intellect but to explore your whole self as you relate to the readings and to your classmates. Through immersion in games, exercises, and discussions, you will experience the principles about which you will be reading.

There is nothing more critical to managing differences than your ability to communicate, both orally and in writing. For that reason, we'll have two individual oral presentations and one group presentation. You'll learn how to communicate more powerfully than you've previously imagined, and, if need be, to overcome the natural anxiety that accompanies oral presentations.

This class will be limited to 16 students and, if there's full enrollment, will be divided into groups of four students. Some of your graded work will be a group product. What better way to explore human differences than to participate in group activities in which you must take advantage of your diversity without letting it become a hindrance?

This course will also require that you have the courage to be honest and emotionally vulnerable. If you can't do that, this is not the course for you. Please discuss any personal reservations with the professor before enrolling.


The primary course references will be Trimble, Writing with Style; Spence, How to Argue and Win Every Time; and Perlmutter, Why Lawyers (and the rest of us) Lie and Engage in Other Repugnant Behavior. I think you'll find these to be eminently readable.

In addition, we'll read a number of short pieces and excerpts such as:
A.J. Schuler, Hardball Negotiations.
Callahan, The Cheating Culture.
Craig's List, Rant & Rave. Contemporary thoughts on race and class issues.
Feldman, Iran and the Bomb. New York Times Magazine.
Fisher and Ury, Getting to Yes. Excerpts on principle-based negotiation.
Fukuyama, Trust. Excerpts on societal implications of course issues.
Gleick, Chaos. Lessons on sensitive dependence on initial conditions.
Kane, Through the Moral Maze. Chapters on The Spirits of the Times, The Ends Principle, and Public and Private Morality.
Kiersey and Bates, Please Understand Me.
Tannen, Deborah, The Argument Culture. Excerpts on the societal impact of individual strategies.
Toulmin et. al., An Introduction to Reasoning. Excerpts on proofs and logical fallacies.
Winter, A Clearing in the Forest. Excerpts on the relationship between brain function and modes of reasoning.


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