|By Daniel Robin
Make no mistake:
resolving differences through negotiation is not a logical, linear process. However, this
model can serve as a framework for staying on track and learning how and where things go
These seven steps progress from how you might want to begin an effort to
resolve differences to how you'd want to complete that effort. Remember to prepare by
writing down your goal before taking your first step. Enjoy the dance!
1. Establish a healthy context
Plan and select the right time, place, and atmosphere to negotiate ...
one that fosters mutual respect. Agree to groundrules, if necessary, so both parties feel
safe and able to speak openly.
You'll know if you picked the wrong time if you sit there during the
conversation asking yourself "Why am I talking about this right now?" Make an
appointment or simply wait until the right moment. Ask others to do the same.
2. Tap into motivation
Mutual motivation is prerequisite to effective negotiation.
If they have a positional or situational power advantage, appeal
to their self-interest (match their values) to motivate them to join you at
the negotiation table and grant power to the conversation.
If you have more positional or situational power (youre
"one up"), temporarily suspend that privilege to "empower" the
other party through inclusion. Share the commodities of power so they actively
participate in getting to an agreement. Be direct and forthcoming. Speak plainly. Clarify
your intention to "work it out" and ask for them to hold you accountable to
standards and guidelines.
People use power differently -- passive avoiders hold onto
interpersonal power (they might need it later), authoritarians use power over
others, accommodaters give it up, while collaborators go for power with
others, or "shared power." Whats your most and least familiar style? Who
are you working with and whats their natural style? See the Interpersonal and
Leadership Styles discussion for details.
3. Remember your Goal
Before the conversation begins, ask yourself "What do I want?"
If what you want is likely to be unacceptable to the other person (your
"position"), then ask yourself "What would it do for me if I had
that?" Be clear about how you'd know if you achieved your desired outcome.
Because you write down your goal in terms of wants, actual needs
(interests, motivation, core values, or criteria), options and alternatives, all you need
do during the discussion is to recollect what you wrote down and then ....
4. Discover their Goal
Build rapport as you gather information about what they want. Be
curious and interested. Focus first on understanding and defining any problems or issues,
then shift to pinpointing their priorities and interests. Ask "What would that
do?" "how," and "when" questions -- avoid "why."
5. Accept and Validate their View
Accepting it doesn't mean you agree with it or obligate you to share
stated interests. Before asking them to understand your view, make sure you understand
& can verify exactly how it is for them. Surface any "Yes, but..."
resistance. Match and mirror to get to the heart of any issues. Remember: you know your
own goal (Step 3), so youre free to first be fully on their agenda.
6. Build a Bridge
Use what you've learned to highlight areas where you agree. Identify
your shared concerns against your shared separation. Shift out of "you against
me" and into "us against the problem." Lead toward a mutual understanding
of "what we both want." Moving with any resistance you encounter
(steps 4 & 5), propose possible creative alternatives ("What if I ..., would you
...?") to clarify conditions of satisfaction.
Brainstorm several options that would satisfy mutual interests.
Two useful questions are "What would it take ... [to satisfy both our
concerns]?" and "How might we work it out so that your needs and my needs are
both met?" This will open up a variety of ways to reach agreement. Don't pick one
right away, just list them.
7. Walk Across the Bridge
Collaborate in selecting the one, best alternative to satisfy shared
interests. You'll know you're on the right track when one of you says "Which one
of these options would work best for you?" or if someone checks to see if there's
anything else to talk about.
Close the session by verifying understandings and agreements reached,
including any further action, inquiry or follow-up steps. Recognize and appreciate
cooperation as well as clear boundaries.
As you practice using these steps, you will open up a variety of new
ways to form agreements, show respect, and preserve -- perhaps even strengthen -- your
basis for relationship.
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