With decades of experience in negotiating and conflict resolution across commercial, Government, charity / NGO, community, cross-cultural and individual contexts we have identified certain beliefs that are especially useful for successful negotiators to adopt. As will become apparent, these beliefs are easiest for someone operating out of Level 7 (Yellow) in Graves’ Values terms so, anything that can be done to encourage people to become familiar with that level will be useful. Examples of these beliefs include:
- Set Ego Aside. Even though it is unrealistic to avoid having a view or opinion on a particular situation, these ideas (and the ego that goes with them) must be put aside as far as possible when entering the dispute, unless stating them is likely to build a stepping stone towards a mutually acceptable outcome.
- Think Systemically. Understanding as much as you can of the whole “system” within which a particular issue or negotiation sits will raise the chances of achieving a truly sustainable settlement.
– Unfortunately this depth of understanding takes time and deliberate intent to achieve and is often ignored – “we need to get on with it” or “we don’t have time to get into all that” are common cries which are doomed to lead to short-term fixes.
- Identify Interests. Getting to a sustainable result requires delivery of specific high level interests which may well be unique (and undeclared) for each party. This is contrary to the common myth that all we need to do is chunk up to a level of shared or common interests.
- Work with Mistrust. Trust is not an essential component in resolving every dispute. It is helpful if it is present but, because lack of trust is often a fundamental issue in a conflict, it is more beneficial to accept the fact of mutual distrust and to work with it, rather than set a potentially unachievable outcome of establishing that trust.
- Focus on the Outcome. There is a solution (desired outcome) to every problem – it’s only a question of how many lifetimes it might take to achieve it.
- Avoid Being Judgemental. Everyone’s individual view of the world, and their interpretation of it, is not only unique but also makes total sense to them too because it is “normal” for them.
– From our perspective this may seem to be completely stupid, irrelevant or just plain wrong.
– Therefore, the more able we are to mentally “step in” to these worlds (see second position) without judging them to be good, bad, positive or negative, the more depth of understanding we will gain. In turn, this awareness will lead to greater choice of potential routes to the desired outcome.
- Understand and Utilise Values. People’s actions are driven by their values and their overall Values Systems (how they all interact with each other in a given context).
– These values are not in themselves positive or negative but determine what we pay attention to, and what we ignore.
– The best way of identifying someone’s values is to look carefully at what they do, especially when under pressure, not what they say they do.
- Listen, Listen, Listen. The facilitator does not need to know all the answers. In fact, quite the reverse – the greatest results are to be gained through appropriate questioning and careful listening, both to what is being said and, perhaps even more importantly, what is not being said.
– As a general rule, this questioning should be based on challenging “what?” and “how?” rather than “why?”
- Go to the End. Even though a “solution” may pop out at you during the code-breaking process outlined above, it is crucial to follow the procedure to its completion as these insights are often wrong and based on a pre-existing understanding of the problem.