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Hard on Substance, Easy on People

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10/09/2012 11:37 AM

Last entry we introduced four steps for integrative problem solving and explored the first - Focus on Interests.  We explored 4 types of interests to identify and discussed how to help all parties focus on those interests.  In this entry, we will discuss the second step - Be hard on the dispute's substance, but easy on the people.

This step is very intuitive, as we all know examples of people not wanting to negotiate.  For example, people seem to loathe to go car shopping because they do not want to negotiate.  The reason (besides slimy sales people)?  At some point they feel that they are being disrespected due to some mis-communication.  As much as we like to think of ourselves as great communicators, the truth is that it is easy to mis-communicate our message, resulting in the other party feeling threatened.  This may spawn from the other person's own frames of references.  In problem solving situations, the sensitivity is compounded by the fact that it is more stressful, perhaps due to guilt or other emotions that are involved.  As such, the integrative negotiator will focus on not just the problem to be solved, but also the process for solving the problem.

As such, the integrative negotiator will strive to do 8 things, the first 5 focusing on problem solving and the final 3 geared toward process solving:

1. Separate the people from the problem;

2. Understand the problem from the other parties' perspective;

3. Avoid inferring other parties' intentions from his/her own fears;

4. Recognize, identify, and discuss emotions explicitly;

5. Confirm interpretations before acting on them;

6. Recognize when the focus is changing away from the substance;

7. Deliberately steer the focus back to substance; and

8. Negotiate the process.

These are strategies, not a check list for step-by-step completion.  The integrative negotiator needs to recognize when each strategy will assist the negotiation. 

These strategies may seem like more work or effort, but by focusing on the problem and the process to problem solving the negotiator can avoid the walls, hurdles, and pitfalls that will be built when the people are the focus-saving time in the long run. 

Have an example of when you have used these steps, then let us know by commenting!

Next time we will discuss Brainstorming.

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