Every morning I’m woken by the squawking of ducks, swans and geese fighting over territories. It’s usually a right old barney and isn’t over until one side is chased away by the other. Fortunately as humans we have the choice to find another way.
No matter how much we create strong boundaries or build a positive mind-set there are always times when we come into conflict with someone we can’t walk away from. It forces us into a position where we must learn to negotiate. Global Peace Processes are necessarily defined by negotiation. But how do we learn the art of peaceful settlement in our personal and business lives?
By the nature of conflict both sides feel rattled with neither willing to back down. Each feels they are right and the other is wrong. But this rigid thinking allows for no movement or progress. It certainly doesn’t lay the groundwork for reconciliation. In fact the first step is not with the other side but within our selves. The first battle is with our own ego. We are most likely in a place of anger, resentment and feeling hard done by. We may feel emotionally hurt or misunderstood, unfairly criticized or judged. So how do we step aside from our ego, thoughts and feelings in order to place ourselves squarely before our ‘enemy’ in the spirit of bridging the divide and resolving the conflict? First we must know that as humans we have a gap in our minds that occurs between stimulus/assault and response. This space is filled with choice. We can choose to launch a counter-attack or we can choose to pause, reflect and move forward carefully with healing as our goal.
If we choose reflection then we can use that space to look at our values. Do they include peace, tranquility, love, understanding, connection, friendship? If we understand our core values then we can plan our next steps not only with integrity for who we are but with an open mind to the core values of others. We must also know our limits, our healthy boundaries that keep our values protected. If not allowing other people’s anger to intimidate you is one of your boundaries you will need to create a place of negotiation that keeps you safe from that intimidation. Now you are ready to open up the space for negotiation. Your role, as you stand before your ‘opposition’ is to extend the hand of trust. You must make it clear that you will listen deeply to their view, feelings, hurts and you will seek to understand their position. But equally you must express your wish for them to listen and seek to understand yours. When you listen, it is not just hearing their words, it is looking more deeply at the meaning behind. What are they really saying and how can you help them to feel better about the underlying issues?
This is not the time to take what they are saying personally, even if it sounds like they are attacking you again. Ignore the sound of accusation and search for the layers of needs that aren’t being met. Listen and repeat what they are saying so that they know you are hearing them correctly. Ask questions that take you to deeper level of understanding. People want to be heard and when they feel they are being listened to, they become less defensive, their guard starts to come down and they will begin to be ready to hear what you have to say. When it is your turn to share your view, ensure that you remove all accusations and concentrate purely on how ‘we’ can find a solution so that everyone’s needs may be met. It will be a two-way rotation of listening, understanding and acknowledging until the gap between you closes and the emotions subside.
It is in this space that both minds will open up to the creative process, and forward thinking and positive solutions will emerge. Practical steps will reveal themselves and together you can make a plan for embracing a new way that allows both of you to feel like winners. A successful negotiation is not one winning over the other, nor one appeasing the other or a compromise in which neither feels satisfied. It is a third way in which everyone feels understood, their values respected and their needs met.
10 Principles of Creative Negotiation
- Remove the ego from the equation
- Work from your core values
- Put healthy boundaries in place
- Find common areas of mutual interest
- Listen and seek to understand
- Respect given is likely to be to be reciprocated
- Be assertive not aggressive
- Engage fully with each other
- Discuss how ‘we’ might find a solution
- Keep your eye on the end result: finding what works for both parties