Balancing Controversial Issues and Personal Needs

Always Accept the Challenge of Finding Common Ground

Veteran negotiators understand that the common ground that unites disparate parties may well be located at different levels of abstraction. The skill is first to search these out, and then spend time helping parties focus on building up these areas of togetherness.

For example, in a business negotiation the area of variance may be around costs, while the common ground may be that both parties want the relationship to succeed. So spending time developing the latter (i.e. focusing on positive aspects of the relationship, or ways to work together) may be critical in helping overcome the problem of the financials.

How passionate are you on strategically locating and building up the common ground? Or is your approach simply to stay focused on trying to undo the areas of disagreement?

Even Deep Seated Needs can be Negotiable

Carefully choosing the appropriate words and language assists in reaching final agreements. In ENSI jargon, ‘red’ language needs to be replaced with ‘blue’ language.

Naturally, groups may be critical of the changes, claiming that the language is diluted. A skilled negotiator might ask what needs of these critical groups were not being met with the language changes? And how deeply under the waterline were their unmet needs located?

Can you think of negotiations in your own life where deep seated beliefs were the biggest hurdle to overcome? If you were the other party, what process would you suggest to address this?

Tips on Dealing with Deeply Held Beliefs

When dealing with deeply held beliefs and needs:

  • Have you properly diagnosed the true underlying need? Make sure you have found the real source which is not being met. Perhaps it is not the deeply held value or belief itself, but rather how the person or group acknowledging such a belief will be perceived (ie. face saving is the real need).
  • How can you de-link the ‘need’ or belief system from the controversial issue? One approach is to try to distance the belief or need from the sensitive issue through word and language choices which are more easily acceptable to the other party.

Tips on Building Overarching Common Ground

  • ENS consultants recommend that clients search out the overarching common purpose early in preparing for negotiation.
  • These may often be found at a higher-order, more abstract level. For example, both sides want to achieve an agreement, seek fairness, establish some sort of alliance, stability, business or relationship continuity, plus personal futures.
  • Developing and anchoring-in the overarching common ground during the pre-negotiation and introductory phase builds a strong foundation for dealing with differences.

To discuss this article in more depth and explore developing your negotiation capabilities, please contact us via email or call +612 9299 9688.

ENS Team
ENS Team

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