Tuesday, June 29 – Conflict Resolution

IMG_5350 The last two days have been filled with exercises and discussions aimed at developing and refining our skills in negotiation, both within our ‘home’ teams (negotiation teams) as we strategized for the negotiation simulations and then within the simulations themselves.

Today, our two facilitators Dr. Mark Young and Bjorn Hoffman reminded us of the importance of going beyond the surface when creating agreements or making a deal, in order for both parties to get what they want. Despite having in mind what we want, we often end up conceding at times when negotiation gets tense or difficult and therefore reaching outside of the positions presented and searching for the deeper interests can lead to results that make both parties happy.

The discussion reminded me of a mediation that my previous organization had been involved in. The mediation was between neighbors one of whom came to us with several issues, which included the neighbor being too noisy on the front patio, parking in front of the others driveway, and coming to an agreement on the building of a fence.  It had seemed during individual conversations with each of the parties that there had been much difficulty for them to create any agreement on their own, and so they decided to go the route of mediation.

During the mediation however, agreement on how to address all three issues mentioned above came very quickly. Thus final agreement was drawn up, and just as the first party got ready to sign, the other party stood up, his hands shaking, and said: “alright, I can’t take it! Listen, the reason I brought up all these issues is that I just… I don’t like having to make small talk when I come home from work. I’m very uncomfortable around people I don’t know…I have a phobia…and what I would really like is if you would just not be on your patio when I come home.” There it was- the issue that really needed to be on the table.

DSC02069 Once this was out in the open the discussion became much more relaxed and friendly, and the two neighbors were able to create an agreement that actually worked for them and ensured a much more harmonious home front in the long term.

While we always reminded each other that it’s never JUST about the fence, or the dog, or the parking space, and that there are always other underlying issues (usually relationship related ones!) be it feeling disrespected, or a desire to be liked, moments like this served to reinforce that lesson and reminded us to ask more questions. Dig a little deeper.

Similarly, in negotiations we need to remember this same thing—there are always interests under the surface that we have to spend time uncovering in order to develop the best deal possible. One that transcends compromise, and lands somewhere that gives both parties cause to celebrate.

Zahra Ismail, Canada