People negotiate all of the time. Often times people are not aware that they are in a negotiation — like “fish don’t know they swim in water”. For example, if you and your partner decide you want to eat out, usually you will have a “discussion” about which restaurant — American, Greek, Italian, or French — BBQ or Pizza. This is a negotiation! Most of what you and your partner do together is based upon an “agreement” — sometime based upon a “discussion” sometime it is just “understood”. Usually the stakes are low and the emotions are neutral or positive.
“Negotiation” is about working with other people so that each person in the group accommodates others so that everyone’s needs are satisfied. As the saying goes: “You scratch my back, I will scratch yours.” Most people learn how to do this all of the time — without any outside help! But, what if the situation becomes “crucial”?
“Conflict” arises because — as you may have noticed — people are complex and we are not all the same. Why? Everyone has a worldview and an idea of who they are (identity) and what they need (satisfaction). But! No one has the same worldview or identity or way of satisfying their needs! It is like noses. Everyone has one, but none of them are the same. Negotiation is about reconciling these differences.
When the stakes are high and when emotions are intense, then the situation becomes “crucial”. Your adrenaline kicks in; you may experience a tingling feeling all over, your hair rises, maybe you palms and/or arm-pits sweat, your heart beat races, your blood-pressure rises. The connection from the “thinking” part of your brain is cut and goes to the “reptilian” part of your brain. Now you are in the classic mode of: “Fight, flee, freeze, or flock”.
How will you respond? The out-come will depend heavily on how you and your partner choose to respond. You might practice avoidance such as remaining silent and build up resentments. You might face it and behave poorly — shouting in an angry voice, name calling, blaming, accusations, even acting out with physical violence. Do this, and everyone loses!
The situation becomes “crucial” when you perceive that the out-come will have a huge impact on the quality of your life going forward. Maybe the other person’s behavior has violated one or more of your “core emotional concerns” — you feel disrespected, your dignity is insulted. The worst behaviors and character flaws of you and your partner are likely to be in full display when in this situation.
Now is the time to step back, literally and figuratively, take some deep breaths. Now you need outside professional help! Help with “healthy” ways to handle your crucial conflicts. This is an opportunity to be creative.
Get professional help to plan the “peace-fare” way of reconciling your polar opposite view points. Find the “middle way” that transcends your opposing points of view. Doing so will help you renew mutual respect and form a new bound for healthy relations going forward even if your relationship ends and is realigned.
Negotiations may be approached from a standpoint of power or rights or interest. Power means one party has some advantage such as a deeper pocket or has some degree of psychological control or intimation over the other party. Rights means that the parties argue over some right defined in law; this usually produces an endless and unfruitful negotiation.
Interest means that each party looks at their needs and wants. This is the favored approach. Why? Because interest based negotiation opens up many possible solutions. A “position” in a negotiation is a fixed demand that has to be accepted or rejected. If the negotiation centers on each party’s interest, then the door of possibilities is wide open for creative solutions — solutions that seek to maximize the interest of each party. Agreements negotiated on the basis of satisfying legitimate interest are more long lasting and more satisfying and preserve good will.