Interest-Based Negotiation

The Alternative: Interest-Based Bargaining

There is an alternative – interest-based bargaining. When we negotiate from a position we reach impasse quickly because positions are difficult to reconcile. However, the basic problem in a negotiation lies not in conflicting positions but in the conflict between each person’s needs, desires, concerns and fears.

The conflict may present itself as “I want to stay in the house and my spouse insists that it be sold”. However, on a more basic level what you may really want is to maintain stability for the family while the children are still in school, and what your spouse may really be concerned about is economic well-being – generating enough cash from a house sale to get the family out of debt.

Such desires and concerns are interests. Interests are what motivate people, the “signal” behind the “noise” of positions. Your position is something that you have decided upon – your interests are what caused you to make that decision.

Looking to interests instead of positions can make it possible to create a solution. We tend to assume that because the other person’s positions are opposed to ours, their interests must also be opposed. However, when we examine underlying interests we often find that there are many more interests that are shared or compatible than interests that are opposed. This is especially true in family situations.

For example, it’s probably safe to assume that you and your spouse share an interest in maintaining stability for the family and that you also share an interest in being free of debt. Knowing this, you can start to define the problem differently: How can we maintain stability for the family and also start getting ourselves out of debt?

Redefining the problem also redefines the scope of possible solutions. You can start to have a larger and more creative conversation: Are there comparable homes in the neighborhood for rent? Are there other resources for getting out of debt? Would it work to keep the house until our oldest graduates from high school and then sell?

Going beneath positions to interests transforms bargaining into joint problem-solving and maximizes opportunities to invent options for mutual gain.

The Negotiation “PIE”

One way to look at negotiations is that you and your spouse or partner are creating a “pie” which consists of all the things you are negotiating about. Each of you would like to get a large slice of that pie.

Claiming Value

The traditional way to do this is to claim a larger slice of the pie. When you do that, the other person necessarily gets a smaller slice. The danger is that the other may decide to claim a larger slice too and, through action and reaction, the end result is that the pie itself gets smaller.

Creating Value

There is another way to think about it. You and your spouse or partner can work together to create value, to, in effect, make a larger pie. You do this by first exchanging all the information necessary to jointly define what the pie is. Then you work together to invent solutions, based upon interests rather than positions, which will be advantageous for both of you. The process is joint problem-solving. The goal is for each of you to receive a fair share of the biggest possible pie.

 

The Alternative: Interest-Based Bargaining

There is an alternative – interest-based bargaining. When we negotiate from a position we reach impasse quickly because positions are difficult to reconcile. However, the basic problem in a negotiation lies not in conflicting positions but in the conflict between each person’s needs, desires, concerns and fears.

The conflict may present itself as “I want to stay in the house and my spouse insists that it be sold”. However, on a more basic level what you really want is to maintain stability for the family while the children are still in school, and what your spouse is really concerned about is economic well-being, generating enough cash from a house sale to get the family out of debt.

Such desires and concerns are interests. Interests are what motivate people. They are the “signals” behind the “noise” of positions.Your position is something that you have decided upon – your interests are what caused you to make that decision.

Looking to interests instead of positions can make it possible to create a solution. We tend to assume that because the other person’s positions are opposed to ours, their interests must also be opposed. However, when we examine underlying interests we often find that there are many more interests that are shared or compatible than interests that are opposed. This is especially true in family situations.

For example, it’s probably safe to assume that you and your spouse share an interest in maintaining stability for the family and that you also share an interest in being free of debt. Knowing this, you can start to define the problem differently: How can we maintain stability for the family and also start getting ourselves out of debt?

Redefining the problem also redefines the scope of possible solutions. You can start to have a larger and more creative conversation: Are there comparable homes in the neighborhood for rent?Are there other resources for getting out of debt? Would it work to keep the house until our oldest graduates from high school and then sell?

Going beneath positions to interests transforms bargaining into joint problem-solving and maximizes opportunities to invent options for mutual gain.