Obstacles to Agreement
The other side may stall: Lack of interest, vague statements, delays, breaking agreements, a flat No!
There are four common reasons:
- Not their idea
- Unmet interests (e.g. you’ve overlooked an interest of theirs)
- Fear of losing face: They are afraid it’ll look bad to others
- Too much too fast: They are overwhelmed and it is easier to say “No”.
Build a Golden Bridge
Do not push, insist, or apply pressure. It reasserts the fact that the idea is yours and not theirs. And it increases the appearance of giving in.
Mediators build golden bridges, it is their job.
Start from where the other person is.
Involve The Other Side
Don’t announce that you have the solution (without involving others).
Ask For And Build On Their Ideas
There is a great temptation to tell (e.g. Tell them why your solution is good for them).
Switch to asking. How would they solve the problem? You do not need to accept their ideas. Just select the constructive ones, start with them, and go in the direction you’d like.
Emphasize you build on their idea. “Based on your suggestion, how…”
Ask For Constructive Criticism
Keep inviting their criticism as the process continues. Emphasize that you are not looking for a “Yes” or “No”, but for feedback.
- “What interests of yours does this fail to satisfy?”
- “How would you improve on it?”
- “Can we make it better for your side without hurting our side?”
Try creating a joint draft that both sides work on.
Offer Them a Choice
They may be too lazy to invent options. So invent several and let them choose. Good for impasses.
Satisfy Unmet Interests
If at an impasse, query for a reason.
If you find yourself thinking the other side is unreasonable/irrational/only cares about money, etc, you are being lazy. Find the unmet need.
Don’t Dismiss Them as Irrational
Everyone is rational. There is no irrational decision. If you find it irrational, find the missing pieces.
Ask yourself: “If I were them, what reason could I possibly have for saying No?” Because he is saying it!
Don’t Overlook Basic Human Needs
Don’t assume they just want money. Maybe they want recognition. Or autonomy.
Don’t Assume a Fixed Pie
Don’t assume meeting their needs means compromising your own.
Look for low cost, high benefit trades: What is cheap for you but valuable to them? What is cheap for them but valuable to you?
Use an If-Then Formula
Sometimes the other party doesn’t believe the outcome will be valuable. So you agree to a lower price, but say “If my outcomes arises, I get X more.”
Help Them Save Face
Help Them Back Away Without Backing Down
Show how circumstances have changed: Explain that their stance was once correct but the circumstances have changed.
Ask for a third party recommendation: Mediator, independent expert, friend, etc. Then it won’t appear as if they gave in. Seems more objective.
Point to a standard of fairness: Find a standard. If arguing with the insurance company about the value of a car, suggest looking at car ads.
Help Write Their Victory Speech
What would their critics say? Come up with solutions to these. If you want a raise, find a way your boss can justify it without appearing too generous.
Let the other side share the credit.
Go Slow To Go Fast
Guide Them Step By Step
Instead of trying to get an agreement on the whole package, break it up into smaller agreements. This has the benefit that each partial agreement can open up opportunities not originally apparent.
“Can we try a pilot agreement?” or “Can we try it for one month?”
Don’t Ask For a Final Agreement Until The End
Their attitude may be “If I give an inch, you’ll take a mile.” Don’t press for an immediate concession. Assure them they need not make a final commitment until the very end.
However, if the other side doesn’t like a step-by-step approach, make sure nothing is agreed on until everything is agreed.
Don’t Rush To The Finish
Easy to do once near the end.
Encourage them to check with their constituents.
Summarize each point of agreement to ensure interpretations don’t differ.