Focus on Interests, Not Positions

Posted by Beetle B. on Thu 09 June 2016

Much of the material with the tag gty comes from Getting To Yes.

The basic problem in a negotiation is not in conflicting positions, but in the conflict of underlying desires, needs, concerns and fears. These desires and concerns are called interests. These are what motivate people.

Interests are often not stated explicitly. You may need to determine what they are.

Behind a position are interests.

Why focus on interests? Because there may be several positions that satisfy those interests. Some of them may conflict with your interests. But others may not.

Another reason is that when you dig into the other side’s interests, you often find shared interests that you can leverage or enhance.

To find the interests, one approach is to put yourself in the other party’s shoes and ask “Why” to their position. You can ask him directly, but you need to do it in a non-threatening manner.

Also ask “Why not?” to the positions you advocate. Why would they say “No” to them?

Don’t assume accuracy on the answers you come up with.

Never assume the other party shares your interests. Confirm first!

Always keep in mind that the other party may have multiple interests.

Also keep in mind that there may be more parties than just the two of you, and their interests may also differ.

The most powerful interests are basic human needs like:

  • Security
  • Economic well-being
  • A sense of belonging
  • Recognition
  • Control over one’s life (autonomy)

If you can take care of these needs, you increase the chance of agreement.

Talking About Interests

You are more likely to have your interests served if you communicate them. Do not hide them!

Be specific when you communicate them. Don’t say that children are often at risk on a street. State how many times in how long they have almost been run over. Name the kids. State their ages.

Politely invite them to find flaws in your interests.

Do not belittle or dismiss their interests.

Explain the interests before the demands. Don’t make the demands and then say “Let me explain why…”

Try not to argue about the past. Focus on the future opportunities. Where would you like to go?

You would like to know clearly what you want yet be flexible. But never go in with the idea “Let’s see what they offer.” Keep an open mind, but not an empty one.

To get concrete targets, ask yourself: “If tomorrow the other side agrees to go along with me, what do I now think I would like them to go along with?” Formulate options, but treat them as “illustrative”.

Don’t be soft when discussing interests. Be soft on the people, but not on the problem. Negotiate hard on them. Do not commit to your position, but do commit to your interests.

Ensure you are not offending the other side. Respectfully listen to them, appreciate their time and effort, and even be supportive of them. Ensure they see you are attacking the problem, and not them.

Try to give as much positive support to the other side as you emphasize your interests and solution.

tags : negotiations, gty