Ever found yourself in a standoff? You’re at loggerheads. Neither you nor your colleague will budge. There seems to be no way forward.
Think of the issue as a straight line and the standoff puts you at one end and your colleague at the other. It seems like the only way forward is compromise, that is, to meet somewhere in between. But there’s an alternative, says Mel Toomey, founder of the Generative Leadership Group. It’s to create a field of possibility. And that’s where a leader comes in.
First some background. In their classic book, Getting to Yes, Fisher and Ury say positional bargaining fails to meet the basic criteria of producing a wise agreement efficiently and amicably. As more attention is paid to positions, less attention is devoted to meeting the underlying concerns of either side.
There are two styles of positional bargaining, soft and hard, say Fisher and Ury. And most people use only these two. The soft position emphasizes the importance of building and maintaining a relationship. The hard position relies on threats and concessions. If your response to sustained, hard positional bargaining is soft positional bargaining, you will probably lose your shirt, the authors say.
The authors developed a third approach which they call principled negotiation or negotiation on the merits. Its four elements are separate the people from the problem; focus on interests, not positions; generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do; and insist that the result be based on some objective standard.
Now focus more directly on inventing options. The inhibitors, say Fisher and Ury, are premature judgment, searching for a single answer, the assumption of a fixed pie and thinking that solving their problem is their problem.