Conflict Resolution, Part 1

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August 1, 2013

Conflicts and differences are an inevitable part of our work and relationships. How we handle those differences affects what we can and cannot accomplish as people and professionals. To benefit from those differences, we must not only be prepared to change what we do, we must also be ready to examine and perhaps shift the very assumptions that impel why we do it.

L.J. Marcus et al in Renegotiating HealthCare: Resolving Conflict to Build Collaboration

Why begin discussing conflict resolution with negotiation? Negotiation is necessary when neither party has complete control, there is a conflict of interest between the parties, and the parties will benefit in some manner by searching for agreement rather than fighting or walking away. As the domain for control shifts away from one party, the need for negotiation increases. While there are many beliefs about negotiation premises and techniques, a fundamental truth is that parties stand the greatest chance of getting what each wants when there is a spirit of openness and collaboration. Clarifying the interests of all parties, if possible, is the first major step in the right direction.

Negotiations can be simple – often positional, based on understanding what is actually true (objective facts), though this isn’t the norm in complex business organizations. More often complex negotiations represent mulitiple parties in interest-based representational negotiations. Skilled negotiators and negotiation facilitators orchestrate a plethora of issues regarding people, options, legitimate outcomes, process, commitments, relationships, motives, and language in order to create movement in understanding.

Negotiation is not [forcing] people to do something they don’t want to do. Negotiation is inventing a decision that is in both our interests and then persuading them to perceive that their interests are being met.

“Improving Negotiating Power”, Program on Negotiation, Harvard University School of Law