Seven Elements of Negotiation: Part 1, Interests

Part 1: Interests
We all know that everyone negotiates. We all know that we have been negotiating since we were babies, the difference now compared to then is that as a baby, our method of negotiating was crying whereas hopefully now we have a few more tools in our mediator/negotiator toolbox.

Every negotiation, according to Roger Fisher of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, has seven distinguishable elements that are interconnected. They are:

  • Interests
  • Alternatives
  • Relationship
  • Options
  • Legitimacy
  • Communication
  • Commitment

As a negotiator, during your preparation (remember how important preparing is?), you can use these 7 elements to create your game plan.

As a mediator, it is important to remember these as you can help the parties move forward, move from positions to interests, and keeping the 7 in mind, it helps move from stalemates (among many other positive uses).

Regardless of how you mediate or negotiate, the 7 elements are always present in negotiations. What changes is the importance of one over the other. An example is having your interests met in a particular negotiation might far outweigh the future relationship you will have with the other party.

I am going to breakdown the 7 elements into separate posts by day as a way to get you to keep coming back to my blog (wait, did I just think that or type it?!?).

Seriously, I am breaking it down element by element to keep the theme of my posts being quick reads, but after the seventh one, I will make a posting having all seven in one place for easier future references.

INTERESTS

Negotiating based on interests has many positive attributes to it. But what does ‘interests’ mean?

    • I want him to pay me
    • I want the radio to stop being so loud
    • I want my money back

Guess what? Those are positions- not interests. The above are what you want to accomplish. To create a greater chance of a mutually beneficial agreement, negotiate on interests over positions. When you negotiate on positions, both sides have a tendency to dig their heels in, get stuck in their thoughts, spend most of the negotiation defending their position and attacking the others.

Interest based negotiating on the other hand creates more of a collaborative environment and expands your options. By doing this, its creates a win-win opportunity compared to the combative me versus you/win-lose situation.

Using the above listed examples of positions, possible interests behind them could include:

    • I feel like I was cheated and disrespected
    •  need my rest, I go to bed early because I work the early shift
    • I paid for a service that I feel I did not get and I am frustrated
Your interests represents your needs, hopes and concerns.

Ok, now you know your interests, so you think you are done right? Wrong, you are only halfway there. It is great you know your interests, but in order for the negotiation to get a successful outcome, the agreement must be beneficial to both parties. So yes, you guessed it, you have to figure out the other party’s interests too.

Figuring out their interests provides you with many benefits. For one thing, it prepares you on how they may or may not respond to your needs. Also, knowing their interests helps you find out what their alternatives are.

                        author

Jeff Thompson

Jeff Thompson, Ph.D., is a professor at Lipscomb University, researcher, mediator, and trainer. He is also involved in crisis and hostage negotiation as well as a law enforcement detective. His research includes law enforcement crisis and hostage negotiation in terrorist incidents. He received his doctorate from Griffith University Law School… MORE >

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