You’re just digging yourself deeper. If you want traction, stop focusing on positions. Go deeper.
You’re spinning again.
You go over it and over it again, focusing on how you’re right and they’re wrong. The point of contention might be your spouse or your partner, someone from your family of origin, or it might be someone at work. Whatever the case, you just keep going over and over what happened without actually getting traction to get out of the rut you’re in.
Your problem is positions.
Consider Mary Parker Follett’s story of two men quarreling in a library. One wants the window open and the other wants it closed. They bicker back and forth about how much to leave it open: a crack, halfway, three-quarters of the way. No solution satisfies them both.
Enter the librarian.
She asks one why he wants the window open: “To get some fresh air.” She asks the other why he wants it closed: “To avoid the draft.”
After thinking a minute, she opens wide a window in the next room, bringing in fresh air without a draft.
To get unstuck, focus on interests.
For a wise solution reconcile interests, not positions.
This story is typical of many negotiations. Since the parties’ problem appears to be a conflict of positions, and since their goal is to agree on a position, they naturally tend to think and talk about positions— and in the process often reach an impasse.
The librarian could not have invented the solution she did if she had focused only on the two men’s stated positions of wanting the window open or closed. Instead she looked to their underlying interests of fresh air and no draft.
This difference between positions and interests is crucial.
Interests define the problem. The basic problem in a negotiation lies not in conflicting positions, but in the conflict between each side’s needs, desires, concerns, and fears. Such desires and concerns are interests. Interests motivate people; they are the silent movers behind the hubbub of positions.
Your position is something you have decided upon.
Your interests are what caused you to so decide.
So please do this.
Focus on interests, not on positions.
The most powerful interests are basic human needs. In searching for the basic interests behind a declared position, look particularly for those bedrock concerns that motivate all people. If you can take care of such basic needs, you increase the chance both of reaching agreement and, if an agreement is reached, of the other side’s keeping to it. Basic human needs include:
- Economic well-being
- A sense of belonging
- Control over one’s life
To get out of the rut you’re in, focus on interests, not positions.
Want more help?
I can help you focus on the underlying causes that have you stuck, so you can get traction — and get moving again.
And you have a couple of options for your next step. You could contact me and describe what you’re going through. And I’ll be in touch with suggestions. Or you can book a free session to make a time to get together and talk it over in person. Either way, I’m here to help you focus, overcome resistance, and get moving again.