Win/Win! – The Art of Negotiating Conflicts

Win/win is an attitude, not an outcome.
- Don Boyd

As long as there is life, there will always be conflicts to resolve. This truth is both universal and infinite!

Out of the crib and into the grave…conflicts do exist and it is the way of mankind to resolve our differences and learn and grow from them.

Some conflicts often do not have immediate solutions and the parties involved more often than not go through multiple stages of conflicts and their negotiations.

Months or years before you were born, your life was already a subject of discussion. Most certainly, your parents discussed what hospital to rush to for your delivery and discussed this with your mom’s doctor. Dad and Mom also talked about options with respect to the available finances anf resources. They also discussed with the doctor the possibility of a normal or caesarian delivery. In all these, the doctor and your parents might have different opinions and preferences. They all were after the best options according to how they saw it.

You thought that’s the end of it? Deciding your name became the next subject of negotiations. Everyone, including grand parents, aunts, even the next-door neighbors, and business associates, had their own say. After agreeing on your name, the date for christening followed, along with where and how the event would be celebrated. All these involve small negotiations – and you weren’t even born yet!

There’s no end to all the discussions and differences in opinion; and this is just infanthood. What about childhood, school life, adolescence, and young adulthood?

Even on the deathbed, the relatives of a dying person discuss what funeral service to hire, what burial rites to perform, etc. Life from start to finish is accompanied by discussions, differences of opinion, and final decisions. As long as these things happen, conflicts continue.

4 Stages Of Conflicts And How To Detect Them

The number one goal in resolving a conflict is to make sure both sides maintain their self-esteem. This is one phrase that should remind you of the overall objective in a conflict.

Conflicts differ in intensity. They are composed of four stages:

Stage One:

These are very mild discussions geared towards seeking quick and pleasurable solutions in problem solving. Opinion poll is taken from all possible sides, especially from those involved. Often, those who talk are the ones really involved. Others are contented to merely listen. In this stage, there are no heated arguments. The conflict can be resolved quickly and in a spirited mood. Examples of this type of conflict are choosing what clothes to wear, what movie to see, what hobby to do, or who to go out with on dates. Beware though. This conflict, though light and pleasurable, may develop into the next level if unchecked.

Stage Two:

Fiery words, emotional outbursts, and booming voices are just some of what you can expect in the second stage. Discussions can get hot and may extend for a certain period. This stage involves some loss in property, time, dignity, and principle.

A series of meetings or discussions may be needed, which may or may not result to conflict resolution. This may accelerate into the next stage of conflict if unresolved, or decelerate into the first stage of conflict and ends well as a result. The situation may get out of hand to the extent that more persons or events outside the main players (people really involved) may be dragged into it. It may be said that this stage is a half-blown stage of conflict.

Stage Three:

Aside from the issues in stage two, this may involve a loss of life. The situation is marked by a full-blown conflict and the parties involved find themselves at the verge of chaos.

The problems could be resolved, but solution calls for tolerance and some compromises on principles. Either or both parties will have to give in for negotiations to proceed and progress. The situation can revert to stage two depending on the results of the negotiations. It could escalate into a breakdown or total collapse of the situation. This could lead to a permanent strife between parties.

Stage Four:

When negotiations bog down and the players find themselves face to face in court, we have a stage four conflict. This is an expensive stage to be in. The attorney’s fees alone can be very shocking. As a champion negotiator, we don’t want to reach stage four. We want to keep things within stage one or two.

What Is A Negotiation?

The word “negotiate” has Latin roots: NEG which means “not” and OTIO which is translated to “leisure” and originally meant “to conduct business.” Negotiation is really a people process.

Negotiation is a process of trying to make opposing parties come to a middle ground where they can meet eye-to-eye, talk about their conflicts in a better light, and aspire for a win-win resolution to conflicts. Conflicts tend to keep involved parties at the opposite ends of the pole. They establish their own separate territories far from each other, and then dig deep into their turfs. This situation is no different from building their own separate war camps, with foxholes, shelters, artillery and arms depot, where they shoot at each other until one of them yields.

But yielding does not always mean the end of a conflict. It may just be a temporary surrender to enable both camps to consolidate and strengthen positions. A fresh conflict may again start soon. If negotiations fail, opposing parties may take up the case in court; or worse, deal with the case violently. As a champion negotiator, your job is to settle things out of court and without any violence. Just a few seconds ago, you have seen that negotiations ensue from birth to death. Every stage of your life involves some form of discussion or argument that needs efficient decision-making.

Now are you up for a simple activity? Drift yourself back through time and recall actual negotiations you were involved in. Do the following life situations look familiar? Have you been a witness to any of the following situations that clearly involved negotiations?

1. Child and parent negotiations on buying a toy. (Can you guess who normally wins?)

2. Negotiations between or among playmates on what, how, and where they should play.

3. Going to school everyday, especially the “waking up early” part.

4. Arguing with Dad on whether to go camping/outing or not.

5. What school to go to in high school or junior high.

6. A class report where you try to convince everybody of what you have researched.

7. What clothes or shoes to buy.

8. Who to go out with on a date and where.

9. Who to choose as boy or girl friend.

10. What college course to take and where.

11. What company of friends to join.

12. What organization to work for or what business to undertake.

13. Who to marry.

14. How many kids to have.

15. What house to settle in with your family and where.

Discussions of differences in opinion and how to settle them halfway are the courses of life. We often encounter such situations first with our parents and relatives, then with our playmates, then with our schoolmates, then with our spouse, boss, clients, and colleagues in office or business. Later in life, you will even have to negotiate for your health and life. Dying people are known to negotiate with God for a second chance at life or for a quick, painless death. Indeed, prayer is really a negotiation.

Any form of communication is part of negotiation. Saying “Hello” upon picking up the phone is an invitation to a discussion. Then you ask, “May I speak with Kurt?” In that instant, the possibility of a simple negotiation can get under way. But am I willing to speak or do I want to elude you or…has the conflict just begun?