A large part of successful negotiation and conflict resolution is about perspective and motivations. What does the other person want, and why? What things are they willing to give up, and what are they determined to hold on to? The answers to these questions go a long way in conflict resolution by giving insight into what the other person may be feeling, and what they’re really after when they negotiate towards a certain solution.
Perhaps a friend wants to go to an event and would like you to come along. However, it is not a subject that you have the least amount of interest in. Turning down the offer might cause them to feel betrayed or that you don’t care that much about the friendship. They may lash out or withdraw, at times appearing entirely unreasonable. Behavior is a language all on its own. In your mind, your friend may be overreacting. In reality, however, the reaction is a message sent directly to you. And an opportunity opens up for conflict resolution, if you know how to handle it skillfully.
“Why is it that you want me to go with you?” is a question that may yield a surprising response and help you decipher their reactions. In asking you to accompany them, they may be only seeking some quality time with you; thus, your rejection of the occasion feels like a personal rejection of their value to you as a friend. If your friend is inviting you to the event as a strategy to do something enjoyable together, but you wouldn’t actually enjoy that particular event in the slightest, it is hardly meeting either of your objectives for you to go and feel resentful and bored all night.
But neither of you will know what’s going on in the other person’s head until you ask. Maybe once you know what is going on, you can come up with lots of ways to have a good time and enjoy each others’ company at other events or times. Maybe no one has to feel resentful, disappointed, or devalued as a friend.This kind of honesty can free you from doing things out of guilt and obligation, and allow you to negotiate towards conflict resolution that actually works for everyone.
Very similar dynamics can occur any time two people are negotiating- in a business contract where one party wants the other to give a concession, in a family decision about how to spend time or money on something… There is potential for both tragic miscommunication as well as skillful conflict resolution in all of these cases.
If you never ask the question of why someone wants the thing they’re after, the real reasons remain obscured below the surface. It might be that no one ends up getting their needs met when you compromise without investigating the essential why. Try taking a step back to ask the why. Especially when you are immediately set off and angered by what someone has said, although it takes discipline to do. It can help diffuse the situation by giving the other person the sense that their needs are heard and respected. Calming the situation and negotiating from the why uncovers essential missing information that may lead to better conflict resolution.