Conflict Resolution

How to Resolve Conflict Using Street Negotiation

Tristan Loo asked:

Conflicts pop up wherever we go. Conflicts happen at work with coworkers and bosses. Conflicts happen at home with our spouses, girlfriends/boyfriends, sons/daughters, neighbors, etc. Conflicts happen when we are out on the streets doing our daily errands, such as when encountering a rude person at the grocery line, or a pushy guy at the bar. To avoid conflict is impossible because we would literally have to lock ourselves in a box away from others to do so. No, instead we must learn the valuable skill of negotiating conflicts in a peaceful and productive way. This can be done in six steps and it’s a process which I call Street Negotiation, or the ability to negotiate a conflict wherever and whenever you encounter it. Street Negotiation is based on six-steps which has the acronym P.E.R.P.O.S. In this article, we’ll touch on these six-steps.

Step 1: Plan B

Whenever you engage in any type of conflict or negotiation, you always want to have a back up plan, or what I call a “plan B.” Your plan B is the best possible outcome you can get for yourself without having to deal with the person at all. So if I were to ask my boss for a raise because I need more money to support my growing family, my plan B—should my boss refuse to negotiate with me, is to have another job offer already in hand. Having a plan B boosts your “acquired” negotiating power and equalizes the power field, especially when your opponent has more “positional” power than you do, such as in the case of your boss in this example. A police crisis negotiator may not always be able to “talk down” a hostage-taker, but their ability to confidently negotiate with that hostage-taker is grounded in their plan B of having the SWAT team on standby, ready to go full-breach and restore the situation by force. Your plan B is your main source of power.

Step 2: Emotional Control

Emotions, especially anger, cause reactions rather than logical responses to occur. Reactions are detrimental to any type of conflict resolution process because reactions are impulsive rather than rational in nature. Reactions are what our emotional mind thinks is the right choice to distance ourselves from emotional pain to our ego, but these reactions cause conflict escalation and more confrontation to result. A good example of a reaction is yelling or arguing with someone who doesn’t see something our way. In this example, we are allowing our emotional need to be heard and acknowledged to get in the way of our objective. Just remember the golden rule of conflict resolution: If they make you react, then they win and you lose.

Step 3: Reduce Their Tension

Now that you have your own emotions under control, now is the time to address the other side’s feelings and emotions. Remember that feelings need to be stabilized before the problem can even be addressed. Also remember that what you are feeling may not be what the other person is feeling. You may think that the situation is a simple misunderstanding, but the other person might think you are attacking them personally. Stabilize those feelings by actively listening to them without judging or taking offense at what they have to say, acknowledging their points, and empathizing with them.

Step 4: Persuade

After stabilizing the feelings and emotions involved, you now can direct your attention at meeting their needs and your own needs. The true essence of persuasion is reframing their wants into what they actually need. Positions are the demands, wants, and unreasonable requests that the other side makes. There is only one way to satisfy their position that they initially take, but there are many creative ways to satisfy their actual needs and interests. Their needs lie underneath their demands and it’s your job to start digging to uncover these needs. The ability to persuade is the ability to uncover their needs with question-asking and finding compatible interests that you both share.

For example, John might reject my idea on a company project and insist on his own way by shooting down my idea. While his position is “his way” versus “my way,” our interests are the same—completing the project in the best way possible. Therefore my ability to persuade John is by not focusing on who’s method is the right one, but instead, focusing on our shared interest in getting the project done right. Objective criteria can be used as a fair standard to determine a fair direction to follow. Objective criteria involves a set benchmark or past decision to align your decision-making upon.

Step 5: Options

It’s a fundamental human need for autonomy in life—to exercise the freedom of independence and choice. Therefore, by “expanding the pie” by creating mutually-satisfying options that work for both of you, you can create a win-win atmosphere. Instead of forcing your views on the other person, create as many workable options as possible for the other side to consider.

Step 6: Solutions

After giving your partner as many options that work for both of you as possible, allow them the freedom to choose which one they want the most. By guiding rather than forcing, you can lead them in your direction. But lets say, they are still uncooperative and things are not looking fruitful for you. Then your solution is to slowly introduce that plan B that you have in your pocket as an alternative to the negotiation. Often times, having this plan B will be enough to bring your partner back to the negotiating table. Whenever you feel that what you can get from the other side is LESS than what your plan B is, then your solution is to terminate negotiations and implement that plan B.

Key Points

P = Plan B—Have one ready before engaging the conflict E = Emotional Control—If you react, then you lose the game R = Reduce Tension—Stabilize the feelings involved first P = Persuade—Reframe their positions into compatible interests O = Options—Create many options that satisfy both your needs S = Solutions—Let them choose an option or use your plan B

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