Focus on Interests
Good agreements focus on the parties' interests, rather than their positions. As Fisher and Ury explain, "Your position is something you have decided upon. Your interests are what caused you to so decide."[p. 42] Defining a problem in terms of positions means that at least one party will "lose" the dispute. When a problem is defined in terms of the parties' underlying interests it is often possible to find a solution which satisfies both parties' interests.
The first step is to identify the parties' interests regarding the issue at hand. This can be done by asking why they hold the positions they do, and by considering why they don't hold some other possible position. Each party usually has a number of different interests underlying their positions. And interests may differ somewhat among the individual members of each side. However, all people will share certain basic interests or needs, such as the need for security and economic well-being.
Once the parties have identified their interests, they must discuss them together. If a party wants the other side to take their interests into account, that party must explain their interests clearly. The other side will be more motivated to take those interests into account if the first party shows that they are paying attention to the other side's interests. Discussions should look forward to the desired solution, rather than focusing on past events. Parties should keep a clear focus on their interests, but remain open to different proposals and positions. Generate Options
Fisher and Ury identify four obstacles to generating creative options for solving a problem. Parties may decide prematurely on an option and so fail to consider alternatives. The parties may be intent on narrowing their options to find the single answer. The parties may define the problem in win-lose terms, assuming that the only options are for one side to win and the other to lose. Or a party may decide that it is up to the other side to come up with a solution to the problem.
The authors also suggest four techniques for overcoming these obstacles and generating creative options. First it is important to separate the invention process from the evaluation stage. The parties should come together in an informal atmosphere and brainstorm for all possible solutions to the problem. Wild and creative proposals are encouraged. Brainstorming sessions can be made more creative and productive by encouraging the parties to shift between four types of thinking: stating the problem, analyzing the problem, considering general approaches, and considering specific actions. Parties may suggest partial solutions to the problem. Only after a variety of proposals have been made should the group turn to evaluating the ideas. Evaluation should start with the most promising proposals. The parties may also refine and improve proposals at this point.
Participants can avoid falling into a win-lose mentality by focusing on shared interests. When the parties' interests differ, they should seek options in which those differences can be made compatible or even complementary. The key to reconciling different interests is to "look for items that are of low cost to you and high benefit to them, and vice versa."[p. 79] Each side should try to make proposals that are appealing to the other side, and that the other side would find easy to agree to. To do this it is important to identify the decision makers and target proposals directly toward them. Proposals are easier to agree to when they seem…