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Negotiate interests: don’t get stuck in your position


Your position defines what you want; and if it’s incompatible with someone that you have to deal with, well that defines conflict… or at least, a conflict of interests.

People in disputes take positions, generally based on the power they wield or rights they feel entitled to. Interests, by comparison, describe what needs to be satisfied. When disputes escalate, each disputant will want to “win” – which means someone has to lose.

This win/lose constraint forces opposing factions into a position, and any underlying interests – what you actually stand to gain by managing the conflict constructively – become hidden by these positions.

The more fixed you become in your position of “not losing”, the more you lose sight of what you’re actually fighting for.

Interests can get revealed by asking and authentically acknowledging why a position is what it is. Uncovering your interests along with those of the other side will often reveal mutually compatible interests.


Effective negotiation of this process is not about splitting the difference, but creating a fresh arrangement that does not leave value on the table; something that ‘winners’ often overlook.


Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors ~ African Proverb