Path to Possible Circle
Balcony Pause Zoom In Zoom Out


The balcony is a place of calm and perspective where we can keep our eyes on the prize.

Transforming conflict is an inside-out process. On the path to possible, the work within - the work with ourselves - proceeds the work between - the work with others. The balcony allows us to control our natural reactions and expand our perspective.


From Reactive to Proactive

Humans are reaction machines. It’s easy to lose sight of what matters and react without thinking. Intractable conflicts are intense and challenging emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We become used to running fast, tracking the news, and continuously prepping for the next engagement. In the midst of conflict, it’s normal to feel impulsive, defensive, or overwhelmed.

The goal of pausing is to interrupt your counterproductive impulses and create space to think before you act. Pausing gives you the opportunity to be open, curious, and present, and that starts with awareness of your own behavior. Bring yourself back to a calm state and your optimal zone by finding natural ways to pause.

Practice Pause

  1. Breathe. Your breath is a powerful tool to ease stress and make you feel less anxious during tough negotiations. Many breathing exercises only take a few minutes.
  2. Break. Take 90 seconds to a few minutes to take yourself out of the immediate issues and conflicts.
  3. Walk. Well suited for a break in meetings, walking calms the mind and body and gives you time to explore new perspectives.
  4. Retreat. Finding a physical space where your group can relax and curiosity can operate can have a profound effect on their ability to collaborate and create together.

Zoom In

From Positions to Needs

Conventional negotiating focuses on the positions of each side, which is what the other side says they want and the concrete stances they take. Many assume that because positions are opposed, the interests must also be opposed. However, in many negotiations, a close examination of the underlying interests will often reveal more interests that are shared or compatible than ones that are opposed.

The most powerful way to identify basic needs is through curious, open-ended questions that uncover “what” and “how” the other side wants to meet their basic needs.

Practice Zoom In

  1. Ask why five times. Keep asking ‘why’ five times in succession to understand the core interest behind the position.
  2. Uncover underlying interests. Interests are the underlying motivations that lead people to take their position—their needs, desires, concerns, fears, and aspirations.
  3. Dig deep to basic human needs. The most powerful interests are basic human needs, such as security, prosperity, fairness, autonomy, and belonging.
  4. Listen to emotions as signals. Strong emotions like anger, fear, and sadness can be important clues to understanding interests.
  5. Ask “What does the prize look like?” Write down your top 3 interests in your negotiation and put it someplace visible to remind yourself to keep your eye on the prize.

Zoom Out

From Blinders to Big Picture

There is a big shift when our view expands from the negotiating table —with the immediate parties focused on an agreement— to the whole situation with all the stakeholders, including their BATNAs (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement). Players and actions away from the table often have a profound influence on the negotiation process. Get curious about who or what might be left out of your negotiation.

When you Zoom Out, it’s critical to identify everyone’s BATNA: how will people satisfy their interests if they can’t reach agreement? All too often people go into a negotiation looking for agreement and only examine their alternatives if things go badly. Having a viable alternative creates leverage in the negotiation. The better one’s BATNA, the more power they have.

Practice Zoom Out

  1. Identify and develop your BATNA. Know your alternatives to help increase your chances of success in satisfying your interests.
  2. Map all the stakeholders. Pay special attention to who can most influence the conflict —either constructively or destructively— that’s currently not part of the negotiation process.
  3. Sketch 3 future scenarios. Plan for both positive and negative scenarios to optimize for the former and prepare for the latter.

The most powerful way to identify basic needs is through curious, open-ended questions that uncover “what” and “how” the other side wants to meet their basic needs.