Michael mink

This is interview was originally published in Investor’s Business Daily on June 7, 2024. To read it on IBD’s website, click here.

Where there are people, there is pride, ego — and inevitably conflict. This can be normal and even healthy. But when conflict escalates it can become a contentious failure to communicate.

We can’t end conflicts, “but we can transform the way we deal with them — from destructive fights into constructive conflict resolution negotiations,” said William Ury. Ury cofounded Harvard’s Program on Negotiation. He’s also a negotiation guru with more than four decades of experience.

“It is not easy, but it is possible to transform conflict — if we can bring to bear our natural innate potential for curiosity, creativity and collaboration,” he added. “Since conflicts are made by humans, they can be changed by humans.”

Write Other’s Victory Speech To Facilitate Conflict Resolution

One of Ury’s favorite exercises is to begin by writing the other side’s “victory speech.”

Imagine the other side has already said “yes” to your proposal, he continues. Now they have to explain to their people or themselves, why they said “yes.”

“What would be the three key points of their victory speech?” Ury said. “What would be persuasive? What are the critical questions they might receive from their people and how could they best address them?”

Now plan out how you can help them achieve their victory speech while also meeting your objectives, Ury says.

Manage Anger And Resentment

When it comes to conflict, we are often our own worst enemies.

“It is not the difficult person on the other side of the table,” Ury said, “it’s the person on this side of the table — it is us. It is our natural, very human, very understandable tendency to react — out of fear and anger.”

What’s the alternative? Pause for a moment and get some perspective, he says. Imagine yourself on a stage and then go to the balcony — a place of calm where you can keep your eyes on the prize and see the bigger picture.

“Think about what you really want — your deeper interests, concerns and aspirations,” Ury said. “And think about how you can best satisfy them.”

Go Against Your Grain To Reach Conflict Resolution

All too often, when faced with conflict, we fall right into the “three A’s trap,” Ury, author of “Possible: How We Survive (and Thrive) in an Age of Conflict,” said.

The first “A” is attack. This usually provokes counterattack. “An eye for an eye and we all go blind,” he said. The second “A” is to avoid. We just ignore the problem which doesn’t solve anything. The third “A” is accommodate or appease. Often, we do all three things, he says.

What’s the way out of the “three A’s trap? Ury says to do the opposite: Resist attacking, embrace the conflict and transform it by proposing ways where both sides can win.

Talia Fox, founder and CEO of KUSI, a leadership consulting firm, recommends the principles of her “LOVE” acronym when trying to establish connection with people: Listen, Observe, Value, Engage.

Pick Out Impact Language

Choose words in advance of a conflict resolution meeting or a negotiation that communicates the values and intentions you want to convey, Fox says.

She recommends creating a list of 15 carefully chosen “high-impact” words for the specific situation. Weave those words into your negotiations.

Mark Twain said the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between fire and a firefly. Words matter in verbal and written communication.

Don’t Leave Things To Chance

Fox recommends formulating a “communication cheat sheet” to maintain focus and clarity during any conflict resolution meetings or negotiations.

Before you open your mouth, know and have your purpose written out. In addition, “identify three key ideas that support your purpose,” said Fox, the author of “The Power Of Conscious Connection.”

Also, know your key questions for the other side and try to anticipate them. A couple of questions that Fox likes are “What is important to you regarding this conflict?” and “What are your top two priorities?”

Be Mentally Prepared For Conflict Resolution

Remember this when it comes to conflict resolution and negotiations, Ury says: “We can only influence the other side to the extent we can influence ourselves — our own reactions.”