We should never allow ourselves to be bullied by an either-or. There is often the possibility of something better than either of these two alternatives.

Mary Parker Follett

From Either-Or to Both-And

In intractable conflict, there is often a false assumption of a “fixed pie”: the less for you, the more for me. The greatest opportunity in a negotiation is to take what seems like a fixed pie and see how it can be expanded for mutual gain so both sides can satisfy their interests. Shift an either-or mindset, in which either one party wins or the other does, to a both-and mindset, in which the basic interests of both can be addressed.

Shared interests lie latent in every negotiation, even if they aren’t immediately obvious. They are opportunities, not godsends. By considering a multitude of options, you may generate new possibilities, one of which might meet your interests while also satisfying the other side’s. Redirect energy toward attacking the problem instead of each other.

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 Create

  1. Invent first, decide later. Brainstorm without criticism to devise options that take into account everyone’s interests.
  2. Identify low-cost/high-value options. Identify small, meaningful gestures that each side can take that are low cost for them and high value to the other side to reduce fear and suspicion. Consider putting these ideas into a “trust menu.”
  3. Use wizards. Both sides can appoint “wizards” —lower-level, trusted, knowledgeable— to brainstorm ideas in deniable conversations and make recommendations. Oftentimes the best ideas come from wizards’ conversations.
  4. Reframe. We each have the power to put a problem-solving frame around whatever is said.

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