It is important to use "I" statements and avoid blaming "you"
statements (see method #4). Be especially aware of offensive
language or attitudes, e.g. don't assume that unions only care about
pay increases, don't use sexist language, don't act as if all females are
secretaries, etc. (Elfin, 1993). When describing your hopes for the
future, don't just express the benefits you want, describe the benefits
you hope the other person (or other side) receives too.
Special attention must be given to the causes (try to avoid
blaming) of the conflict, as seen by both people. List the things each of
you do that has not helped to resolve the conflict. Consider what
attempts have been made to resolve the issue before. Also, very
specific behavioral descriptions of the desired outcomes should be
gotten from both people. At the end of this discussion, both people
should understand the exact nature of the disagreements. Be sure you
do much more listening than defending or "explaining." Do not, at this
point, disagree with the other person's ideas and certainly don't attack
or insult them. Listen carefully, and especially listen for points of
agreement and for similar goals. It is these agreements that will form
the basis for a cooperative plan.
Special attention must also be given to the possible distinction
between what changes the other person says they need (their
"position") and what they really want (their "interest"). Some
examples will help: suppose an employee asks for a higher salary
(his/her "position") but the company can't pay it. If you found out that
the employee liked the job but his/her "interest" was primarily to get
some transportation for his/her family, the company may be able to
find extra work or a vehicle for the employee. Suppose a principal
wanted to fire a poor teacher ("position") but couldn't because of
tenure. If the principal's "interest" (and the poor teacher's goal) was to
improve the instruction in the teacher's classroom, there may be many
solutions, such as hiring a skillful teaching assistant to help out, co-
teaching with a superior teacher, helping the teacher get more
training, transferring the teacher to another kind of work, etc. Stating
different demands or "positions" does not mean that your basic
"interests" are irreconcilable.
Recognize that there are probably many possible solutions that
would meet both your "interests" and the other person's "interests."
Talk about your shared interests. It helps you avoid thinking you will
accept only one solution. Also, avoid feeling competitive and that you
must come out on top or get some concession to save face. All of this
STEP THREE: Gather all the additional information you need and
think of several options or plans for resolving the conflict and
satisfying shared interests. Try brainstorming.
Drawing upon the things you both agree on and upon your shared
goals and interests, draft some plans for changing things and for