Negotiation with a middle side that no one knew about

What is negotiation really about? For me, it means a conversation of 2 or more sides about certain issue that needs to be solved in a way where both sides are going to be happy with that decision. The Oxford dictionary says:  discussion aimed at reaching an agreement. I guess I am quite close to the definition.

William Ury, an anthropologist, author of  ‘getting to yes’, mediator, writer and speaker, who has been working with conflicts ranging from family feuds to boardroom battles to ethnic wars spoke at TEDxMidWest explaining that conflicts usually have side 1, side 2 with side 3. The side 3 represents us.

two sides

three sides

(photos from William Ury)

We are one family with many deep differences  and to overcome them, the negotiation is not easy but it is simple. The secret to peace is us because we (us – neighbors, allies, mediators…) play the constructive role. The 3rd party is there to remind the side 1 and side 2 what is really going on and what it takes (for the sake of the future, the community or the kids…).

People need to stop fighting and start talking however it is very very very easy to lose the perspective during the conflict. This is why the 3rd side is present. Once someone is angry, the greatest speech ever told will be a regretful moment for the speaker due to losing the actual image within the content.

Margaret Heffernan perceives 5 steps to productive conflict:

  1. Appoint a devil’s advocate
  2. Find allies
  3. Listen for what is NOT being said
  4. Imagine you cannot do what you all want to do
  5. After a decision is made, declare a cooling off period

So what do we learn from this? I have learnt that mediators are a good thing, they are there to help us and realise the point of the conflict. Anyone can be the 3rd person. The listening is the key skills with a clear and concise communication.

What did you learn?

(originally published on by Marica Scevlikova)


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