In almost all negotiations, there comes a time when the parties get stuck. I have said repeatedly what I want, you have said repeatedly what you want and we are still apart. We are both dug into our positions and the more often we repeat our position, the more solidified it becomes in our own minds. This is the time that is the most challenging and the most fun because it requires you to be creative. Usually when it gets to this point, it sounds like an either/or kind of conversation and usually the conversation is about to get heated or emotional.
There are some great tricks to handle what happens when emotions start to run high, but I will not cover these in this article (but you can get this and much more in my tape series…POWER NEGOTIATING). The key to successfully achieving a negotiated agreement when everyone is stuck is to dream up some more issues. A divorce is never just about the kids. When buying a house, it’s never just about the price. It’s never just about my starting salary when I am interviewing for a job. What about visitation rights or who makes the decisions on where the kids go to school or which town they live in. What about the washer and dryer or the lawn furniture or the fireplace mantle. What about stock options or flying first class or reimbursement for my car expenses.
What I am talking about is expanding the pie before we divide it. If we are focused on dividing the pie, we will be enemies. To grow the pie, we must work together. Imagine two people stuck in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean with limited food and water. If the focus of these two people is on who is going to get the food and water, then there will be a fight. The reality is that what they are both most interested in is getting rescued. If the focus becomes how to get off the boat and out of the mess, then there will be cooperation as opposed to acrimony.
There are several obstacles to creating what you want in your life and two of those are laziness and habits. One of the biggest impediments to successfully creating great agreements in your negotiations is the habit of assuming the pie is fixed in size. Many times, we are simply too lazy to look for ways to help the other person get what they want in a negotiation, so the negotiation fails and no one gets what they want.
Expanding the pie requires that the parties in the negotiation do three things. First, suspend judgement. Second, realize that there is no such thing as a fixed pie that cannot be grown and third, remove the idea that solving the other person’s problem is their problem. With some productive brainstorming and sometimes the intervention of a third party, people can usually overcome their differences and reach a mutually satisfactory agreement that is far better than any of their alternatives.