Interests or Positions: Creating momentum and avoiding stalemate

Solutions AheadIn team events, I often talk about the promotion of “interests” rather than “positions” in helping the team to move towards it outcomes and objectives. It’s a principle promoted by Roger Schwarz in his “Ground Rules” for teams within his “Mutual Learning Model” and you may have also come across the technique in conflict resolution or negotiation skills.

The crux is that in getting to a win-win mutually beneficial outcome it might be more useful for all parties to find the common ground upon which you can agree rather than focusing upon your specific views or opinions about a given topic and walking away with a lose-lose.

This week the principle was demonstrated beautifully by David Cameron in a joint press conference delivered by himself and Vladimir Putin in advance of the G8 summit. The topic was Syria, the ongoing conflict in that country and the decision of the US to supply arms to the rebels. Watch this short video from the BBC to hear the differences unfolding (David Cameron had already given his “position”).

Faced with that in real life, what would you have done? It would seem that you have divergent opinions (“positions”) and it might just be better to “agree to disagree”. Now watch this clip to see and hear what unfolds

Instead of replying with another counter argument, David Cameron immediately comes back with an “interests” statement even in the light of their significant differences. Listen to what he talks about:

He talks about the “Common Ground”:

  • “We both see a humanitarian catastrophe
  • “We both see the dangers of instability and extremism”
  • “Both want to see a peace conference and transition”

It’s this type of approach that will move things forward rather than have both sides entrench themselves in division, argument and disagreement. Finding out what you can “agree to agree on” in any situation whether at work, home, with your customers, employees, team-mates, partner, children etc. is a mutually beneficial place from which to agree your next steps.

Try it for yourself and let me know how you get on.

And as always “Live and love your life!”