Disputes arise from difference in interests, ideas, and position. Definitely, we have all come across people who are naturally term disagreeable, hostile, stubborn, arrogant, greedy, dishonest and clearly unreasonable. Surprisingly, most of these people we have in our houses! Look around you; Wives, husbands, daughters, sons, siblings and extended family members are part of this group. Your son’s way of life and his friends’ are source of worry to you often. Your wife could be the nice one with a loud mouth, and get this, your boss in the office is clearly driving you to the cliff edge through his unreasonable demands; maybe your aged father’s demands for your time is clearly unreasonable, giving all you are going through. Yea that is life in a nutshell, you cannot understand it but that’s just the way it is.
Conflicts at home and in the work place are distracting and emotionally depressing but they are issues we need to deal with every day. Most of the time our preconceived feeling about the other party’s feeling always affect our responses and handing of situations. When dealing with people we naturally termed difficult people, we need to make concise effort not to allow our feelings cloud our judgment.
You don’t shout and threaten your relations, slapping or even shutting out your nagging spouse will lead to bigger conflict, and saying ‘No’ to your boss’s request for a meeting on a Saturday, could lead to a loss of job. So what do you do when faced with irritating and stubborn people? Try some of these ideas I learnt from my negotiation classes:
- Massage his Ego: Humans need to be appreciated and praised. The fact that their demands are unreasonable or downright insulting does not make them the problem. Use words to convey your appreciation of their request and respect their contributions to the dialogue, then suggest an alternative to current situation. When your spouse ask you for a holiday in Spain, when she knows you could barely cope with work resulting from the last holiday you both took last month.
It will be wise to acknowledge her choice of location for this holiday, her wisdom in taking care of her hard working husband, then deftly and ever so carefully; steer her towards how you enjoyed the last holiday and will love to go on another one as soon as you complete the current backlog of assignment caused by the last trip. This way you help save face through appreciating and supporting her suggestion. You didn’t outrightly say ‘no’ in fact you welcome and accept her offer but only differ on the timing.
- Reference the Problem: When your boss barge into your office at 5pm on Friday asking you to be in the office for a meeting the next day by 10am, you don’t just blurt out and say ‘’Sorry Boss, I have something else planned’’. Instead you try to talk to him and find out his reason for the meeting on Saturday. You know is not natural, hence his interest for calling the meeting could only be deduced from listening to his concerns.
After identifying the issues and interests that coagulated to his position on meeting on Saturday morning, you may now reference his requests in a more acceptable light. Allowing him to ventilate his feelings will avail him some new ideas to solving the problem in the office through another means which you would have steered the discussions towards. Negotiate your way out, look for possible solutions and offer your suggestions to him.
Asking questions allow both parties to see things in a new light. New options tend to become part of the discussions and not excuses. Be alternative to pulse of the discussions. Most people don’t expressly say out loud their interest in ant issue.
- Collaborate to find solution: Naturally people do not always express underlying interests. Most conflicts are really about misinterpretation of emotions and inattention to undertones in discussions. Most disputants always loose track of the underlining cause and their initial interest in a conflict; they are only stuck to position, which their emotion expressly permits.
Unstated or under-declared interests always make discussions with other parties arbitrary. You can’t understand why your 14 year-old son would want to leave secondary school and pursue his footballing career. Yet, if you seat him down for a chart and allow him to properly discuss on the interest that fuels his position, you may likely draw out other values that will sweeten the pot. You could become his partner and send him to a Soccer Academy where he will attend normal classes and still pursue his footballing career unhindered. The best part of the deal will be he will have a better chance at playing pro-soccer at the academy, which he might not be able to afford personally.
Making deal not just about winning, it is about bringing more value to the table. Dealing with a local shop owners whose business is falling and is not ready to sale to your bigger distributary outlet could be seen as unreasonable, given the price your firm is offering. A meeting with the owner could reveal the fact that the business owner is just afraid of what job he will be doing after selling off the store. Redrawing the sales agreement to give him some roles in the new venture could buy him over and seal the deal. Listen to the unuttered words; create values that go beyond terms of discords.
- Acknowledge their position: Active listening is important in deal making processes, yet most people don’t indulge in this process, why? The process of active listing is full time job, could be boring and stressful. Taking thoughtful efforts, tendering to emotional demands of the other party becomes important if you are desirous of making a deal.
He needs to feel heard, unrushed, understood, and appreciated. You need to listen carefully to his explanation/ complaints about what bothers him. You need to show him you are with him while he is talking though emphatic responses, repeat what he said in your own words to clearly and portray understanding, ask open-ended questions to test understanding of his demands and positions, and above all acknowledge his position before making further contributions. Note, you are not required to like or agree with the other party’s narrations but you need to make them aware you have heard and understand their position.
Carefully find out what the opponent wants, allow them to feel your understanding and appreciating their views, carefully steer them towards solutions that might meet their needs, making them shift from their initial positions and allow them to co-design a collaborative solution from your options as a deal.