Mediation is about the people.

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The biggest part of any negotiation is the people involved.  In Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, authors Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton suggest some important ideas to keep in mind during negotiations.  When entering a negotiation, it is important to separate the people involved from the problem at hand.  Personal feelings about the other people involved or attempts to save one’s pride can cloud the path to solution.
Negotiators are people, regardless of the abstract principles or groups they represent. They have emotions, backgrounds, beliefs, and viewpoints that affect how they negotiate. Every negotiator is interested in the substance of the disagreement and the relationship between parties. The relationship tends to become entangled with the problem.  Egos get involved and people take things personally. Positional bargaining, choosing a side vehemently sticking to it, puts relationships and substance in conflict with each other.  A battle of wills begins and the possibility of compromising and restoring the relationships diminishes.
The difference between each side’s perceptions forms the root of the disagreement.  The truth of the circumstances matters less than the participants’ perceptions in this situation.  To find the solution, it’s important to understand each side’s perception.  It is also important not to assume what the other side wants or feels. Blaming the other party should be avoided.  All involved should be open and honest about their point of view. Instead of perpetuating the other party’s perception, it helps to act in a way that could alter the other party’s perception.  All parties must be involved in the process so they feel they have a stake in the resulting agreement.
Emotion can be a roadblock to negotiating if it is not dealt with properly.  First, emotions must be identified, understood, and made known.  Both sides should be allowed to let off steam.  It’s important not to react to emotional outbursts because that will derail negotiating.  Symbolic gestures such as an apology or a handshake can go a long way in repairing relationships.
Ultimately communication is the foundation of making an honest, fair, and lasting agreement.  Actively listening and expressing that you understand the other party forms a foundation to open the conversation.  Speak clearly and honestly with a clear purpose.  However, negotiations are easiest when emotional crises are prevented.  Maintain a relationship with the other side, and focus on attacking the substance of the problem not the people.

Charlyn Pelter