This is Why Values Matter in Negotiations

In negotiations the parties have positions and negotiators ask questions to determine interests, but what happens when the real underlying issues resolve around values? As a set of general rules it is a good idea to “consider interests and values separately, engage in relationship building dialogue, appeal to overreaching values, and confront valued differences directly” according to the consensus building institute. The link offers several good examples. I would like to explore these four steps with you regarding a personal situation of mine recently. Keep in mind not all situations have a happy ending.

Here was the situation. I watched the excellent PBS program on The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novik. I watched all 10 episodes and I was moved following the 10th episode having followed the development of the characters over their life time through the program. After it was over I shared on Facebook that I wrote the President, my two US Senators and my U.S. House of Representative, and suggested they watch the series, recommend their peers watch the series, and that we could all learn lessons from the series on several levels. None of these individuals has military or war experience and neither do I. I felt that I grew from having experienced that time frame, had a brother serve in Vietnam, having my brother be able to come for my father’s funeral while he was in Vietnam, and then have to return to Vietnam. I came from an area where it was historically considered a rite of passage to serve one’s country in the military.

I must also share with you, that my personal Facebook page I keep personal. My goal is to use LinkedIn for business and Facebook for family. I try not to be partisan. I was hacked last year before the election and someone put up a host of items that were not appropriate. I had to apologize to others. Many indicated that they know with my emphasis on mediation and negotiations it could not have been me. I appreciated that.

Returning to the post, once I made the post on Facebook, there were affirmations and many positive comments. Then friend number 1 indicated that “(A particular political person) definitely needed to see this.” Friend number 2 responded “This has nothing to do with (that particular political person).” You get the idea from there.

I contacted friend number 1 and friend number 2 individually off line from Facebook and I explained my intention on keeping my Facebook page nonpartisan and I asked each if they would refrain from making further comments on my Facebook page regarding that particular person and my post. I indicated to them that my overreaching concern was to promote knowledge and growth, not to degrade into partisan politics. This is consistent with the introduction to today’s post to “consider interests and values separately, engage in relationship building dialogue, appeal to overreaching values, and confront valued differences directly.”

With one of the parties this was very much appreciated. She did not realize my concern. She apologized and we both agreed we are friends and we will continue to be friends on Facebook. The other party took offense. He indicated he felt he was being censored and his right to free speech violated. He shared this in another Facebook post on his page. I reached out to him, but he did not want to discuss this. I felt that was unfortunate.

However often times after a disagreement for example with a spouse, where one party feels angry or rejected, by introducing a different subject a little while later this may be a way to break the ice so to speak and help the two parties to indeed move on. There was something similar to that in this instance. The second party contacted me within a couple of weeks to ask me a question and he asked me to assist him with a concern of his. I agreed and provided him with assistance. We have now moved on.

Let’s step back and look at this process in terms of values, to learn from this event and apply the negotiation principles related to values rather than interests.

  • consider interests and values separately,
  • engage in relationship building dialogue,
  • appeal to overreaching values,
  • and confront valued differences directly.

The Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation offers a very good article as a reference with an example. The article concludes with

"When we engage in values-based dialogue, we may not resolve our disagreements, yet we can strive to learn more about one another so that we can more easily live side by side."

Keep this in mind as you consider value based disputes with others too.

Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court is an international speaker that helps others resolve conflict and negotiate winning solutions, client to IRS, business to business and within businesses. On point resources are available online at www.mikegreg.com and check out the blog. Mike may be contacted directly at mg@mikegreg.com or at (651) 633-5311.