Enlarging the Pie

Conflict is often defined as a divergence or a perceived divergence of interests, ideas and/ or resources. When you are in competition with somebody over a resource and you believe that only one of you can have it, this is when conflict arises.

That resource can be anything – power, money, assets, love, affection, recognition. The list is endless. The idea is that the resource cannot be split between you which entrenches the view that it is a finite, limited resource which must be controlled and possessed.

The Pie

In the same way, two children might think that only one of them can eat the whole of an apple pie. It probably hasn’t occurred to them that their mother could split the pie between them. Or cut it into quarters and save it for another day. What if they could pool their resources and buy a pint of custard so that they could all enjoy the pie even more? Better yet, what if they could work together to make two more pies?

It’s about being creative with the coveted resource and more importantly, understanding your opponent’s interests as well as yours. How can you creatively satisfy all of those interests?

The Integrative Approach

Integrative negotiators often display the following characteristics:

What are the benefits?

  • Trust. When the parties show honesty, openness and integrity, they will allow the free flow of relevant information in order to understand better each parties’ interests and how they can be satisfied.
  • They believe that there are options that can be explored and that it is possible to expand and then divide the pie.
  • Excellent listening and communication skills. This involves observing body language, the tone of voice, eye contact, emotion. When things are unclear, it involves asking for clarification, summarising the points made and also asking why somebody holds a particular position or has an interest in something.
  • An ability to openly and assertively express needs, wants and requirements. This requires a certainly amount of self-awareness and confidence but it is essential in getting what you want.
  • Respect and politeness. This is a crucial element of any negotiation. If a party feels that they are being disrespected or are offended by you, it will be almost impossible to instil trust in the process.

This approach can encourage relationships to flourish and heal from the damage caused by competition.

This is also a healthier, less stressful way to view and resolve problems. Creative solution might mean that the conflict leads to something more beneficial that the situation prior to the conflict.

Even if the negotiation doesn’t lead to a solution, you may be able to continue the discussion in another form. Mediation is highly advised at this point. A trained mediator can assist in de-escalating the emotional elements and help the parties to focus on enlarging the pie.

Are you at the point where your negotiations have failed? Contact me for help!


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