Whether you are negotiating a multi-million-dollar deal, settling a minor property dispute or trying to come to a compromise with your teenage son, it’s common to reach a stalemate. Usually, it’s down to an attitude or mindset that prevent us from moving past conflict.
Here are five of the most common stalemate inducing attitudes:
(1) I’m right and you are wrong. This kind of positional bargaining can be difficult to shift, especially if the dispute is highly emotional, has been going on for a long time and is supported by third parties such as lawyers and experts.
How to get past this: Ask yourself what will happen if you maintain your position. Legal costs? Time, resources, damage to reputation or the loss of key relationships? If the other party refuses to resolve things, you could ask them the same question and reconfirm to them that you want to find a mutually beneficial solution. To do this, you need to get past your respective positions and find mutual interests so that you can create new value. Think about how you can do this.
(2) It’s a matter of principle! I often hear this when somebody feels cheated, disrespected or treated unfairly. Usually, what they mean is, “I was hurt so badly by what you did and I want you to know that”. The hurt and loss that somebody can feel because of conflict, can damage a person’s self-esteem and fighting out of principle until the bitter end can be perceived to restore it.
How to get past this: Ask yourself what the principle is and what it is costing you? How will preserving the principle benefit you? If you feel hurt and want the other person to know this, then perhaps what you are asking for is an acknowledgement of that which could be delivered by way of an apology. Gaining perspective can help you understand what you want to achieve.
(3) Their offer is an insult! This is often expressed when a negotiation relates to money or some other exchange of assets. A first offer is often perceived as being so low that the other party has not taken the dispute seriously or it is disappointing because you believe it should be higher.
How to get past this: Negotiation has specific phases and once the parties get to a stage where offers are made, they are usually lower than what is hoped for. Parties will often exchange several offers until they reach the Zone of Possible Agreement, where settlement occurs. Manage your own expectations and try not to blame the other side for doing what any negotiator has learnt to do. It’s just the opening offer!
(4) Settlement means they have won. Some believe that finding a resolution is a sign of weakness. But widening the pie by finding innovative and mutually beneficial solutions to a conflict reveals a great deal of emotional maturity and pragmatism. This is not about giving in or apportioning blame, it’s about growing, developing and flipping destructive conflict on its head. You both win with this attitude.
How to get past this: Stop seeing conflict as having a win/lose outcome. That conflict style is about domination, not collaboration, and is more often than not, counter-productive. if you value your relationships, mental well-being, time and resources, you need to start seeing it differently.
(5) I need a break. As obvious as it may seem, sometimes you just run out of energy, ideas and momentum. You may have been negotiating all day, only to get to a point when you need some food, some air, or something else to motivate yourself. You may just feel hopeless after months of the same discussions.
How to get past this : Suggest that the parties regroup once they have had a break. You might want to put a deadline on that and it can help to get some distance. If you feel you are not getting anywhere in an inter-personal conflict, communicate that you need some time away to think and you will pick things up as soon as you can.
It can feel disappointing when you reach a stalemate, especially when a lot is at stake. However, it is a normal part of conflict on every level and it can provide you with an opportunity to evaluate your own strategy, goals and intentions when deciding how to move forward.
Have you tried any of those tips? Let me know how it went.