The recent meeting of the Columbia Valley Recreation Advisory Council was particularly enlightening for those present because the concept of interest-based negotiation was introduced. The premise is brilliantly simple — that conflict can be resolved through shared interests.
Once the parties in question determine what their principal interests are, a common ground can be easily be arrived at based on the interests that are shared.
Seems obvious, but it’s a strategy that sits on the opposite end of the spectrum from the one we’re all used to, which is described as position-based. In position-based negotiation, the outcome is win or lose so all discussion is about persuading one side to think like the other. Usually what results is more conflict because it’s human nature not to want to change our positions based on our perceived interests.
Phew, psychology 101, but makes sense, no? I only need to contemplate for a mere few seconds what examples of position-based negotiation I’ve witnessed as of late and I am in no short supply — Members of Parliament in Ottawa’s House of Commons, B.C. teachers’ labour dispute with the provincial government, and right here in our own backyard with the District of Invermere’s deer cull and, of course, Jumbo.
It’s not surprising conflict has divided the local community when you look at how discussion has unfolded around these heated topics that are closely tied to everyone’s interests in any number of ways. Since human nature dictates that position-based negotiation is doomed to fail, shifting gears and beginning to talk about what opposing sides have in common is bound to be a refreshing move, one that is sure to engender greater understanding should it be applied to the above-mentioned issues, which have driven wedges deep into the heart of the community.
Compromise over win-lose may be scary to some, but could promise greater opportunities for growth. In the famous words of Rodney King, the Afro-American construction worker whose beating by white Los Angeles police officers in 1991 was witnessed, videotaped and aired worldwide: “Can we all just get along?”