We have all had difficulty communicating and achieving mutually beneficial results when interacting with certain people. We typically have difficult situations with people who think differently than us and have conflicting priorities. So how does one go about getting to a satisfactory outcome with them.
Here are some of the steps I have found beneficial and effective. They don’t guarantee you everything but do offer a better outcome and in case that does not work out at least clarity and strength to move on and do what you need to do.
Be Free; Be Clear
First task at hand is to be free from any of the past issues you may have had with this person. Hopefully first there has been an attempt to remove ill will before thinking of furthering future actions. Refer to on my thoughts on how to remove ill will here.
Also before engaging in any discussions it is important that you gain your own clarity in many areas:
- What is your ideal outcome for them
- What is your ideal outcome for you
- What you are willing to adjust or compromise
- What you are NOT willing to adjust or compromise
- What is your stance if there is a stalemate
State what you value
To give a positive start, state what you value in the person, in the relationship, and key principles that could bind both during the discussions. In business, you could say, “We value our partnership with your company as you have delivered timely and good quality work”, in relationship it could be “I appreciate your contribution to the family at a tough time”. You could also state general principles like – “in the end it is important to me that there is peace in the family and we are mutually supportive” or “we value your business and want to ensure that there is growth and value addition for both sides”.
Also at this stage clearly articulate what is important to you without getting into specific solutions – “it is important to me that our relationship is maintained with fair profitability to us”.
At this stage ensure that you give the other person a chance to speak up “what they value” the same way you did. Even if there are conflicting items in what they speak, do not interrupt or get into a discussion on the specific items.
Suggest Approaches Dispassionately
Once you feel that the stage is set to move further, ask permission and suggest approaches without being attached to any specific approach or “what you think is the right answer”. When you suggest an approach ensure that you are speaking for yourself – “one of the approach that comes to mind is …”.
Do not lean towards any particular approach, and once you are done, simply ask – “What do you think?”.
Handling Erratic responses / diversions
It is likely that a person you have disagreed with in the past will bring up past issues, or go on what you think are tangents. In such scenarios simply listen and acknowledge that you understand how they feel. The biggest misconception we have is that if we do not disagree we are agreeing. It is important to let the person feel understood – without that there will be no progress. You don’t have to agree with everything – you can even simply say something like – “getting into these matters will not help you or me at this stage” or “lets not go down that path so that we can have an outcome that is better for both” or simply stay quiet.
Seek Alternative and Approaches
At this stage you can proactively seek approaches or ideas to move things forward. Even if the person has not come up with full alternative solutions, what they say will give you further insight into what is important to them and help reach a better solution.
Seek Agreement on Solution
By now if you are able to see a win-win solution suggest that. If not, seek more alternative or suggest fair compromise based on what you know about what you value and what other party values. Even then if solution is not achievable, simply agree to disagree and go with your approach for stalemate.
Be Firm; Be Committed
If things workout, keep your commitments and hold other party accountable for their commitments.
Goodluck! The key to remember is there is always a win-win possible and that we should seek to understand before we seek to be understood. (reference: Seven habits of highly effective people; Steven Covey)