Problem Solving Skills and Negotiation

No one can negotiate until they understand the situation. Basically there is a problem to be solved that involves getting two or more people to agree on something. Basic problem solving is part of the skill set of any effect negotiator.

Defining a problem is critical. Often people fight over ancillary issues rather than the real problem. In a mediation the mediator takes the time to source, identify and quantify all the micro issues that create the underpinnings of the primary argument. Mediators are trained to resolve the ancillary issues so that the primary problem can be resolved.

Problem Identification Tips:

- Don't accept the obvious; seek out underlying issues or other problems. Often the other person or the parties may be unaware of the impact of these 'lesser' issues.

- Prioritize the issues and seek to resolve the minor ones first. This will create a more positive environment and may help lead to a global agreement.

- Seek to put emotional reactions in perspective. If you can diffuse any prevailing anger or distrust, you will have made a major advance toward reaching an agreement.

- Separate the "wants" from the "needs" and focus on satisfying the "needs" of each party. Often it is the "wants" that create the most separation. And they are the least important aspect of the problem once they are properly identified as "wants".

- Don't ignore or dismiss emotional needs or wants. Sometimes their satisfaction is more important to one of the parties than the monetary aspects of the situation.

Problem identification does not stop when you enter the fray. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying to identify additional irritants or issues. Listen for clues on how to satisfy a specific need using alternative consideration.

Problem solving is the meat of dispute resolution. By expanding the possible settlement options the mediator is seeking to solve the dispute by pairing unlikely party commodities so that both emerge feeling a sense of victory. Win/Win negotiating is not so much about appeasing both sides as it is about pairing needs and satisfiers so that both parties come away with more than they gave away in their minds.