Everyone brings to a negotiation a story about what is true, what is wanted, and what should be done. This is fine and useful. It becomes a problem, though, when people think there is room for only one story. When that happens, you see stalemates. The people involved in stalemate hold one or more of these unspoken beliefs:
- My (or our) story is right or better. Yours is wrong or worse.
- My story might be (and, really, I deep down fear that I am) incomplete, weak, threatened.
- Your story threatens mine.
- I do not trust you.
- In order for my story (and me) to be safe, you must adopt my story.
- I must defend against you trying to get me to adopt your story.
Stalemate and the acrimony that often accompanies it are wasteful and unnecessary. The solution is to “and” the stories. Assume that all stories are valid. When you do, you open a door to creativity, trust, and collaboration. Try facilitating a conversation around the questions, “If we assume that all parties’ stories are valid, what becomes true now? What would we want to be true? How can we get there?”
In your corner,