Have you ever had a disagreement with someone that didn’t get resolved to your satisfaction? You’d be surprised how often you and the other party can come to an agreement you both can live with—as long as you use an effective approach to resolve the conflict.
To begin with, “separate the person from the problem,” as Fisher and Ury suggest in Getting to Yes. In other words, if you happen to dislike the person you’re having a dispute with, try to set that aside for a moment and consider the person’s viewpoint. You may decide that the viewpoint is actually quite valid, even if you don’t care for the person.
Before you try to win over the other person to your point of view, “seek first to understand” the other person’s perspective. This is what Stephen Covey recommends in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Ask questions and listen carefully. What are the other person’s concerns? The person’s underlying concerns (e.g., “we have to show the client that we are responsive”) are more important than his or her position (e.g., “this project must be finished by five o’clock today”).
Once you’ve identified the other person’s key concerns, link these to your concerns by looking for common ground. For example, you may both desire to produce quality work or help your organization, even if you have different ideas about how to do so. Discuss these common goals.
Next, both of you should try to come up with as many solutions as possible that would address both of your concerns. Don’t worry about evaluating these potential solutions at this point—just list as many as you can.
Finally, the two of you can go over the list and try to pick out the solution that would best meet both of your needs. It’s called a “win-win” solution!