Want to excel in a negotiation? Understand the other party’s values. I’m not talking about monetary value, but rather those beliefs about our reality that we hold most dear.
What do I mean?
Let’s look at the fiscal cliff negotiations:
We can all agree on…
When negotiating, both the Democrats and Republicans ultimately want the fiscal solvency of our country. They also want long-term economic growth, lower unemployment and people back to work. At a high level, these values align. I think most of us would also agree on that.
While at one level, the fiscal talks are about money, in reality they are about values. Deeply held beliefs about how much money people (citizens) should be required to pay into the government, from what activities, and then how that money gets spent by the government.
The conflict ensues as each person, and thus each political party, begins to assign their own meaning to abstract terms like “fiscal solvency” and “economic growth”. For some, fiscal solvency means a balanced budget, while for others it means running a deficit at a percentage of GDP. Even within those factions there are people that disagree on what the size of that balanced budget or the percentage of GDP should be.
As discussions move from high layers of abstraction down to defining what each of these terms mean in concrete reality, people’s values start to collide.