Are You Heading in the Right Direction?

Whether it’s your life in general or a negotiation in particular if you’re not heading in the right direction you need to change. If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging. Some of us are so wedded to how we do things we may see changing as an admission of defeat. We need to understand the outcome for the client is the priority. If that means you change your approach, you should go with it.

If things are getting too heated, choose to calm the situation. Calm yourself and use words, tone and body language that’s conciliatory. Take a time out, think before speaking, regulate your emotions and walk away if it’s the best course of action for your client.

If the other party is just stuck in a position with little or no interest in compromise, do you know what his or her interests or needs are? Is there a better way to communicate the fact a resolution serves his or her interest? Are there benefits to a settlement or costs of litigation the other side hasn’t considered? Is this just the wrong time to try to settle the case?

If a negotiation or mediation isn’t going well, take a step back and think about,

  • Are the parties getting closer together or farther apart?
  • What’s causing the problem if resolving looks less likely?
  • Are you or your client making the situation worse?
  • Are your prior attempts to fix the situation failing? If so, why?
  • What can you or your client do to reverse the trend?

You may not be the problem when it comes to change. It may be your client, the other party or his or her attorney.

  • They may have had prior success with their current approach in other situations and are reluctant to change.
  • Stonewalling the other side may have worked like a charm in another case.
  • Becoming angry, emotional and threatening may have bludgeoned another party into a beneficial settlement.

You may need to find a way to get them to understand their “standard operating procedure” just isn’t working in this particular situation. Real Simple has some suggestions to try to get another party to change how they do things.

  • Ask open-ended questions to learn how both parties can get, at least partially, what they want.
  • Reframe the issue. Put it in another light so that the person thinks about things differently, hopefully in ways that the party has never considered.
  • There should be something both sides can agree on. Identify that common ground and try to progress that to where you want to go. You could say something like; if A is essential then you should also be concerned about B and C, what do you think? If the other party follows your lead, try to credit him or her for it, make it their idea, so they’re more likely to buy in and agree.
  • Point to specific ways the other side would benefit if they change.
  • Be honest. There will be some cost to the other party if they do what your client wants. But, given the big picture, the benefits outweigh the costs. This shows you understand the situation and being upfront and honest may inspire some trust. It shows you’re someone they can work with.

Change can be difficult, but there are situations where without it there will be a failure. You just need to convince yourself, your client or the other side that failure is worse than change and if you’re successful, you might find a resolution everyone can live with.