The Negotiator Magazine

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“Conflict: Don’t Fight It, Manage It” by Eric Garner

Conflict is an ever-present reality whenever people work together. It can manifest itself in differences of view, differences of opinion, differences of personality, and differences of interest. But conflict doesn’t have to be destructive. If the right options are chosen to handle conflict – either as a strategy or as a tactical choice – the result can be of huge benefit to both sides. These are the 7 options you have.

  1. No Deal. A no-deal outcome to a conflict means that the status quo is confirmed and nothing changes. No-deal is rarely a successful end to a conflict unless during discussions it becomes clear there is no advantage for you in continuing. No-deal, in the sense of walk-away power, can also be used tactically at any stage of the proceedings. To make sure you are not disadvantaged if your bluff is called when you threaten "No deal!", make sure you have a good second-best BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) to fall back on.
  1. I Win, You Lose. The "I win you lose" approach to conflict is also known as “the World War One solution”. At the end of World War One, the victorious Allies decided that, such were the horrors of the war, the defeated Germans should be humiliated and never again allowed to threaten their neighbors. The denigrating peace terms were completely one-sided but, as in all win-lose solutions, the losing side harbored deep resentment. It was only a matter of time before resentment led to a desire for revenge and the outbreak of a further war in 1939.

Fritz Perls called the “I win you lose” approach to conflict “the peace of conquest”. He goes on to say, “The peace of conquest, where the victim is still in existence and must be dominated is, as peace, a negation: the suffering of the conflict has ceased but the figure of awareness is not alive with new possibilities, for nothing has been solved. The victor is watchful, the victim resentful. In social wars, we see that such negative peace is not stable, there are too many unfinished situations.” 

Quite simply, when you use "win-lose" on others, you encourage them to find ways to use "win-lose" back on you.

  1. I Lose, You Win. The "I lose, you win" approach to conflict should never be considered as a strategy. This is the route of appeasement, a quiet life and letting others have their way: sooner or later they will come back for more.

The story is told of a newcomer to an African village who became frightened by wolves at night so he threw them some antelope meat to appease them. The next morning he had the whole pack at his door.

"We've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-Geld;
You never get rid of the Dane."  (Rudyard Kipling)

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March 2007