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Dealing With Difficult Issues And Difficult People

Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011


“What is the best way for people to deal with their differences?”
This query, taken from the 1991 edition of “Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” struck me as a perfect question for the new Congress and all newly elected public officials to consider.
The authors, Roger Fisher and William Ury began working together in 1977 and developed the highly respected Harvard Program on Negotiation. Although the pages on my paperback copy have yellowed over the years, in re-reading the book recently I found some solid advice for today’s leaders.
For example, in the chapter “Separate The Problem From The People” the authors offer a toolbox filled with basic principles for getting along and offer three ways to frame relationship issues:
  • Perception—put yourself in the other person’s shoes; don’t blame them for your problems; give them a stake in the outcome.
  • Emotion­—recognize and understand emotions, theirs and yours; allow the other side to blow off steam but don’t react to emotional outbursts; use symbolic gestures (like an apology) to diffuse emotions.
  • Communication—listen actively and acknowledge what is being said; speak to be understood, and speak about yourself, not about them; speak for a purpose (sometimes speaking too much is the problem).
While the State of the Union address is behind us, many cities and states are preparing for their own status reports for the public. Budget messages are being formulated, and campaigns are already in full swing for some individuals. All would benefit from a goal of this book “to “work together to create options that will satisfy both parties.”


Tags: Getting To Yes, Harvard Negotiation Project, negotiating, Roger Fisher and William Ury

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