Have you ever noticed that when we say that we are dealing with a difficult person, we are always talking about the other, never about ourselves? We are good at absolving ourselves and at judging others.
As a result, since the other is the problem, we think that if conditions have to change, it is the other who needs to change. When we negotiate with the difficult other, we wonder how we can change him or her. In truth, to affect and to transform a dynamic, it is sufficient (and necessary) that we change--so that we don't act like a difficult person.
As President Theodore Roosevelt once said:
If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.
William Ury has highlighted this notion in his insightful latest book Getting to Yes with Yourself. William Ury, cofounder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, is one of the world’s best-known and most influential experts on negotiation. For more than three decades, Ury has worked with companies, organizations and communities to help them to become better negotiators.
Over the years, he has observed something that those of us who work in conflict resolution and leadership development often detect: that the greatest obstacle to successful agreements and satisfying relations is not the other side. The biggest obstacle is actually ourselves—our natural tendency to react in ways that do not serve our true interests.
But this obstacle can also become a great opportunity, Ury argues. If we learn to understand and influence ourselves first, we lay the groundwork for understanding and influencing others.
Here are the six steps suggested by William Ury in Getting to Yes with Yourself.
Instead of reacting, observe yourself, recognize your emotion. Ury, calls this, “going to the balcony.” Second, listen carefully, with empathy, to your underlying feelings for what they are really telling you. Feel from within. Third, uncover your needs. Ask yourself, “What is it, that I really really want?”
Shift from blaming the other, to taking responsibility for your life and relationships. BATNA stands for Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. "Your BATNA is your best course of action for satisfying your interests if you cannot reach agreement with the other side," Ury explains. In other words, it’s the commitment you make to yourself to take care of your needs independently of what the others do or don’t do.
"Nothing can bring you peace, but yourself," observed Ralph Waldo Emerson. Reframing is an essential skill in negotiation. It’s the ability (indeed, the power) each one of us has to give a different interpretation or meaning to a situation. Can we think, act, and conduct, our relationships as if the universe is essentially a friendly place and life is, in fact, on our side?
Learn to let go the tight grip on life. Relax and let life flow naturally. As part of this process, accept the past instead of holding on to it. In fact, holding on to the past, takes away joy and can even harm our health. Further, trust the future, with the confidence that you will be able to deal with the challenges that come your way. Finally, embrace the present.
As Ury writes, “with an attitude of genuine respect, we can practice the art of listening to others from within their frame of reference, from their own points of view.” This requires developing self-awareness, since “the deeper we go inside ourselves, the farther we can go outside.” This way, we can expand our circle of respect, respect the other even if he or she reject us, and be more inclusive. The more we show respect, the more respect we get.
When we are in competitive relations, it is easy to focus only on what we can get out. The last step (and challenge) is to adopt a win-win approach, by giving instead of taking.
These steps are not easy. They are challenging. I tried these and other approaches in the most difficult, and some times, even in dangerous situations – also when I received death threats while I was facilitating ceasefire negotiations with an insurgency in Colombia. These steps make the difference!
Whenever I was able to contribute to change, it was because I implemented one of the six steps William Ury describes in his latest book. Try them and master them! It’s the best way to see if they work for you as well.
Aldo Civico for the past 25 years has worked globally on conflict resolution, facilitating ceasefire agreements, developing peacebuilding capabilities of organizations and communities. He coaches professionals, executives and individuals in upgrading their communication and negotiation skills. Furthermore, he has advised a variety of celebrities in designing their philantropic endeavours for positive change. More recently, he has been appointed as scientific director at the foundation of soccer star James Rodriguez (Real Madrid).