generating options to satisfy your bargaining partners' (and your own!) interests

Once you have identified all stakeholders in an upcoming negotiation, you should systematically list all options that you believe might satisfy the interests you have identified for each of them ~ their goals, fears, desires, plans, preferences, priorities, and attitudes toward risk. The main goal is to come up with as many reasonable alternatives as possible without judging or assessing the probability that they will "work."  

For people to reveal their interests, they must feel that they are free to speak without fear of ridicule or retaliation; and, must trust that their brain-storming will be maintained in confidence.

Think how hard it is for one blade of grass to push itself up through the hard earth and how easily damaged it can be when  first opening up to the sun.  Treat your bargaining partners as if they were the most precious resources on the planet for in fact that is precisely what they are. 

Here are some guidelines from the article on the generation of options (brainstorming) from the incredibly useful and comprehensive Beyond Intractability website.

Ratification of the status quo involves the revision and updating of a previously reached agreement.

The development of objective standards for an acceptable agreement . . . establishes mutually acceptable standards for option generation and for shaping the final agreement.

Open discussion [after] setting ground rules that allow parties to suggest and explore ideas without being expected to commit to them.

Brainstorming  The [negotiator]  frames an issue as a problem and then asks a "how" question. For example, "how can a popular park be protected while still allowing visitors to enjoy its beauty?" Members of the group are then asked to respond, one at a time. The [negotiator] records all ideas, including controversial or seemingly impossible suggestions. Parties are asked to abstain from making value judgments about the options until all ideas have been presented. Parties should be encouraged, however, to build on others' suggestions and work to refine them in ways that meet more of their interests.

Nominal group process is similar to brainstorming, but aims to maximize individual creativity. The issue is stated as a "how" problem, and individuals make their own lists of solutions within a given time limit. Individuals then form small groups of about five, in which they share and record their ideas one at a time. They discuss and assess the options they generated, and select those options that have the potential for mutual acceptance, presenting them to the larger group for further discussion and consideration.

Task Groups. Another group process is to divide issues into logical categories and have separate task groups identify options for each category.  Again, the job of the task group is to come up with options, not assess them. Task groups are often used in combination with other methods of producing options.

With model agreements, the parties examine agreements made in other [negotiations] that were similar to their current situation. Those models are then explored and changed to meet the needs of the present situation.

Linked trades  identif[ies] potentially connected (linked) issues [so that the parties can]  trad[e] specific things that each party values differently [log-rolling]. For example, if one side wants more money, and the other more time, a trade-off can be developed that gives each side what he or she wants. The [goal is to]  develop deals that meet both side's interests.

Single-text negotiation [T]he entire group works with one document, which may be developed by the one of the parties after [exploring everyone's] concerns. . . .The document is then taken to all the parties, who gradually make improvements or revisions that make the agreement progressively more acceptable to all parties.

A different sort of procedure is available when parties have different perceptions of the possible outcome of a [the deal]. In such cases, [the parties] may develop "procedural solutions to reach substantive agreements." The parties come up with a fair procedure that can be used presently or in the future to arrive at a concrete resolution to the dispute. For example, a neighborhood association may be willing to support the construction of a potentially polluting factory under certain agreed-upon conditions. One possibility is that the business agrees to an environmental assessment after one year, and has a bond put aside to compensate residents if any environmental damage is discovered. In other words, the parties work out an insurance policy to make sure everyone will be happy with the ultimate outcome of their agreement.

Package agreements are yet another option, which is available when parties have exchanged enough information to develop mutually acceptable packages. This option involves the construction of a comprehensive agreement that addresses all parties' key interests. Packages are generally designed to balance gains and losses for all parties so that the overall resolution is acceptable to all.

Victoria PynchonComment