By Ivan Alter

The battle lines of negotiation have been evident since the beginning of trade and the advent of the judicial system. Two parties come to the table seeking a specific outcome or settlement, which are often incompatible as neither is willing to budge from their position. The tension created by these two immovable forces can seem impossible to overcome when neither party is willing to concede their determination to get what they came for, even if it works against them in the long run. Mediators often arrive at this point to help one side or the other see reason; that is the case in the traditional conflict resolution paradigm. After all, the nature of ‘contesting’ reasons that there can only be one winner and, by default, the minting of a loser.

Through the Understanding-Based Model, there is an alternative path that encourages both parties to explore their interests or reasons why they hold so strongly the contested outcomes that lie beneath the surface. Now, two forces previously in opposition are motivated to find a way to work together out of mutual self-interest. With the mediator’s guidance, parties in conflict can begin to reach a place where both can find what they are genuinely looking for and satisfy their interests – which can be different from the position they held firmly to when the dispute began. It may seem simple, but this fundamental change in approach changes focus, working to create a path forward that supplants the adversarial approach with collaboration.

Join Katherine Miller and Ivan Alter on October 20th, 2022, to learn how an interest-based approach can help parties set aside their positions and focus on interests continuously throughout the mediation process while overcoming the tendency to revert to positional thinking out of fear, outside influence, anger, or distrust.