One thing that is very challenging in the End Game is to hold onto interests that have been expressed by the parties in a way that keeps them foremost as we negotiate through to a solution.  When the rubber hits the road and we are talking options and ultimately solutions, it is hard to find ways to keep what the parties expressed as important primary in their minds and hearts and ours.

Tip #2 – Frame Interests in Writing.

In our seminars we teach participants both to elicit and then to frame interests as separate steps toward unraveling what is most important to the parties and then as a way to hold onto those thoughts and feelings throughout the process.  Eliciting interests is a way to engage the parties in discussions so as to allow them to fully explore what is most important to them allowing them the time and support to understand and express their thoughts and emotions at a deep level if they wish.

Framing is a method of capturing the essence of what each party is expressing and writing it down in a way that is meaningful to that party and useful to the process. Looking to make a list of words or phrases that represent each of the things the parties say is important to them, we have a four prong test to see if the expressed interest is suitable to be written down.  The goal is to work with each party to articulate his/her interests in a frame that will be most useful in developing options.  The four tests are:

  1. Significant to Party (has emotional resonance)
  2. Points toward multiple options (not too specific)
  3. Tangible/graspable (not too general)
  4. Described as present or future benefit (rather than cost to other)

Framing interests in this way is harder than it seems.  The professional must both hold the interest expressed by the party with its emotional resonance separate from the position that person may have expressed and also negotiate with the him/her to find a word or phrase that meets the four prong test above to go on the list.

Why bother with such a challenging task?  Taking the time to create and formalize a list of framed interests is one way that we can solidify and hold what is truly important to the parties as we work toward brainstorming options and negotiating solutions.  Without this list, what is truly important to the people can disappear in a flash if the parties sense a scarcity of resources or start to get scared.  On the other hand, keeping the list on hand where it can be viewed and referred to at will, helps remind all participants – parties and professionals – what really matters and helps reduce anxiety.