Monday, October 11, 2010

Why Not Expand the Pie?

Tonight's blog post is courtesy of Kairi Smith Gure, who is our Associate  in our Lawrenceville office.

Kairi Smith


I am in the process of earning a masters degree in the Science of Conflict Management.  I am in my first semester of a four semester program and I have already begun to view most of life’s experiences as a series of negotiations, some simple, some complex.

In my negotiation's class we are learning about different types of negotiations.  Before a couple of weeks ago I really didn’t think that there was more than one way to negotiate.  I thought, like most, about negotiations as the classic exchange where both parties have competing interests and each gives up as little as possible and, in a best case scenario, each side walks away with 50% of what they wanted.  Both parties are usually leave the negotiation disappointed that they didn’t get more.  But, in some cases, if one party was more savvy (or conniving) than the other party, they are able to “win” and walk away from the negotiation with more than 50% (or maybe all) of what they wanted.  This is what I have know come to know as Zero Sum negotiating.

Zero Sum negotiating works on the idea that one party has to get less of what they want (or need) for the other party to get more of what they want (or need).  When you are zero sum negotiating you are working with a “fixed pie” meaning that you are focused on the idea that there is not enough to go around and, in order to “win,” the other party has to “lose”.

I propose that Zero Sum negotiating, while definitely the way to approach many negotiations, is not the best fit for resolving most of the conflicts that take place in realm of Family Law litigation.  Integrative negotiating would provide parties with more satisfying, durable, and successful agreements, bringing them one step closer to resolving the family conflict that brought them to court in the first place.

Integrative negotiation is based upon the idea that if both of the parties approach the negotiation with the thought that they can both “win,” the focus of the negotiation will create an agreement that achieves the goals of both parties.  Ideally this would happen because the parties could think outside of the box and come up with creative solutions to meet everyone's needs and/or goals.  This process would in turn “expand the pie” so that there was enough for everyone.

I know that emotions run high for the parties when dealing with Family Law conflicts because the stakes are generally very high.  As I work with my clients I do my best to facilitate an approach to their negotiations that “expand the pie,” so that long after the day the agreement was created and emotions are no longer raging, they are still satisfied with the outcome.  To me this it what it means to “win”.

Kairi Smith Gure

No comments:

Post a Comment