When people are engaged in disagreement, it’s easy for them to forget how many interests they share — i.e., how much “common ground” they have.
For example, when my spouse and I become upset with each other over not reaching a joint decision, I’ve noticed that we don’t get very far until one of us “goes to the balcony.”
“Going to the balcony” is William Ury’s term for changing our viewpoint from being in the fray, to observing the fray we’re in. (See Ury’s “Getting Past No: Negotiating With Difficult People” for more on this.)
From said balcony, one of us can begin to observe our own behavior (instead of being locked on the other person’s balcony!).
In disagreements with my spouse, once I’m on the balcony, I often see myself acting like someone who’s occupying an island by myself instead of someone who’s sharing a continent with her.
Once I’ve acknowledged this to her, I often experience that she, too, has “been to the balcony” and wants to consider our common ground.
When a person is able to see both sides, it’s much easier to see that the figurative ground each individual is so busy defending actually belongs to them both.
And once the parties can agree to view that ground together, a satisfying resolution to the disagreement soon reveals itself.
Establishing common ground is a powerful negotiating rule!
And it’s far better applied before disagreement drives two parties apart than afterward when egos have to be swallowed, words have to be reclaimed, and the relationship space has to be cleaned up before you can even look at the problem together (see Build Trust With These 4 Easy Steps to Fix Broken Agreements).
Get Started With This Week’s 5-Minute Stretch
Reflect on your current negotiations:
- Have you sincerely seen and established common ground?
- What opportunities are there to improve your methods?
- Are there parties with whom you need to acknowledge sharing a continent instead of occupying separate islands?
Take advantage of the view from the balcony this week and improve at least one negotiation. You can get more of what you want — and so can the other party.
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Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.