Sunday, February 28, 2010

Framing the Discussion – first in a series

I am going to write the next few newsletters on the process of “framing” a conflict, it think, because it is tricky and some people underestimate the importance of it. If the frame is established properly upfront, it is easier to detect when the discussion wanders into irrelevant or unproductive territory. If all parties know the target, then all can tell when a shot goes astray.

First, for a definition, “Framing a Conflict” is the act of defining what the conflict is about and how it is being addressed. So there are two parts of the frame – the “what” part and the “how” part. Further, recognize that this is not done by just one party, but requires agreement among the interested parties involved. This factor makes it a little less of an “act” and more of a “process”. A collaborative one.

In a conversation in which the parties are seeking to resolve some sort of difference so that each can come away with something that they believe is of value (a negotiation), it is not unusual for a party to become so “anchored” to what they SAY they want, that they don’t recognize what they REALLY want.

For example – I may say that I want your commitment that you will reduce the price of the material that you sell to me by 5% for the next two years, and forget what I REALLY want is a reduction in the cost of the material you supply of 5% for the next two years.

Can you see the difference? In the first case, the only way my request can be satisfied is if you lower your price. In the second case, maybe there are more ways for you to reduce my cost of using your product (Can you warehouse it for me? Drop ship to my customers? Deliver it for free? Take over some of the forecasting for it?).

More next time…

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