Module 3

Module 3 - Be a Good Partner

Practice #5: Resolving Conflicts - Step 2 & 3

Solving Conflict - Step 2: Focus on Interests, Not Positions

When in conflict, your needs, desires, concerns, and fears are your interests. These interests motivate you and drive your position. The interests of others are what motivate them and drive their positions.

Your position is something you have decided upon, usually based upon your interests. Operating solely from your position limits your creative options because you've predetermined what's acceptable.

Reconciling Interests

To reconcile interests, you first need to understand them. The following techniques can help:

  • Everyone should make a list of his/her interests, being very specific.

  • Discuss interests: It is okay to be passionate and strong.

  • While it is okay to be hard on the issue, it is not okay to be hard on people.

  • Be open to hearing other people's interests.

Solving Conflict - Step 3: Use Objective Criteria in Negotiating

Using objective criteria in negotiation helps ensure everyone is treated fairly.

  • Fair criteria are independent of either side's "will" (i.e., what people are willing and not willing to do.) To move beyond "will," talk about what you think "fair" looks like. For example: "You want me to spend a small amount of time prepping. I want to spend longer. What does a fair amount of time look like?"

  • Fair criteria are seen by all as legitimate and apply to both sides.

  • Fair criteria are practical.

  • Keep your mind open and reconsider your intentions when necessary.

  • Be reasonable but never give in to threats, pressure, or bribes.


How Elizabeth and Steve are able to focus on interests, not positions and develop objective criteria for identifying potential projects:

Both Elizabeth and Steve recognize that service-learning is a place where the student should get the best possible learning experience while the community partner benefits from their help. Elizabeth discusses her interests, saying, "I would really just like to make sure that I learn all that I can during my time here, and make sure that I am doing everything possible to help PSNC in the process." Steve agrees that it is in everyone's best interest if Elizabeth is utilized in a way that gets things done for the community while providing a learning experience at the same time.

Together, they decide that the criteria to pick the best projects would be to select those that provide a beneficial learning experience for Elizabeth and also move PSNC closer to achieving its goals. The best choices will be a win-win for both parties. Based on the criteria of providing a learning experience and advancing the Center's goals, they work together to identify potential projects.



When a person advocates for a position, you can sometimes discover their interest(s) by asking "why?" in several iterations:

  • You ask, "Why do you believe that?"

  • They answer, and you ask again of their new response, "Why do you believe that?"

  • Asking "Why?" two or three times helps to uncover interests.

  • Remember to ask these questions in a respectful way. You may even want to start by saying that you are trying to uncover the root of their position to help you better understand.


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