Interests VS. Positions: Learn the Difference

Conflict resolution can be a tricky process, and even those familiar with mediation and negotiation tactics might not be aware of the distinction between positions versus interests.

In essence, positions are what individuals say they want in an argument or disagreement – it’s their outwardly stated wishes for how to deal with the issue at hand. Interests, on the other hand, often lie below the surface level: these are deeper psychological needs that must also be met in order for successful conflict resolution to occur.

As such, understanding the difference between interests and positions is essential for creating effective resolutions within disputes involving two or more parties.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what exactly constitutes each element, as well as provide helpful examples along the way to illustrate the concepts clearly.

What Is the Difference Between Positions and Interests

The distinction between positions and interests is an important concept when it comes to understanding the basics of dialogue-based positional bargaining and problem-solving.

This concept applies especially to mediation and conciliation, two processes in which a neutral third party aims to help solve a dispute.

Positions are the specific claims being argued by each party involved – they can be seen as more of a product rather than a process.

On the other hand, interests are fundamental needs or values driving either side to take the position that they have chosen, and can usually only be understood by looking at each situation from their perspective.

Anyone involved in negotiations should understand that reaching a resolution requires collaboration between all parties, so having an accurate picture of both positions and interests is crucial.

How Understanding Interests Can Lead to a Successful Negotiation

Understanding interests is essential for any successful negotiation. Too often negotiators focus on the opposing positions, in which each side comes armed with its own perspective and aims to hammer out a compromise.

But this can be an ineffective use of time, as it overlooks the fact that these positions are supported by an underlying interest. When we dig deeper to uncover these basic interests and understand the underlying motivations, we create a foundation upon which a creative solution can be built.

By ascertaining the values that drive each side’s objectives, we can develop meaningful outcomes that address not just the position of each party but also the needs, goals, and beliefs that lie beneath them.

This approach provides both parties with an avenue to achieve mutually beneficial results and move beyond stalemates in negotiation.

Why It’s Important to Understand Your Own Interests In a Negotiation

Negotiating can sometimes be a tricky business and successful outcomes often depend on the ability of parties to understand their own interests, as opposed to simply trading positions.

Position-based bargaining tends to leave both sides dissatisfied since each party gives up ground until they reach an agreement that may not meet either of their underlying needs.

On the other hand, whether for issues in the workplace or problems within families, understanding our own interests can put us in a better position to actually reach a resolution.

Mediators are excellent resources for helping parties identify those interests, and this knowledge is invaluable when haggling over compromise solutions.

Being aware of our individual goals will help us avoid making decisions based on assumption or default, building better arrangements that everyone can accept and stick with in the long run.

How to Identify Other Party’s Interests During a Negotiation

During negotiation, it’s important to identify the other party’s interests instead of just focusing on the positions they take.

This is because resolving conflicts requires combining and supplementing each other’s interests, rather than simply insisting on reaching a consensus with one position.

Furthermore, understanding the underlying interests can help find utility or opportunities which could be fostered through harmonizing those interests.

Even though a negotiated agreement would certainly include elements of the parties’ positions, coming to a resolution requires uncovering those interests.

Mediation and conciliation can facilitate this process by helping people listen to each other and look at their concerns objectively. Hence, it is essential to actively pursue exploring underlying interests in order to progress toward a mutually beneficial agreement.

Tips for Building an Agreement Based on Interests

Mastering the art of crafting an agreement based on interests rather than positions is arguably one of the most difficult yet essential skills in negotiations.

By understanding how to identify both parties’ interests, as well as hidden needs, you can ensure that you are able to craft an agreement that addresses everyone’s needs while leaving all parties feeling satisfied.

Building an agreement based on interests starts by understanding the fundamental difference between positional and interest-based negotiating approaches.

Position-based traditional negotiation tactics involve each party sharing what they already know upfront, compromising to come upon a middle-ground solution that satisfies, yet doesn’t truly address individual needs.

Interest-based negotiation calls for understanding what parties need from the outcome before making any decisions.

Listen carefully to understand their underlying concerns and help them find ways to meet those objectives within your proposal, therefore, helping them feel heard and seen.

The outcome should be a collaboration between both sides that reflects each person’s ultimate goals and ensures that all necessary components of the agreement are present.

Strategies for Resolving Differences of Interests During Negotiations

Resolving the differences between multiple interests during negotiations is not a simple task, yet it is often necessary in order to reach an agreement between the two parties.

One key strategy to do so is to differentiate between the positions of each party and the interests that these positions represent.

By focusing on underlying interests such as values, fears, and basic human needs rather than on the particular stances involved, finding a common point may become easier.

Moreover, attempting to create new options that could satisfy both parties’ interests can help them leave the discussion with a positive outcome.

Ultimately, successful communication is essential during negotiations in order to bridge gaps between different positions of interest.

Final Thoughts

Positions are what mediators or negotiators start with in order to arrive at an agreement– but interests are what ultimately matter.

Understanding the difference between the two can mean successful resolutions in any kind of negotiation.

When interested parties know and understand their own interests, they can use them to come to a mutually agreeable resolution that benefits everyone involved.

If you want to learn more about negotiation tactics, mediation, and alternative dispute resolution, ADR Times offers training courses and resources to help you.

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