The Blame Game and Negotiation

Does Blame help reach a result in the negotiation process?  In my opinion, it is counter-productive.  This week we saw a lot of blame coming out of Washington D.C., in a negotiation without resolution and an eventual shut down.  This led me to think about my own work and what happens when blame is assigned and then continues as the focus.  During a negotiation, the parties do need to take responsibility for their own actions.  This can be done in a productive way without shaming or humiliating the other party. There is a distinction between assigning and taking responsibility and what happens when the parties stay at the level of blame. 

Custom-Stock-Photo-for-Blogs-300x200When disputants are shamed and humiliated the stress level usually interferes with productive thinking and talking.

The Blame Game is nothing new.  It has been around for a long time.  There are strategies to change the focus and move into a productive negotiation.  Most experienced mediators understand how to structure a negotiation so that each person feels heard and the parties can move into positive, cooperative thinking.   These strategies include setting priorities, time management and avoiding distraction.

Here are some thoughts on preparing for an effective negotiation whether it is in mediation or another process.

  1. Establish a focus and listen

One of the key components to effective negotiation is to listen to the other party (really listen!) and focus on the problem.  How you express yourself and how you react to the other party impacts the productiveness of the dialogue.  Stay away from personal attacks as they create stress and do not lead to good results.

  1. Choice of process

Examine the different processes available for resolution of the issues and choose one that feels comfortable for both parties.  Research how each process works to determine whether it is the right one for your situation. Examples are mediation, collaborative law and direct or kitchen table negotiation.

  1. Time Management

Establish a realistic time frame for how and when the negotiation will take place.  Understand what information is needed to make decisions, how and when it will be produced and who will take responsibility for gathering the information.

  1. Focus on the future not the past

Establish priorities and then, after all of the necessary information is collected and understood, stay flexible and take a careful look at options for resolution.

  1. Be creative

  Solutions are usually richer when both parties spend their energy considering options, alternatives and “what-ifs” that work for both parties.

We have real time examples of the blame game and where it can lead.  There are more effective ways to resolve disputes – especially when it comes to the family.