Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Without mediation Uganda is headed into a political crisis abyss!

M7’s government and the opposition are once again caught in a classic battle of positional bargaining impasse rather than the utilization of interest-based negotiation.

A position is a demand that you are making on someone else. No one likes to be told what to do by someone else, so positional statements tend to get people angry.

Interests on the other hand are those things that underlie positions. They are the reasons justifying the positions.

The opposition’s current position is to assert its constitutional right to hold peaceful demonstrations. M7’s government’s current position insists that the opposition cannot hold those demonstrations at a time when O’level national exams are taking place.

Examples of the governments interests underlying its position might be to prevent the opposition from starting an Arab Spring type of revolution; another is its desire to have the opposition formerly inform & negotiate with the police about their demonstration plans.

The oppositions interests underlying their position might be a guarantee from the government not to interrupt their freedom of movement and have their constitutionally guarantied right to peaceful demonstrations with dignity. The list can go on!

Experts suggest that taking positions has many limitations. “Battles can leave you weakened.” The vanquished( in this case the opposition ) can become perpetual enemies.

With mediation and a cooling off period, the government & the opposition would separately write down their interests that underly their positions, i.e. the reasons justifying their positions. The mediator would then have each side separately review each sides statements of interest after which a preliminary meeting of a specific number of each party delegates would sit down and develop options to satisfy all opposing interests.

Its in the interest of both the government and the opposition to come to a peaceful and lasting resolution to this intractable dispute.

Positional bargaining is a common mode of negotiation in conflicts. People incorrectly believe that not revealing any information is strong, while disclosing information is weak. The basis for this belief is based on a preconscious risk assessment we make in every social situation. Generally speaking, we fear loss more than we desire gain. We will therefore adamantly state our own position, expecting others to listen. Of course, we don’t want to listen to the other person’s position, so we tune it out. Why is it that we expect people to listen and accept our personal positions when we are reluctant to listen and accept theirs? Is there any wonder why conflict can escalate so quickly?

The conflict arising from positional bargaining can be avoided by utilizing interested-based negotiation. This idea was first developed by scholars at the Harvard Negotiation Project and published in the 1981 book “Getting to Yes.” Interest-based negotiation asks people to ascertain the interests beneath their positions. Interests can be satisfied in many different ways. Consequently, working with interests leads to many more options than positional bargaining. In addition, satisfying interests is psychologically much different than caving in to another person’s position. When we have satisfied both our interests and those with whom we are negotiating, we have joint sense of well-being and pride at jointly solving a problem. When we are forced to concede to another’s position, we feel coerced, frustrated and angry over our loss of autonomy.

Unfortunately, interest-based negotiating is not our default method of dealing with differences. Because we have been taught by example that coercion is expedient and efficient, we tend to use coercive negotiating techniques without thinking. We argue, threaten, promise, and wheedle to get our own way.

However, people skilled in interest-based negotiation tend to be superior in conflict resolution, are able to achieve satisfaction of their interests without acrimony, and are able to leave important relationships intact.

Sources for this article: Positions vs. Interests changingminds.org

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