Repairing Relationships Using Negotiation Skills

Use your negotiation skills to repair interpersonal relationships

By PON Staffon / Dispute Resolution

Negotiation Skills

Negotiation is not only something we do at work; often the toughest negotiations we encounter are in our personal lives. Some of the most difficult negotiations occur when a dispute occurs between family and friends, but it is possible to help solve a conflict with negotiation skills.

Discover how to improve your dispute resolution skills in this free report, Dispute Resolution: Negotiate Strong Relationships at Work and at Home, from Harvard Law School.

Ending Conflicts with Negotiation Skills

In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Shapiro, Associate Director of the Harvard Negotiation Project and Program on Negotiation faculty member, offers some suggestions on how negotiation skills can be used to repair friendships that are strained or broken.

To start, suggests Shapiro, don’t assume that the other party is going to be ready right away to return to a close relationship. By listening closely to the concerns and feelings expressed by a friend, and understanding their perspective, one can begin to rebuild trust, a key component in any relationship.

In his book, Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate, Shapiro emphasizes that understanding the other party’s key concerns is essential when negotiations involve powerful emotions. When both parties understand these core concerns, emotions can become an asset rather than an obstacle to negotiation. This is as true in personal negotiations as it is when dealing with high-stakes international conflict.

 3 Negotiation Tips from Beyond Reason

  • Give yourself a “plan B” negotiation strategy

Knowing your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) is one of the most valuable pieces of information you can bring to the negotiation table. Knowing your walk away options, and those of your counterpart, will not only help you define the zone of possible agreement (ZOPA), but it will also help you find areas of potential value creation, and value claiming. See also, Know Your BATNA – The Power of Information in Negotiation.

  • Re-frame the negotiation and shift the focus

Formulate questions and ask them strategically in order to “shift the focus” during the negotiation and reveal new information while also testing your assumptions about the negotiation at hand.

Knowing your “plan B” and testing your assumptions through strategic questioning helps negotiators hone in on the needs, interests, and motivations that really matter to them during negotiation scenarios. By refining your knowledge about the negotiation at hand, you can modify your negotiation techniques and negotiation strategies to best achieve your goals.

To read The Wall Street Journal article, click here.

How have negotiation skills helped you repair a relationship? Share your story with our readers in the comments.

Discover how to improve your dispute resolution skills in this free report, Dispute Resolution: Negotiate Strong Relationships at Work and at Home, from Harvard Law School.

Related Dispute Resolution Article:  Examples of Negotiation in Business – Negotiators, Find the Right Partner Before Signing Negotiated Agreements – Finding the right partner before engaging in negotiation can be tougher than the negotiation itself. Whether in business or personal life, assembling the right team helps guarantee the success of negotiated agreements between team members and outsiders. Before you sign the dotted line, do an audit of your interpersonal and business relationships. How do these dynamics impact your negotiating team? Knowing how to best manage conflict when it emerges and how to direct the talents of individual negotiators is essential to effective leadership in business and diplomacy. No matter how talented any two individuals or groups may be, without group cohesion and unity of purpose, even the best-negotiated agreements will fall short of their goals.


Originally published 2011.