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problem solving approach

What is a Problem Solving Approach?

The problem-solving approach to negotiation includes three tenets to help parties build relationships and negotiate constructively.

The problem-solving approach to negotiation is an approach first articulated in the book Getting to YES, written by Roger Fisher and William Ury. The problem-solving approach argues that (1) negotiators should work together as colleagues to determine whether an agreement is possible that is better for both of them than no agreement would be, (2) in doing so they should postpone commitments while exploring how best to maximize and fairly distribute the value of any agreement, and (3) it makes sense for one party to take this approach even if the other does not. 

What does this accomplish? The problem-solving approach emphasizes parties’ underlying interests rather than their positions, and encourages parties to maintain and build their relationship even if they disagree rather than creating an adversarial process. 

This approach isn’t just for business, though. In his book How to Negotiate with Kids…Even When You Think You Shouldn’t (Viking, 2003), Scott Brown, a founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project at Harvard Law School, outlines a framework for dealing with your children using the principles of negotiation.

While some parents may fear that by negotiating with their children they are giving up some of their power, the opposite is true. Using negotiation techniques helps children feel empowered while also building trust and strengthening family ties.

Discover how to boost your power at the bargaining table in this free special report, Dealmaking: Secrets of Successful Dealmaking in Business Negotiations, from Harvard Law School.

We will send you a download link to your copy of the report and notify you by email when we post new business negotiation advice and information on how to improve your dealmaking skills to our website.

The following items are tagged problem solving approach:

Mediation Process and Business Negotiations: How Does Mediation Work in a Lawsuit?

Posted by & filed under Mediation.

How does mediation work in a lawsuit? What benefits can mediation offer businesses that deal with multiple contractual agreements, some of which may end in disputes? These questions were answered by Harvard Law School Associate Professor and negotiation expert Dan Greiner in an “Ask the Negotiation Coach” segment from our Negotiation Briefings newsletter. … Read More 

Mediation: Sitting Down at the Table

Posted by & filed under Mediation.

One of the central skills of a mediator is the ability to solve problems. And while problem solving skills may lead to successfully negotiated agreements between disputing parties, an effective mediator also has to get each side to agree to sit down at the bargaining table in the first place. … Read More 

How to Manage Conflict at Work

Posted by & filed under Conflict Resolution.

Sooner or later, almost all of us will find ourselves trying to cope with how to manage conflict at work. At the office, we may struggle to work through high-pressure situations with people with whom we have little in common. We need a special set of strategies to calm tempers, restore order, and meet each … Read More 

Negotiator Toolbox: Using E-Mediation to Resolve Disputes

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The Problem: You want to hire a mediator to help you resolve a conflict that you’re having with an individual or a company, but meeting face-to-face would be difficult. Perhaps you and the other party are located in different geographic areas, or social-distancing guidelines are keeping you apart. Maybe your dispute originated in an online transaction … Read More 

Dear Negotiation Coach: “Should we leave external advisers out of the room?”

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Q: My company is involved in a contentious and high-stakes intellectual-property dispute with a longtime competitor in our industry. We have been engaged in mediation for several months, thus far without success. In each session, there are dozens of people on each side, perhaps reflecting the high stakes and complex issues of law and technology … Read More 

Consider the Setting

Posted by & filed under Daily, Negotiation Skills.

Adapted from “The Crucial First Five Minutes,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, October 2007. Your designated meeting place can have a critical impact on talks. When you don’t have a choice about where to meet, be aware that situational factors may color your judgment. For instance, the visual cues of a car lot—flashy banners, cheerful … Read More 

Bringing Mediators to the Bargaining Table

Posted by & filed under Conflict Resolution, Daily.

Adapted from “Mediation in Transactional Negotiation,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, July 2004. We generally think of mediation as a dispute-resolution device. Federal mediators intervene when collective bargaining bogs down. Diplomats are sometimes called in to mediate conflicts between nations. So-called multidoor courthouses encourage litigants to mediate before incurring the costs—and risks—of going to trial. Scott … Read More 

Negotiating with Your Children

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Negotiating with your children may seem counterintuitive but parents can build stronger relationships with them by implementing a problem-solving approach when trying to resolve family conflicts. In his book How to Negotiate with Kids…Even When You Think You Shouldn’t (Viking, 2003), Scott Brown, a founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project at Harvard Law School, outlines a … Read More