Invariably, the two of you are going to run into conflict virtually every day for the rest of your lives (between roommates, bosses, fellow employees, teachers, family members, neighbors, etc.). But don’t worry, it’s not personal–it’s just part of the human condition. Everyone (including the two of you) is hardwired for self-interest–which means that, at a minimum, you will experience some level of conflict everyday because at some point of everyday your self-interest and someone else’s self-interest will be (or at least appear to be) at odds.
Now, most people think they can avoid the reality of self-interest by simply wishing it away (shouldn’t we all just get along), but they’re wrong. We’re hardwired for it. We can’t just wish it away. It is what it is. So, the better question that the two of you need to ask yourselves is, “How can I work with other people’s inherent self-interest?” That’s a good question.
And the answer to that question can be found in a wonderful “old” bookentitled, “Getting to Yes,” by Ury and Fischer, which is a lay version of the Harvard Negotiation Process which was used in creating the Camp David Accord between Israel and Egypt.
The basic premise of Ury and Fischer’s book (that changed how I think about and deal with conflict) is that the reason most conflict doesn’t get resolved is because people continually fight about their positions.
A. I want to go out. B. I want to stay in
A. I want to go to New York for vacation. B. I want to visit my family for vacation.
A. I want a $5,000 raise. B. I’ll give you a $2,000 raise
A. I want a sports car. B. I want a minivan
A. I want you to do the dishes. B. I want you to do the dishes.
A. I want Italian for dinner. B. I want Mexican for dinner.
A. I want to save money. B. I want to spend money
As long as people fight about positions, there’s no possibility for a win-win. If A wants to go to NY and B wants to visit their family—and, eventually, both A and B go to NY, then A has won and B has lost—which isn’t necessarily great for their relationship!
So, how do you find your way around that? By not talking about positions. Instead, you talk about your interests. And the key question you need to uncover interests is …
[quote]What are you really interested in?[/quote]
Master that question. Ask it all the time. And you’ll be amazed at what happens. For example, let’s project a few years ahead and say that you and your future husband are having a conflict over where to go for vacation. Note: I’m sure your mother’s answer to that issue would be, “Come home and visit us,” :-) but let’s just play with this issue for now.
Let’s say your husband wants to go to the mountains and you want to go to the beach. In positional arguing, you’d keep fighting until either one of you gave up or you both gave up and ended up going someplace that neither of you wanted to go. However, if you focus on interests—by simply asking the question, “What are you really interested in?” everything changes and options open up.
For example, your husband may say,
“What I’m really interested in is going someplace secluded, where there aren’t a lot of people, where’s it’s not too hot, and where I can get out and walk around in nature. I just need some down time to rejuvenate. I’m really tired”
Then you might say, “What I’m really interested in is going someplace where I can sit in the sun, get a good tan, feel the sand in my toes, and have some nice restaurants we can visit so we can have a few romantic dinners together.”
Now, at this point, you’re no longer arguing about positions. You’re now talking about interests. And what are interests? They’re what your self-interests are. Once you have those on the table, you can now work on finding a place where both of your interests can be met (and, believe it or not, there are hundreds of locations all around the world that would meet both of your interests (but not necessarily your original positions).
I cannot overstate the power of this one question. Whenever you run into a conflict that seems unsolvable (i.e. because you’re arguing over positions), switch the table around and work with your inborn natural tendencies towards self-interest. Ask, “What are you really interested?” Once you get those out on the table, you’ll find it infinitely easier to find a solution where you both get what you really want.
Note: You may not get everything you want (hey, this is life), but both of you should get what you primarily want. And when you become a master of this win-win conflict resolution process, you’ll greatly reduce the length and veracity of any conflict that will come your way—and you’ll build better and healthier relationships. Where’s the downside in that?
So, what are you really interested in?