rights and interests

If you are involved in a conflict and don’t know how to approach discussing it with the other party (ies) here are some tips that will help you map out your approach.

1) All too often parties in conflict try to discuss their differences by focusing on what they believe are their legal rights. The problem with this approach is that they may misunderstand their actual rights  and obligations without first speaking to a lawyer.

2) Even if the parties do know their rights and obligations, once each side takes a legal position, that necessarily means that the other party is legally wrong. The problem with this approach is that agreement cannot follow if each side does nothing more than argue that the other is wrong.

3) The answer to any discussion centered around ‘legal right or wrong’ is to shift the discussion away from ‘right and wrong’ to a discussion of ‘interests’.

4) Interests are generally ‘financial’ or ‘proprietary’ and can also be ‘psychological’. For example, a party who cannot deal with the likely stress that could result from a lengthy conflict may take less to settle a dispute because he or she values peace of mind as much as money.

5) The best way to approach settlement is for each side to list his/her interests and exchange lists with the other party.

6) In many cases those lists may contain some or many of the same items. What this tells them is how much they share in common.

7) Once they realize what they share in common, the next step is to brainstorm any practical, working solutions that will achieve as many of the parties’ shared interests[ i.e. if you agree to do A, I will agree to do B]. And once they do this, it is a short step to reach agreement and end the conflict.


About The Author

Jack Zwicker