Settling our differences through negotiation sounds splendid in theory, but the actual practice of compromise proves far more problematic. Over the decades, negotiating tactics have become more scientific, even stylized. Yet they still fail to remove conflict unless wrangled in a way that negotiators stay on track, not to win a position, but to agree upon a consequence.
Effective negotiations challenge assumptions and build on shared experiences and ideas. Negotiators resolve to produce an agreeable result.
Too often, negotiations are entered into as if one side is right and the other wrong. But, the attitudes of “I’m smarter,” or “I’m bigger,” or “I’m louder,” only move forward by sheer brute force while leaving behind a residue of fractured families and communities.
The starting point for effective negotiations is not two sides, a right and a wrong. Jeremy Rifkin wrote in his book, The Empathic Civilization, “Collaborative education begins with the premise that the combined wisdom of the group, more often than not, is greater than the expertise of any given member and that by learning together the group advances its collective knowledge, as well as the knowledge of each member of the cohort.”
Negotiation chooses to advance in knowledge, rather than repeat, or try to fortify, old knowledge. However, negotiations are easily undermined by biological, psychological, cultural, and moral stances, not to mention the ever-fluxing social, political, religious, and economic environments.
Karen Armstrong points out in her book, A History of God, that the old knowledge of a God “endorsing our prejudices instead of compelling us to transcend them,” has proven to be a liability to humankind.
Transcending old knowledge can be done by focusing on an agreeable consequence to a specific situation.
When negotiating holiday traditions, aim for the truth of peace, even if it goes against human expectations.
When negotiating spending money for Christmas, admit the knowledge that people desire forgiveness and honesty, rather than an expensive gift.
When negotiating the New Year, give less credence to assumptions and more to spiritual insight and foresight. Trust the consequence of a holy experience.