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Peace, order, and good government – and how to get there

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Roslyn Kunin: Better communication and negotiation create harmony and more desirable outcomes in politics, in the workplace, and the home.

Politics and the COVID-19 pandemic have led to continuing confrontations and unprecedented uncertainties in the United States.

The U.S. is still important enough that these events are reflected beyond its borders, leaving many longing for a return to a more stable situation and for the peace, order and good government, which are Canada’s ideals.

Demonstrations, riots and violence tend to increase when people can’t or don’t address their differences in a more civilized manner by communicating and negotiating. The breakdown in what used to be the normal give and take between political parties is a major contributor to the current situation.

Better communication and negotiation create harmony and more desirable outcomes in politics, and in the workplace and the home. Here are steps to take in any situation where people have to deal with each other and may not always agree:

Listen

The first step in trying to get someone to see things your way is to listen to what they have to say and find out where they’re coming from.

It’s said that we have two ears but only one mouth for a reason.

Listening will enable us to better understand what’s important to the other party and help us to meet their needs. This in turn makes them more willing to meet our needs. It might even reveal common ground that neither side was aware of before.

Set your goal posts

I once worked in a store where bargaining was the norm. No customer expected to pay the sticker price. They would start negotiating to see how low they could get the cost.

Staff recognized that sales would be below the original asking price. However, they knew that there was a floor below which the price couldn’t go if the business was to remain viable. Between the original price and that floor, there was room to negotiate.

In any negotiation, one must be flexible and prepared to give a little. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Know what’s important to you

As the Dalai Lama says, open your arms to change but don’t let go of your values.

Always show respect

We’re all familiar with the idea of saving face. Even if negotiations appear to have favoured one side over the other, all parties must be able to walk away with their head held high for the results to last.

Some might feel they’re getting the upper hand by insulting the other or worse, but denying anyone their dignity under any circumstances makes rational communication difficult and even impossible. We then find ourselves back on the path to confrontation and chaos.

Remaining courteous, cool and quiet – especially when others are becoming loud and excited – is what really gives the negotiator the upper hand and often the chance to suggest a solution.

Be prepared to give

Most people enter discussions with a very clear idea of what they want to get from it. If you’re not sure of this, you shouldn’t be starting the discussion.

And many have already determined how far they can go and what they’re not willing to do. You know what you want to get and you know what you’re not prepared to give.

However, before you get into any serious discussions, do you have a clear idea of what it is that you’re prepared to give?

If both sides come to the table strictly focused on what they want and don’t want, meaningful communication and mutually agreeable results aren’t very likely.

Spend some time focusing on what it is you’re bringing to the table for the other party. Listening to them can tell you what they would like. Can you supply it?

Not all negotiations are win-lose or zero sum (when one can only gain what the other loses). There may be a component that costs little or nothing to give but is very valuable to the recipient. It’s often discovered by respectful listening and emphasizing giving over getting.

Let’s hope that political leaders in all places and at all levels have seen enough confrontation and violence, and will start showing respect to one another.

May employees and their bosses remember that shouting and swearing don’t lead to a better work environment.

Maybe even parents and teenagers will begin listening to each other.

Then there will be less violence and more peace, order and good government in our world.

Troy Media columnist Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.

© Troy Media

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