Beyond Reason Review

Roger Fisher, author of Getting to Yes, died recently. Below is another great book by him and psychologist Daniel Shapiro

                           Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate 

                                    By Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro


                                    A Review by Mediator Glen Bickford

Many mediators think of emotion in negotiations as a bad thing, while logic rules. Shapiro and Fisher instead reframe both negative emotions (anger, etc.) and positive ones (enthusiasm, hopefulness etc.) as possible forces for settlement and personal growth before, during and after mediation. They teach dealing with mediator’s (s’) and parties’ emotions in a way designed to foster the helpful emotions while checking and diminishing the emotions detrimental to the process. As the authors state, “Whether or not you acknowledge emotions, they will have an impact on your negotiation” (Chapter 1 last paragraph).

Fisher and Shapiro encourage mediators and parties to focus not on emotions themselves but on 5 core concerns driving many (if not most GB) party emotions in negotiation, what I might call the issues behind the emotions. These are: appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status and role. Fostering these concerns usually yields helpful emotions to while ignoring or denigrating these generally does the opposite.

Appreciation does not mean giving in, but rather finding merit in what a party thinks, feels or does, showing an understanding of a person’s point of view and communicating that understanding.

Affiliation is simply turning an adversary into a colleague (similar to ‘focus on the issue not the person’ GB). Finding links to the person via structural connections (groups or interests in common) and personal ones. Try meeting in a different or less formal setting. Reshape the conflict into a collaborative effort. Caveat: when affiliated with another, it’s easy to agree first and think later. Evaluate proposals with both head and heart.

Autonomy is respecting a person’s right to decide (expand yours, don’t impinge on theirs). Consult parties. As mediator, expand your own authority by making suggestions or asking question. Encourage equal partnership in brainstorming.

Status can be reframed from an absolute to a relative concept. Areas of expertise whether general (family law, emotions, etc.) or particular (a parent may know a child better than others). Acknowledge and affirm parties’ status or knowledge in relevant areas. Empower.

Role: “In negotiation, you always have a job to do. In most cases, how you do that job is up to you” (chapter 7, last paragraph).  Refocus, redefine, reshape, limit.

When dealing with strong emotions in negotiation have a plan for dealing with your emotions and theirs. Diagnose possible triggers esp. core concerns. Check out assumptions and suggestions. Before you react, formulate your purpose for reacting. Is it to vent, educate the other about their impact, to influence or to improve the relationship? Venting often makes things worse because it intensifies and reinforces your emotions.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. Prepare on process, substance and emotion. Remember Getting to Yesand the 7 elements of negotiation (relationship, communication, interests, options, legitimacy, BATNA, and realistic commitments).

Almost every part of this book was helpful and relevant. More detail would have been helpful, for example, in the issue of timing and manner. Core concerns are often best addressed beforehand or in caucus.  Shapiro and Fisher, however, miss an opportunity regarding emotions. In my experience addressing or checking out emotions can be helpful to the process. Statements like “I can see you’re frustrated” and less directly, “How are you with the process?,” especially in caucus or private have been utilized by me in several settlements. Despite these oversights, this advice makes me wish Fisher had more books to publish.