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Big Things, (Seemingly) Small Packages

Big Things, (Seemingly) Small Packages

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that the importance of a given interest is to be determined by the party feeling that need.

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Video Transcription

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In order for parties in a conflict resolution process to feel satisfied, truly satisfied, both parties need to feel the outcome has to satisfied their needs, their interests. I'm Marlene. And I'd like to talk with you more today about that outcome and how we ensure that it's satisfactory to both parties.

So the parties are there. They've come in with positions, what they think they need in order to be satisfied. And the position is a way of getting what they need. And it may be one way, but it's not the only way. And when we look at the positions more closely, we uncover the interests.

Now, the interests are the real reason the client's there, the real reason they've taken a position. It's what they really need to feel satisfied. It's the reason they're there.

So as part of this process, we want the parties to share what their real interests are. We want to uncover those real interests. And when we do that, we list the interests.

So we have Party A, and we have Party B. And however many interests, you want to make sure that you capture these interests. So here we have three interests for Party A. We have five interests for Party B.

Now, you notice this party seems to have more interests than Party A. And that really doesn't matter. What matters is that the parties feel that what they need has been laid out on the table. It's here. This is what they want to have met. These are the needs they want to have met.

Now they need to set a priority on these needs, these interests. We rank them as part of this process. What's most important here, in terms of the level of importance? So we set a priority.

So we go through the lists and we rank them. Now, how the parties rank their interests is completely up to them. And you may find that they're going to rank their interests differently.

For example, let's say that Party A and Party B are involved in a conflict over an inheritance, a family inheritance. And they've listed what their interests are. And there may be conflicts over money, over items to be inherited, family heirlooms, any number of things.

And we find here that Party A really wants a couple of particular items. They're sentimental. They're not of any monetary value in particular, but they have a sentimental value to Party A. And that party wants those items, ranks those items number one. So they're at the top of the list.

Party B is a little bit more interested in the monetary value of things. And so this doesn't really seem that important to Party B. Really, when we get down to ranking here, Party B would like that, perhaps, like they have those items as well. But when it comes to ranking what's really important for Party B, things of more monetary value, the financial dividing up here of this estate ranks higher. So what Party B puts as number one is different.

Now, there is no right or wrong here. It might appear this is unequal. But it's not unequal if the parties are satisfied, if they are getting their needs met.

And any objective standard we might want to use as an intervenor to look at this as equitable or not is not appropriate in this situation. For example, we might look at this and say, well, this party only has three needs, whatever they are, three interests, and the other party has five or six, so we're going to write up an agreement where Party B gets five things and Party A gets three things. Is that fair?

Well, yes it. It is fair if that's what the parties agree on, if that's what they want, because this is all about them having their interests met. So they get to define what that is. It's not defined by some objective criteria of what might be perceived to be equal or not equal.

So there are many kinds of examples where you might see something that might appear not to be equal. We might have our two parties here having a disagreement over office space. And there are a number of things that one party wants in terms of the office, in terms of organizing things, files, not having so many knickknacks around. There's a number of things that this party wants and needs.

The other party, only thing that party wants is to be in the office at a particular time and have it quiet. Between the hours of 8:00 and 10:00 is when I do particular kind of work. I need to be in the office alone, and it needs to be quiet. If I can have that, fine. I'll clean up the office for when I'm not in here.

He's fine with that. It might look like he has to do a lot of things for Party A who's sharing the office with him. And Party A just has to agree to let him have the hours between 8:00 and 10:00 alone in the office and have some privacy. But if that meets their needs and it appears one party's doing more than the other party, that's fine, as long as they are OK with what has been agreed on here and they feel their interests are being met.

So the parties will rank their interests. They might rank them differently. And that's up to them. You as the intervenor are here to make sure that they are satisfied and they feel that all their needs have been met-- the needs that are relevant, the needs that they have prioritized as most important.

So when you get to the point of putting together a final agreement, you do want to double-check with them that everything is meeting their needs. Now, this is not double-checking to second-guess them, as in, are you sure this is really what you want? That's not what you are doing when you are double-checking. What you are doing is making sure that they are OK with what they have written in this agreement.

So you might ask a question such as, is anything missing here? Let's take a second look at it, want to make sure that everything is here. Does anybody see anything that they would want to change? Anything need to be clarified?

I notice here there's an item about communication. Do you want to clarify exactly what that means? Is it clear enough here? Do we need to have some other wording?

So you might push them for some specifics if it's not written in a specific way in an agreement. Check with them for clarity, for changes. Ask them if they have any questions. So you are simply making sure that they are OK with what they have agreed to, that their relevant needs-- the needs that they've ranked, however they want to rank them-- have been satisfied. So thank you for joining me today, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know

An action, belief, or physical item that a party perceives as important or essential to his or her satisfaction or happiness.


The level of importance given to a particular interest.