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When Interests Are Values

When Interests Are Values

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that some interests may be expressions of a party's personal values, and that values cannot be mediated.

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Video Transcription

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When two parties are in conflict, any number of things can be bargained, action situations, events. But one thing that can never be bargained are basic values. I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you about that.

So we talked about positions and interests here, and when parties come into conflict, typically they come in with a position. And a position is what they think they need. It's the solution they already have in their mind to get an interest met.

And the interest is what they really need. It's the outcome that they need in order to really feel satisfied.

So a simple way of looking at this is to see the interest as the reason they're there, why they're there. And the position is what they are thinking of as the solution. What they say they want. And the reason they want it is the interest.

Oftentimes, people will engage in positional bargaining when they have different positions because they have this unmet need, and they see their position-- it's almost like tunnel vision-- as the way to satisfy it. And so it becomes a competition between positions leaving neither party very satisfied at the end.

So it's best to move away from positions and ask the questions that get at the underlying interests. What are the interests here that we're trying to satisfy?

And there may be times when you'll uncover an interest that's really a value. So let me write value here. OK?

The interest is a value, and a value is a belief that someone has. A very deeply held belief about something being moral, ethical, or right. And it's not the goal of conflict resolution to change values. When someone holds a value, that is their value and we're not out to change that.

One of the goals of conflict resolution however, is to create better relationships. So when people do hold opposite values, opposing values, if they can come to some understanding of one another, it will create better behavior between them. That is a goal of conflict resolution.

So let's look at a couple of examples here. You may have a couple who have some issues around finances, financial issues that are really causing a conflict. And one of the positions here that one party takes is we have to start using coupons and shop for groceries.

We're spending way too much money on groceries. We have to use coupons and we have to go to some of the stores here and look for the best bargains. That's what we have to do, look for bargains.

However, the other party here, the other person, says, no. Absolutely not. When it comes to shopping for groceries, I want to buy local, I want to buy organic. And that's a value that I hold, and I won't shop elsewhere, even for cheaper prices, unless it's local and organic.

OK. There you have a value. So you respect that value and explore what are the options out here that can allow us to save money-- which is an interest you both share-- perhaps in other areas to save money, but even around food? Are there ways that we can buy local, buy organic, but yet save money? Because the local organic, if it's a deeply held belief, is not going to be mediated here. It's not going to be bargained.

You may find that you're in a conflict over-- it can involve children, child care. Your children spending time with relatives. You have a family here where some of the family members are very religious, others are not.

So one party, who really believes strongly in particular religious values, going to church every Sunday, particular activities that the kids will not engage in, is in conflict with other relatives about letting the children spend time at their home because they don't hold those same values. So there is a conflict here in terms of the children spending time together.

Is there a way to work this conflict out? Well, there may be options on the table. Perhaps the kids don't spend Sundays with their relatives, with their cousins, because Sundays are days that they're going to be in church, they're going to be involved in religious activities.

Or, perhaps, the other family member, even though they don't take the same view, they don't hold the same value, will agree to take the children to church or to a Sunday school on that day if they happen to be there for a party or celebration or something important.

So how can we work out the relationship here between the children, the cousins, and respect the values of this particular family member who has the religious beliefs that are not going to be mediated here, are not on the table for bargaining? So that is the challenge in conflict resolution when you uncover an interest that is a value to put that aside and look for other ways that you might come to some mutual agreements, because there, perhaps, are non-value interests that are still out there, that are shared, that you can work with to come up with options.

So thank you for being part of this tutorial today. 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.


A particular way of getting an interest met, but not necessarily the only way of getting that interest met.


A deeply held belief about what is right, proper, or moral or ethical.