The principles of Negotiation can work for you in any situation, but often people ask me, "Well, its often a fact that conflict happens unexpectedly. What if I don't have time to prepare? Can negotiation skills be used on the spur of the moment?" The answer is YES. The principles of Street Negotiation were created and battle-tested on the streets and it's power lies in its ability to be used to resolve any conflict anytime. Conflict can be resolved in six easy to learn steps, acronymed as BEDROL(TM). That is: Back-up plan, Emotional control, Defusing their anger, Reframing, Options, and Letting them choose their fate.
Step 1--Back Up Plan.
Having a back-up plan before you step into a conflict is absolutely crucial. Police officers sometimes are so accustom to having people do as they say, they become complacent and fail to have a plan B ready in case the person doesn't want to comply. An unfortuanate number of police officers have been killed in the line of duty because they didn't know what to do once the subject refused to comply with their demands. Their lack of a back-up plan made them freeze up, giving the suspect enough time to overpower them. By having a plan B in your pocket prior to dealing with any conflict, you can remain confident that you can still move forward even if your negotiation fails. Remember that your plan B is your best solution that you can come up with on your own without having to talk with your counterpart. For the hostage negotiator, this could mean using the tactical team to take control by force. For two angry neighbors, this could mean going to court. Your plan B gives you the confidence to deal with your counterpart and the ability to move forward, whether you reach an agreement with them or not.
Step 2--Emotional Control
Your anger is the biggest challege towards resolving the conflict peacefully. You need to control your anger by separating the person from the problem. Have pity on the person for attacking you because their real anger lies in the problem, not with you. View the situation rationally without allowing anger into the equation. You always have to remember that if you react with anger-then you've lost the battle.
Step 3--Defusing their anger
The other obstacle to overcome is your counterpart's anger and frustration. These emotions are blinding them from seeing things rationally. Their primary focus is that they were wronged and now they want retribution-often from you. Think of their emotions like a pressure cooker on a stovetop. There are two ways of releasing the pressure: (1) you can pop the lid and the have the contents explode out of the pot from the sudden change in pressure, or (2) you can engage the pressure-release valve and slowly let that steam pressure out of the cooker which will enable you to open the lid without injury. The same is true for an angry person. You want to hit their pressure release switch by using active listening skills. Listen and acknowledge this concerns. Engage them in empathetic responses by trying to walk around in their shoes. Paraphrase back to them what they told you in your own words. You will see a dramatic difference in their level of hostility as they get to vent their anger.
Now comes the time when you must reframe their position into interests. Do this by first reframing them from an enemy into a partner. Then reframe all their personal attacks on you back on the problem. Then finally, uncover their interests behind their demands with nonconfrontational questions.
Discuss options with them and get them involved in the process of thinking about possibilities for a solution. You might have to present some various options that they have available to them. Strive for a cooperative effort to find mutually-satisfying options that will benefit both parties.
Step 6--Letting them choose their fate
Empower your counterpart with the choice to make their own fate. Don't back them into a corner by telling them what to do. Human beings need control over their own life, otherwise they feel threatened. Let them pick the option that you both have discussed. If they still fail to comply at this point then ask them what the possible consequences are if no agreement can be made. As a last resort, use your back-up plan as an alternative to the negotiation.
Tristan Loo is an experienced negotiator and an expert in conflict resolution. He uses his law enforcement experience to train others in the prinicples of defusing conflict and reaching agreements. Visit his website at http://www.streetnegotiation.com