Know What You Value

>     Recently I’ve had the opportunity to enter into negotiations with someone I have known for quite some time. It’s a fascinating educational experience and, it turns out, a significant life lesson. The teaching is around the importance of shared values in reaching a common goal. I think what I’m learning says a lot about not only my particular situation, but conflict in general.
    Given the abundance of conflict in the world I’d like to pass my understanding forward.
    It’s only natural that where there’s conflict, efforts to resolve it will necessarily involve differing or opposing views. This, of course, is the basis for all conflict. Where we get tripped up is in assuming that the opposing view is founded upon the same core values that we hold. Proceeding from this misguided belief, we further assume that sooner or later, with enough effort, we can guide the opposing view to see it more our way. In certain situations, this may even be possible.
    Where the difficulty comes in is where the opposing view can’t possibly see it your way as your way originates upon not only a different view but also a different value.
    You are negotiating terms and come to a mutual understanding of what that term should look like. You move on, believing that issue resolved. When later, the opposing party speaks and acts in a way that is in direct contradiction to the agreed upon term, and you bring it to their attention, their reply is that “they changed their mind” and intend to proceed as they see fit in the moment…regardless of what was previously agreed upon. Now it’s no longer a difference of opinion…now it’s a matter of a different value. One of you values agreements and integrity. The other values self-interest and expediency.
    What to do when values differ and are irreconcilable?
    I’m not totally sure.
    I do know the first step to resolution is to be realistic about where the conflict really exists. It runs much deeper than the circumstances when values differ. Perhaps knowing this, and accepting this, is a major step toward resolution in and of itself.
    I think another important piece is releasing any illusion that the opposition is going to remotely see things your way. By taking that step, it may free you up to settle the superficial conflict and walk away from the underlying one.
    The key is to be clear about which conflict you’re negotiating.
    If you miss the fact that there is a fundamental and critical divergence of values you may waste a lot of time and energy trying to move the mountain…when all that is required in order to move on is the shuffling around of a little loose dirt.
    I hope this helps.
    I’m still unraveling it myself.

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