Look Behind Statements for Underlying Interests.
by Roger Fisher, Elizabeth Kopelman, and Andrea Kupfer Schneider
Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: "Look Behind Statements for Underlying Interests." Beyond Machiavelli: Tools for Coping with Conflict. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press, 1994. Pp. 39-40.
Looking beyond positions to the interests underlying them is a technique of finding common ground between the opponents, since there are usually some shared interests present. Some of those interests can even be satisfied without causing any damage to the party's position. To help in understanding shared interests, it might be useful to write down in columns the positions, and long-term as well as short term interests of the parties.
An example is given by a table (p. 40) of positions and interests of Sikhs and Hindus, whose conflict has been escalating for quite a long time. The table shows that the positions of the opponents are in opposition: Sikhs want independence and more access to water resources while Hindus believe that India should be unified and water resources should be distributed equally. Despite a lot of differences in their interests, the following similarities can be found: both wish economic prosperity for Punjab, and reduction of Sikh terrorist activities and ethnic fighting. The most obvious similarity is in their "domestic political interests." Both communities want the Sikhs to "regain confidence in the Indian government" (p. 40).
Awareness of the interests of the other party helps to understand its concerns and challenges our views toward inclusivity and recognition, thus de-escalating the disagreement.