Seven Strategies for Treating Perception-or Framing-- Problems
by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton
Summary Written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. "Seven Strategies for Treating Perception-or Framing-- Problems" in Getting to Yes
The first rule of principled negotiation is separating relationship issues (or "people problems") from substantive issues, and dealing with them independently. One kind of "people problem" they discuss is what we call framing problems-the problem that people see or define a situation differently, depending on who they are and what their situation is. In the 1991 edition of Getting to Yes (which added Bruce Patton as a third author), they list seven ways for handling what they call "problems of perception" and what we call "framing problems." These are as follows:
- First, try to see the situation from your opponent's perspective. You do not have to agree with their perceptions of the situation. But it is important to understand what they think and feel, and why they think and feel as they do.
- Second, don't deduce your opponent's intentions from your own fears. It is common to assume that your opponent plans to do just what you fear they will do. This sort of suspicious attitude makes it difficult to accurately perceive your opponent's real intentions; whatever they do, you will assume the worst.
- Third, avoid blaming your opponent for the problem. Blame, even if it is deserved, will only make your opponent defensive. Even worse, your opponent may attack you in response. Blame is generally counterproductive.
- Fourth, discuss each other's perceptions. Explicit discussion of each side's perceptions will help both sides to better understand each other (see the first point). And discussion will help each side to avoid projecting their fears onto one another (see the third point). Also, such discussion may reveal shared perceptions. Acknowledging shared perceptions can strengthen the parties' relationship, and facilitate productive negotiations.
- Fifth, seek opportunities to act inconsistently with your opponent's misperceptions. That is, try to disappoint your opponent's worst beliefs and expectations about you. Just as it is important for you to have an accurate perception of your opponent, it is also important for them to have an accurate perception of you. Disappointing your opponent's negative or inaccurate beliefs will help to change those beliefs.
- Sixth, give your opponent a stake in the outcome by making sure they participate in the negotiation process. If your opponent does not feel involved in the negotiation process, then they are unlikely to feel involved in its outcome. Conversely, if they feel that the process is in part their process, then they are more likely to accept its conclusion as their conclusion.
- Seventh, make your proposals consistent with the principles and self-image of your opponent. All the parties to a negotiation need to be able to reconcile the agreement with their principles and self-image. That is, they need to feel the final agreement does not compromise their integrity. Proposals which are consistent with your opponent's principles and which do not undermine their self-image are more likely to be accepted.