Creating Agreement During Difficult Disputes


It’s easy to lose perspective during disputes. It’s even easier to react and lose sight of the ultimate goal: coming to an agreement.

The ArbiClaims team knows how difficult it is to manage emotions and behavior when coping with conflicts. In tense situations, parties often become emotionally-driven and reactionary. When placed in offensive or defensive positions, people tend to hold their ground – even to their detriment. We’ve counseled clients, given talks, and developed strategies on resolving disputes. Oftentimes, our greatest piece of advice is to step away and remember what is important.

William Ury’s fantastic TED Talk “The Walk From ‘No’ To ‘Yes’” explores this concept and succinctly captures the practice of temporarily removing oneself to gain perspective. In his talk, Ury discusses “the third side,” an alternative view to reframe disputes. The idea is to consider other aspects of a conflict – focusing on agreements and moving on rather than targeting one’s adversary and lashing out.

To give you an example of how this concept works, let’s consider a common dispute between a business owner and a customer. When a business owner seeks payment for services rendered, and a customer continually ignores invoices, tension and tempers increase. In this situation, it’s easy for the business owner to default to criticism and anger. Considering “the third side” allows the business owner to see that speaking sharply and raging against the customer accomplishes little. Reframing helps illuminate what’s at stake: his business, health, and relationships. Reacting to the customer’s rudeness and inconsideration rather than working towards a solution increases the business owner’s stress and decreases the time spent cultivating his relationships and growing his business.

Alternative dispute resolutions are designed to constructively work towards agreements. Ury’s TED Talk naturally fits within this goal and gives a name to the practice of reframing. When dealing with disputes, remember that there is value in taking a moment to gain perspective and determine what is important.