WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: Building Agreement by Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro

Building agreement: using emotions as you negotiate
By Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro

This book, by two of the very big names in conflict resolution at Harvard, is based on the premise that the best way to manage emotions in conflict is to work on the underlying core concerns that cause those emotions. The authors suggest that there are five main core concerns:

1. The need for appreciation for what you think, feel or do.
2. The need for affiliation or connectedness.
3. The need for autonomy in decision making.
4. The need for status and acknowledgement of that status.
5. The need for a fulfilling role.

They argue that if you can deal effectively with these concerns, you can stimulate positive emotions in yourself and others. They suggest that rather than worrying about labelling emotions, diagnosing their causes and figuring out what to do, you can often overwhelm whatever negative emotions a person might have with positive ones.

The book does, however, include one chapter on dealing with strong negative emotions. The authors acknowledge that strong negative emotions can cause tunnel vision, can make you vulnerable when your emotions take control of your behaviour, and that emotions can be contagious in a conflict situation.

Their recommendations for managing negative emotions in conflict include having a plan in advance for how to manage them if they come up, to try to take steps to soothe your own strong emotions, to soothe others by appreciating their core concerns, to diagnose emotional triggers and to act with a clear purpose in mind.

The book by no means covers everything you need to know about emotions and conflict, but the core concerns model is a very useful tool to develop positive emotions that are likely to promote good conflict management.

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