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Improving Business Relationships for Success

In a prior blog, we discussed the importance of balance between power and respect in business relationships. How can these principles be used when conflict has thrown the relationship out of balance? This blog discusses tools for a facilitator or training for an in-house intermediary. First one must recognize the nature of the conflict and assess whether a relationship, which is not in balance, is contributing to the conflict. Ultimately, the goal of conflict resolution is to help those with disagreements come to an agreement. But to do this you may need to help the participants understand how the concepts of power and respect are affecting their relationship.

It is important to distinguish the difference between conflict resolution and therapy. While participants in conflict resolution may experience personal insight and the process hopefully improves a relationship the focus is on removing impediments to an agreement. A facilitator is not necessarily trained or experienced in personal development or therapeutic strategies. Once a facilitator or mediator identifies the relationship issues, the emphasis shifts to balancing the relationship to help them reach an agreement.

As we discussed in the prior blog having access to information and a range of options to make decisions helps participants become empowered and participate more effectively in the process. A trained facilitator will encourage the exchange of relevant and credible information, explore the parties’ interests and help develop realistic options. This exchange of information and ideas contributes to balancing the relationship. A facilitator also creates a positive and supportive environment to build confidence and self-respect. Clarifying communication helps the participants understand each other’s viewpoints, depersonalizes the conflict and reinforces respect for differences.

Balancing the relationship can mean helping the “powerless” party objectively view his or her influence on the situation, or to question the “powerful” party’s assumptions regarding power and respect. Two helpful negotiation strategies are the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) and the Worst Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (WATNA). As an example, an individual who is in a “powerless” position may benefit from exploring and developing a BATNA. A BATNA can help an individual understand and communicate realistic options if they are faced with unfair or unacceptable terms. This can help develop that person’s negotiating confidence and bearing.

On the other hand, a person in a position of “power” who refuses to consider reasonable terms may need to explore the potential adverse consequences if a fair and acceptable agreement is not reached. This person may need to explore the WATNA to realistically look at the costs of not reaching an agreement, the emotional impacts to relationships within the business or organization, the lost income inherent in prolonged conflict and the possibility of not being satisfied at the end of a dispute.

Individuals in an imbalanced relationship who are experiencing conflict often misunderstand the intentions and motives of the other party. Another valuable tool is “positive intentions”. Developing a positive intention requires the exploration and examination of the underlying needs and motivations of the participants until a useful and genuine intention is revealed. If positive intentions can be identified and shared, they can help create empathy and improve the relationship. Positive intentions increase openness to an option proposed by the other party that may potentially resolve the conflict.

At CRLS our goal is to help people recognize when relationship issues are present in business and organizational disputes. If relationship conflict is hindering agreement, we suggest approaches to encourage equilibrium in the relationship. The purpose is to provide a model to assist in dealing with conflict that may be aggravated by relationship problems. By recognizing the signs of an imbalanced relationship and employing interventions to help bring the relationship into balance the environment for agreement is enhanced.

If you'd like more information, please check out our website at or contact us.

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