As in marriage, arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong won’t provide the answers you need to move forward. You are in quicksand. What matters is where you go from here and how.
How do you want to look back on this in three months’ time?
What do you want?
What would you give up if you had to?
Put yourself in their shoes and ask the same questions.
What do you think is motivating them?
How you are going to persuade them?
What can you say to make them more receptive?
How will you say it?
Prepare what you want to say at the meeting. It will help you keep your eyes on the prize and give you a sense of being in control.
2 Think about hiring a facilitator
If you are concerned that things could get heated or go off-kilter, much better to have someone with no skin in the game to manage the process and keep everyone focused on what they want to achieve – and away from what is separating them.
A facilitator or neutral chair can clear the air, unlock impasses and help you have awkward conversations safely and constructively.
It doesn’t matter how good a negotiator you are, you can’t referee it too if someone else won’t let you. Or remove the sting if they perceive you as part of the problem.
3 Fight the problem. Not the person
State your case clearly and factually. Reiterate what you have in common. Identify joint obstacles that need to be overcome. Generate and explore options. Make sure everyone understands what they have to lose – and I don’t just mean financially.
If you can’t agree a point, push to see how just close you can get. Even if you don’t settle everything you will have a much better sense of what it will take to do so and what the real hurdles are, both from what people say and – only 5 per cent of communication comes from the spoken word – from their tone and body language.
4 Bite your tongue. Remember how powerful not reacting can be. Avoid being confrontational. It makes people more defensive, not more collaborative. Instead, explain how their actions and behaviour make you feel. No one can disagree with how you feel. Not really.
Be calm and open. Don’t be defensive. You don’t have to agree with what someone says but empathising can make a real difference. As can asking someone for suggestions and showing that you are considering them constructively. Don’t underestimate the power of apology. Done properly, saying sorry can have a disproportionate effect. Just don’t admit liability.
5 Sign it. Assuming you settle, get a binding agreement drawn up and signed before you leave.