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Interests and Positions

2003 August 27
by Malcolm Sleath

You can only deliver meaningful value to a client if you have a handle on their interests. This assumes that the client also has a handle on their interests. Problems start when clients either don’t know their interests, or won’t disclose them, and take up inflexible positions.

Interests? Positions?

  1. “I want my daughter to remember my birthday and visit me every week.”, is a position.
  2. “I want a warm, loving, mutually appreciative relationship with my daughter.”, is an interest.

Many people achieve (1) without getting close to (2). If the position does not make sense, explore the interest that underlies it.

I first came across this concept in the negotiation classic “Getting to Yes”, but it’s value goes way beyond the situations that most of us associate with negotiation.