Expectations, assumptions, disappointments and the actions that come from all of those areas are poisonous at the negotiation table.
The emotional and intellectual states around expectations, assumptions and disappointments, allow individuals to create frames inside of their intellect and emotions about the other party at the table. Then, parties act upon those frames, generating predictable responses from the other party. Then, there’s a “return to normalcy:” dysfunction continues, people get frustrated, innovation stalls, and the stock price of public companies (or the public credibility of private companies) goes through the roof.
To really innovate though, the first thing that has to happen in a conflict is that those frames of reference based in assumptions, expectations and disappointments have to be broken by at least one of the parties in conflict. This takes courage and is part of the core of emotional labor that is starting to define workplaces and organizations of all kinds in the 21st century.
At the individual level is where all of this breaking of frames has to begin, but if the individual is unwilling to do it, then they are accepting the status quo. The hardest thing to realize is that piece right there, but once it is realized, then there is a diminishing of disappointments in either the other party, or the situation. This happens because one party is now seeing the other party as a human being, rather than as a conflict construct.
After the ability to be disappointed recedes, then the next piece to go are the assumptions about the conflict, it’s nature, or even the outcome of the negotiations at the table. This is a critical middle step that many parties in conflict seek to skip over because it’s not “sexy” and it’s hard. But, without abandoning assumptions, the other party is still trapped in a cage (or a frame if you will) not of their own making.
Finally, the last piece of the frame to be broken is the one created by expectations. This one seems line the hardest to break, but in reality, it’s the easiest to break once the other two are abandoned by either party. However, many parties in conflict seek to start the process of change by breaking expectations, rather than by addressing and breaking disappointments; this leads to more, not less, conflict.
Breaking frames created by expectations, assumptions and disappointments can feel like escaping from an emotional Supermax prison facility. But, breaking those frames and destroying those emotional prisons is required for the success of emotional labor at the negotiation table.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org