Joy Journal

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Positions vs. Interests

Mine for the Why

Positions versus interests is a classic negotiation concept that is so helpful for day-to-day conflict and clarity. My head almost blew off when I learned this concept, and it is one of my most-used communication techniques.
 
Imagine this scenario:
 
Jack and Jill have been married for several years. Jack and Jill work in demanding jobs and have little “couple” time during the week. Jill regularly asks Jack to do fun (from her perspective) activities on the weekends—visit museums, go to a movie, enjoy brunch, but Jack always says “no” because he likes to watch sports on TV.
 
Jill eventually gets frustrated and declares, “If you don’t do something fun with me on the weekend, I want a divorce.” Jack feels blindsided, and says, “A divorce! I’ve done nothing wrong.”
 
Jill has just stated her position—“I want a divorce,” which is the exact opposite of what she really wants—more time with her husband, aka her interest. Jack, in return, states his position—“I’ve done nothing wrong.”
 
Both Jack and Jill need to refocus on the interests—doing something together and doing something fun. Jill would have been better received if she had said something like, “Hey, I really miss our together time. Could we carve out more time during the week or weekends just for us?” She could then go on to have a discussion around what could be “fun” for each of them.
 
Jack, instead of quickly reacting, could have said, “I’m surprised. Can you help me understand? Where is this coming from?” This would have helped Jill to clarify the why of her position and realize that her interests are really about “something…with me” and “fun.”
 
I know, if only it were that easy to break it down like this in the heat of the moment. The key is to always ensure that you have a clear understanding of what is behind, or the why of, what a loved one is saying. If unclear, ask (and keep asking until clear).

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