In today’s blog we will be talking about interests and positions in relation to a negotiation between separating or divorcing couples.
Difference between an interest and a position
Very basically, you can think of a position as a legal outcome or a demand, whereas an interest can be thought of as the underlying reason why someone wants that particular outcome. Think of the position as the tip of the iceberg – and the interests as all the rest of the iceberg below the surface of the water.
Some examples of a position versus an interest
The most classic example is that of the orange: there’s one orange left in the box, and 2 kids want an orange – this is their position, they want the orange. For each kid to get what they want according to their stated position, each would only get maximum of one-half of an orange. But if they needed the whole orange, then they would feel they didn’t get all of what they wanted or needed.
If we can dig deeper to their underlying interests to find out why each of the kids want the orange, we would find out that one kid wants the orange rind to bake a cake, and the other kid wants the juice of the orange to make orange juice. Interest-based solution – we can give one kid the juice of the full orange, and the other kid the rind of the full orange. By digging just that little extra into the “why” we can actually achieve a “win” for each of the kids.
In the context of a separation or divorce, a position could be someone saying:
- I want to keep the family home OR
- I want 50/50 care of the children
An interest would be the why – what would achieving that particular position get you that’s important to you. For example – with the home, it could be:
- I want to stay living in the same neighbourhood so that the kids can walk to school when I have them OR
- I want to minimize change as much as possible for the children during this transition into living in two homes OR
- I want to avoid selling the home in this market to avoid losing money.
With the position of wanting 50/50 with the kids, it could be
- I want to maintain a quality relationship with the children OR
- I want to do regular day-to-day things with the kids like homework, extra-curricular activities, OR
- It could even be a fear of something – like being replaced by a step-parent or being forgotten about
With these examples, you may see how by understanding the interests, we can look for solutions, which may or may not be that initial demand.
How is this concept used in negotiations between separated spouses
This type of negotiation technique where we dig for the “why” is called interest-based negotiations, and it’s distinct from focusing on the “what” in positional bargaining.
Interest-based negotiations is the very foundation of negotiation processes such as Collaborative Divorce and Mediation. Dig for interests, find out the why, and craft resolution which matches what both parties are looking for underneath. This creates that win-win resolution that so many separating couples would be grateful to achieve.
Positional bargaining is the basis of the court-based litigation model. This is what I want, and here’s the reasons why I think I’m right, and here’s why the other party is wrong, and the judge then decides who wins and who loses. It’s not about finding resolution that works for both parties. There may certainly be a compromise between two positions, but in positional bargaining there’s a winner and a loser.
The difference between the negotiation styles is quite stark – it’s so important for separating spouses to understand the difference in the negotiation style to ensure that they pick the right style and tactic for them. Win-win or win-lose. To get to the win-win, we have to dig deeper to the other 90% of the iceberg under the water’s surface.
This digging is the work I do every day, and it’s why families I work with are able to come out of Collaborative Divorce and Mediation processes feeling the win-win.
Henka Divorce Law & Mediation is a Collaborative Law and Family Mediation firm that helps families thrive as they transition to separation, divorce, or cohabitation. Understanding that every journey is different, we guide families through the right legal or mediation process that fits their unique situation.
Our client service is built on three pillars – focusing on the future, nurturing and supporting children, and working together towards well-being. This includes considering everyone’s needs throughout the process. We work closely with families to provide a meaningful and fair resolution, while keeping costs down by staying out of court.
We serve families in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada through their separation or divorce by providing in-person and virtual Collaborative Law or Mediation services.
With extensive knowledge in matrimonial law, our founder Stephanie Dobson uses a caring, results-focused approach to help parents navigate a family separation or divorce while they connect with and support their children. Learn more about her approach and credentials.
As an educator, Stephanie Dobson is Founder, CEO, and Content Creator of Up A Notch Learning Inc., an e-learning platform to empower separating and divorcing families globally with a collection of positive and constructive resources. Visit our website to learn more.