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Enriching the Conflict Narrative

Enriching the Conflict Narrative

Is this technique similar to the idea of ‘enriching the narrative’ in narrative mediation?



Full Transcript

Yes, you create a narrative that is inclusive of many of the most important things that each party feels strongly about, I think. We talk about third story so that you can have a narrative that is more complete, so I totally agree with this guy about the narrative being a huge piece of what you were negotiating with, with each party.


So, you’re looking for a narrative that includes what they feel is most important about who they are, and what this situation represents in their life, and which includes a possible outcome that doesn’t mean they have to give up key pieces of their story in order to say yes to it. They have to live with it and to repeat it to people who say, ‘What happened?’


Often, the headline on that narrative is very simple. It’s things like, ‘So, it sounds like you guys had very different assumptions coming in and that that’s gotten you guys in quite a bit of trouble, not surprisingly.’ And they will each say, ‘Yeah.’ Or, ‘It sounds like you guys had very different preferences about how to handle noise in the condo.’




So, it often includes the word ‘difference’ and it includes the word ‘and,’ different, whatever, assumptions, preferences, expectations, blah, blah, blah. And that that third story is one that they can both sign onto. That they feel like, ‘I don’t have to give up my view in order to participate in that.’ So, now they’ve stepped into a shared narrative that helps us to work together. So, given that narrative, what do we want to do about it?


Or the narrative can be around feelings. So, if you’re in a family business, you’ve got parties with a family business. After listening and giving them a chance to say their story, you’re saying, ‘So Bill, it sounds like part of what this means to you is that you feel like you’ve gone totally out of your way. You have solved 105 problems for Susan over here and that over time, you felt really chronically underappreciated for that, and that the demands for what else you’re going to solve have only increased.


‘And Susan, it sounds like you actually often haven’t wanted the help with your problems and feel like Bill is butting in and disrupting what you’re trying to run, that he has been under-appreciative of your ability to do it yourself,’ whatever. So, I’m summarising as an ‘and’. It could be around feelings, and it often includes a piece of feelings as well as just whatever the narrative that’s at issue is. Whether it’s liability or responsibility or whatever it would be.

About the mediator

Sheila Heen Mediator Harvard

Sheila is an experienced negotiator and mediator and a Founder of Triad Consulting Group. Sheila is also a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School and has spent the last twenty years with the Harvard Negotiation Project, developing negotiation theory and practice. She specializes in particularly difficult negotiations – where emotions run high and relationships become strained. Sheila is co-author of the New York Times Business Bestsellers Dif... View Mediator