Finding Common Ground

When the buyer’s position is very different from the seller’s, it may seem that the two sides will never agree. But in fact, the problem may not be that the parties have different positions, but that they have different ideas, needs, and desires. It's your job to help them find common ground.

  • See both sides. Look at each position from the other side’s perspective. Try to understand what led the parties to take their positions and why they don't accept your position.
  • Go back to basics. Remember that the most basic needs in life are the most important. How do needs for security, economic well-being, a sense of belonging, recognition, and control over one’s life influence a person's positions?
  • Talk about interests, not positions. Focus on underlying interests that both parties share—such as getting into a new home before the school year starts. Often focusing on underlying goals emphasizes how compatible the two positions are.
  • Understand the goals. Ask the parties what outcome they would like to achieve. Sometimes people become so attached to their positions that they lose sight of their main objective. When the parties see how they can help each other meet their objectives, the negotiations will get back on track.

Source: Adapted from “The Art of Principled Negotiation: A Professional Approach to Mediation,” by David E. Beson, Real Estate Business, Fall 1987.

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