Conflict moderation according to the Harvard method

Conflict moderation according to the Harvard method is based on the Harvard Negotiation concept. It was developed by US lawyer and conflict researcher Roger Fisher and anthropologist William Ury. The concept deals with negotiation processes and is based on a large study. This study explored how to create a shared “YES” moment and a win-win situation. William Ury continues to develop the concept to this day. You can also read our blog post on conflict management. There you will also find the recording of a webinar on the topic, which was created in cooperation with the Haus des Stiftens!

1. Separation of the factual and the relational level

This is the most important principle in conflict moderation according to the Harvard method. Relationship issues always come to the surface quite quickly in conflicts. How do we treat each other? What is our relationship to each other?
Therefore, you should think about the following points before the clarifying discussion:

  1. Put together all the topics, questions and information that you have on the factual level.
  2. Think about what problems are to be expected on the relationship level.
  3. Work out solutions on both levels.

2. Needs, interests and desires

The second phase is about identifying your own needs and desires. All parties to the conflict should think about this in advance. In addition, this is also the opening for further discussion.

The following questions will help you:

  • What are the basic needs and what results do I want to achieve with them?
  • What are my goals? What does the other person actually want?

3. Development of options

The third phase of conflict moderation according to the Harvard method is dedicated to the joint development of options that are acceptable to both parties. What common solutions can we find? How can we achieve a win-win situation? What common options can we create?

4. Defining fair criteria

In the final fourth phase, fair criteria are jointly defined. Which criteria must be met in any case? What can’t I do without? What is particularly important to me?

Conflict moderation according to the Harvard method

Important: relationship level before factual level! You first clarify all relationship problems before you go to the factual level! That doesn’t mean you have to be best friends afterwards. It’s about treating each other with respect. We should work together on this conflict in a goal- and solution-oriented manner.

Note: In the preparation it is important to make an offer to talk. In the best-case scenario, this process is then moderated by someone from the organization. During the conversation, the rules of the conversation must be agreed upon. A balanced proportion of speeches must be adhered to, agreements must be recorded and a clarifying discussion some time afterwards is important.

Our tip: Use the raised hand function in large groups so that all members can get involved. Determine how much speaking time each person has. This is important so that everyone has space for their thoughts. Use the opportunity to express agreement with facial expressions and clear gestures while people are speaking. In this way, all participants make it clear that they have given their direct consent.

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