Once parties to a conflict have communicated and understood each other’s interests and needs, they can work together to brainstorm solutions that will meet them. Win-win solutions – which meet both parties’ needs for information, for recognition, for reparation, or for the prevention of certain behavior – can often be found for little cost. Other interests may be more difficult to meet.
The process of shaping solutions typically begins with identifying what has worked for people facing similar problems in the past. Solutions that satisfy both parties can be generated through negotiation, mediation or as part of a problem-solving process at a court.
Shaping solutions is essential to arriving at an agreement that adequately meets the needs of the parties involved. An inclusive and collaborative brainstorming process makes the most of the parties’ intimate knowledge of the problem to generate solutions. Involving the parties in the problem-solving process makes it more likely that the outcome of the negotiation, mediation, or decision will be accepted and sustained over time.
Competitive communication techniques, such as stating an extreme position, exerting pressure or influence, or blaming the other party get in the way of shaping solutions. Because they emphasize the parties’ respective positions rather than their underlying needs and interests, these tactics tend to result in a stalemate.