- 3.4

Triggering reasonable offers

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To encourage parties to propose reasonable solutions. So that offers are more likely to be accepted. 

Solutions summary

In practice, facilitators indicate that when parties look for an outcome, they make, reject or accept proposals for outcomes. Sometimes these offers and proposals can be very extreme and unreasonable. It is easier to find an outcome that is a solution to the problem when reasonable offers are made. It will be easier to accept these. And increase the fairness of the outcomes.   To promote reasonable offers, the facilitator can: Link offers to needs
  • Make sure that there is a shared understanding of the needs of each party  (see Tool 2.4).
  • Ask for a justification for why an offer is reasonable or provide one (for instance, ask why a woman wants to have a specific amount of money as child support. What is this amount needed for?)
  • List all solutions first, jointly select the best one after. The facilitator can give guidance. He can tell that offer A is in line with what usually is agreed upon (Tool 3.1)
  • Trigger parties to see things from each other's perspective. Ask what they would see as a fair (... compensation, time to do something, etc.)  to fulfill the need for ... (feeding the children, land to earn a living ...).
  • Reframe the positions of parties into underlying needs and concerns by asking questions that might help to trigger reasonable offers
  • Share good examples of people who found solutions for similar problems (Tool 3.2)
Link offers to norms
  • Frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria to decide what is fair
  • Introduce criteria from laws, social norms and other cases (Tool 3.2)
  • Make the problem more general and impersonal to discuss a fair distribution in general terms. When parties share ideas about what is fair in general, rephrase the principle so that it applies to the case of the parties.
  • Use moral authority to help parties agree to general principles, which leads to them making more reasonable offers
  • Use stories or folk tales with morals regarding sharing (Tool 2.8)
Other practices
  • Propose that each party needs to sacrifice some things to come to a solution
  • Emphasise the social consequences of certain outcomes if the parties cannot agree to settle.
  • Agree with parties on a penalty if they refuse an offer that is equal or better than the solution that they finally arrive at
The following question lists may be helpful in developing solutions: Encouraging Different Views on Solutions Generating Options for Different Solutions Supporting Reflection on Financial Claims

Local solution: Conference Comments

Precondition: shared understanding at needs no unacceptable conduct (violence) →  check by asking what they understand about other party needs.  
More partners in relationship.

Link offer to needs other party.
Use story about share (folk tale)
Tool to stop unacceptable conduct (violence) needed you are important so you can do more → appeal to emotion /duty to take care of children.
Confront with how victim feels.
Give tools to parties to break patterns at home (if you feel angry...)
Make known what money will be used for?
Domestic violence.
Land cases? → problem: you leave mediator role.

List all solutions.
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Local solution: The ‘Peel’ Questions

The Institute for mediation and family law training in the Netherlands (IMFO) have devised the Onion Peel Questions. These help to  show how an individual's views and opinions are made up of different 'layers', which can be gradually peeled back to reveal their real core interests, and stimulate to see what they really need to ask for.

Local solution: How to stimulate parties to make reasonable offers


Play the role:
Let each of the other party's position articulate / represent.

Make the problem more abstract / general and then private again

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Added by: DAS

Local solution: fair negotiation

In order to reach an agreement in conflict resolution through mediation methods; it is important that parties have to sacrifice some things for each other; this means that parties need to sacrifice things for agreement. The following points can help mediators to make parties to sacrifice for the solution:

  • Telling parties about good experiences in finding solution successfully
  • Telling any tales that relate to sharing of interest such as story of two seals catching fish together.
  • You could also remind them the consequences if the case has to be resolved in court systems.
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Added by: ADHOC

Evidence from practice

Introduction of objective criteria: In Cambodia a mediator reported that he would tell the parties about successful experiences in previous cases which can help to frame the agreement that the parties come to. 

Point out the weakness in positions of parties: In Indonesia, a mediator reported to look for the weak-points in the case of the party who is not making reasonable offers (for example lack of a formal work contract in employment disputes or ambiguity of possible outcomes in court). They then highlight how they cannot be sure of a good outcome in court, and so making an offer that is accepted by the other party is a better way of addressing the problem. 

Establish Principles: In Indonesia, a mediator reported that although he does not talk about the sums involved, they establish the principle behind the fair distribution in general terms. This might be that it is right that party X should pay 'something' to help party Y. These general practices are sometimes reached through imagining situations where the roles are reversed. He noted that mediators also use their moral authority (as respected members of the village/community) to help parties agree to these general principles, which leads to them making more reasonable offers.  Agree on fees if parties ignore a good resolution proposal: Among the Tumpuon people in Cambodia it is a practice that when the disputing parties reject a proposal of compensation of the Kanong (first facilitator), but later agree with a compensation proposal of an equal or lesser amount of the the Krak Phoang or Krak Shrok (second facilitator), the Kanong can penalise the disputing parties requiring them to pay addition fees (chicken and wine). As an example, party A files a complaint against party B for defamation. The Kanong mediates for a compensation of a pig the size of three chap and a jar of wine. Party A turns down the off er and demands a pig the size of five chap, while party B bargains for only a chicken and a jar of wine. The two parties go to the Krak Phoang or Krak Shrok. In the end, the Krak Phoang or Krak Shrok manages to persuade the two parties to agree on a solution of a pig the size of three chap and a jar of wine. This means that the Krak Phoang’s or Krak Shrok’s proposed resolution is the same amount as the Kanong’s. In such cases, the two parties must each pay phak to the Kanong consisting of a chicken and a jar of wine.    

Evidence from literature

Asking the question: what is your theory? how did you arrive at this figure? Is a good way to demand for arguments for a position that is taken by parties on what is a fair share.

Getting to Yes, William Ury, 1981, p.88

Smart Questions to support reflection on positions

  • Have you considered..?
  • What if..?
  • How do you think the other side will react to this suggestion?
  • How do you think a court would rule on that point?
  • What are the risks if you would proceed/ to trial?
  • What they accept x would you accept y?
Bouille L and Nesic, M., Mediation p.171

Promote empathy:Ask them to both imagine themselves in the both parties position, and to think about how both parties would feel about the decision.

Batson, C. D., D. A. Lishner, et al. (2003). "“... As you Would have Them Do Unto You”: Does Imagining Yourself in the Other's Place Stimulate Moral Action?" Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 29(9): 1190-1201.

Parties with no alternatives, or equal opportunity for alternatives engage in more constructive negotiations

Giebels, E., C. K. W. De Dreu, et al. (2000). "Interdependence in negotiation: effects of exit options and social motive on distributive and integrative negotiation." European Journal of Social Psychology 30(2): 255-272.
  • Parties’ motivations can be altered through changes in: likelihood of future interactions; Like/dislike of the other party; Time pressures and Likelihood of impasse.
De Dreu, C. K. W. and P. J. Carnevale (2003). Motivational Bases Of Information Processing and Strategy in Conflict and Negotiation. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. P. Z. Mark, Academic Press. Volume 35: 235-291.

Triggering reasonable offers

by admin on March 24, 2011

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