ARTICLE WRITTEN FOR THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT
There is a fantasy theme common to many television commercials these days. Somebody finds themselves in an unpleasant situation, so they simply fast-forward or re-wind the situation to suit them. …I wish I had that in my life. I can see it now: There I am, listening to another long, convoluted excuse for why the broken cookie jar on the floor has absolutely nothing to do with the cookie in the perpetrator’s hand. And PRESTO! I hit the remote and zip past that life-sucking waste of time. Yes, it’s really a shame that life requires us to experience such squandered moments undiluted; but it does.
Too often the pressures of life demand quick decisions. We find ourselves living on the move, like a halfback fending off tackles while running for the goal line. There is little time for intense, logical thought processes; we must make-do with training, past experience and instinct. But SOMETIMES we are presented with a situation that must be negotiated AND the luxury of time to think it through. In those instances, we ought to make good use of the opportunity provided. I like to use the acronym P.A.U.S.E. to help me.
PREPARE: Think it through and gather information. I see this most often when called to a domestic conflict, both as chaplain and pastor. I can either use my authority to shut down the situation immediately, or I can try to find the underlying cause and address that. A fully buffered MDT argues for option #1, but the probability of frequent recalls suggests option #2. Often times a simple solution presents itself which the parties in conflict were too angry to see.
AFFIRM RELATIONSHIPS: One of the nice things of patrolling the same area is that you get to know the people—the interesting people—well. I’ve watched deputies use their relationships; confrontational as they often are, to deal sensibly in street-side clashes. I try to use this myself. It helps to know a person’s motivations when appealing to their better nature to calm a situation.
UNDERSTAND INTERESTS: There is a biblical principle: Look not only for your own interests, but to that of others. A good negotiator knows it is one thing to force a conclusion, yet another to get the warring parties to agree to a solution. That’s not always possible, but it is always desirable.
SEARCH FOR A CREATIVE SOLUTION: Chaplains have another tool in our belt; we can pray for insight into a better way. That doesn’t mean only chaplains can pray, but it does mean we need to look for options when negotiating. This may sound touchy-feely but I see deputies in the field do this all this time, and it always impresses me. If a problem can be solved it’s much better than a problem shelved.
EVALUATE OPTIONS: Practically speaking, there usually aren’t a whole lot of options. The few that are available must be considered objectively and reasonably. What is reality? What is fantasy? Is it possible this person will accept any kind of solution? Probably not, but possibly so. Again, if a problem can be solved it’s worth a reasonable amount of effort to try.
So when you need to negotiate, P.A.U.S.E.