You need to know what the possible outcomes might be if you are not successful in a negotiation. If you go to court, there will be additional costs and time. Figure out the financial costs (including time off from work) as well as the emotional costs. What if it takes 6 months? Does that encourage you to resolve it now?
If you need to take a break to regain your emotional balance – take a break. Go to the bathroom or have a glass of water or remember you need to make a quick private call and apologize. Take the break before the situation heats up.
Write up a list of what you want and a separate list of what you would be willing to settle for.
Consider other options as you review the lists. Then put the lists to the side and listen to the other person.
“Stand in the other person’s shoes”
This means really listening to the situation from the perspective of the other person. Most situations end in a compromise because there are good points on the both sides.
Don’t over-react to negative statements in the beginning
Sometimes it takes awhile to find common ground. People are often nervous and start the conversation with high emotions. Do not respond to the emotion. Just focus on your goal. You want to resolve the problem.
Use questions to explore the other side’s position in a neutral way
Questions about the issues show that you are willing to discuss the issues, not just make a demand. Questions can also help to find the common ground between you. (You are both parents of young children or both from the same school.) Use the personal common ground to find a compromise on the issues.
Keep an open mind and listen carefully to the other side.
Approach this situation as “how do we solve the problem that we have?” Don’t blame the other side. Even if you are not able to resolve the situation now, a better understanding of the other side’s position will help you to prepare for court.
Keep notes on every interaction with the other side.
Include the date you spoke and who said what. While it all seems clear at the time you speak, it is common to forget exactly what was said after a few days pass.
If you reach an agreement, put it in writing.
Work it out while you are in the same room, if you can. This avoids the inevitable re-thinking about the case. It also allows you resolve the small details that did not get discussed before.
Write a letter if a discussion does not solve the matter.
A reasonable letter may encourage the other side. Remember that the letter may be used as evidence if the case goes to court.