Whether you’re negotiating a real estate deal or which movie to see, occasionally you’re going to encounter an immovable force. You want to get your way but it’s not looking good.  Do you cave?  Will you seem weak?  Do you push?  Will your actions be perceived as overly aggressive?

While this may seem obvious, the first step in resolving an impasse is to figure out why you’re there.  I’m going to go out on a limb here, and suggest that it’s because you know you’re right.  But guess what?  So does your impasse-partner.  Although the need to be right can be a behavior you learned in childhood, as Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?”

Why is it so important for you to be right?

Sometimes, people think that an impasse can be broken by issuing an ultimatum.  Not helpful and not fair.  Wait, what?  Did I just say “not fair?”  Those of you who know me, have heard me say many times that fair is a perception, and we each have our own concept of what is fair.  I always suggest that communicating your vision of fair is necessary.  And so I’ll reiterate here that it’s not only necessary, it’s vital to communicate why your position in the impasse is the right one.  Maybe your reasons will be a light bulb moment for your impasse-partner.  Aha!  Communicate to achieve understanding.  What a concept!

But what if, even after communicating and understanding, you’re still at an impasse?  What if that immovable force is still a boulder in the middle of the road towards getting your way?

Why is it so important for you to be right?

In my mediation practice, I’ve observed that sometimes the immovable force isn’t actually immovable; it’s simply exhausted — stick a fork in it, done.  As the neutral third party, I can recognize burnout because I’m not enmeshed in it.  If you’re the one who’s locked into a discussion that’s going nowhere, take a break.  If you’ve heard the same statement more than twice, it’s time.

Another idea to resolve an impasse is to ask your impasse-partner for two counter proposals that are acceptable to her.  Give her thinking time, and then wait silently.  If she responds with the reciprocal suggestion; i.e.,  for you to come up with your own counter proposals, do it.  Four proposals are four times better than one ultimatum, don’t you think?   If it’s appropriate, try to craft a proposal that involves baby steps, or a trial period.  I find this method is particularly helpful when dealing with divorcing parents who are working on their parenting plans.

Think about asking yourself and your impasse-partner, “what’s the worst that could happen?”  When you’re considering each other’s position, you might realize that yours isn’t quite as vital as you initially thought.

And you might just discover that letting go of your need to be right can be life-changing.  Or, at the very least, impasse-resolving.  Try it and let me know the results.