More than ten years ago, my late wife (psychotherapist Beth Andrews) introduced me to a therapy model called Internal Family Systems (“IFS”). She said it was the most intuitive and non-pathologizing model of psychotherapy that she had encountered, and that her patients quickly grasped it and found it useful. A year later, I was invited to be one of the speakers at a symposium on “The Negotiation Within” sponsored by the Harvard Negotiation Law Review, and I suddenly realized that the IFS model could be adapted for use by negotiators.
The IFS model is not about families – rather, it is about the family-like relationships that our internal parts (ie: internal “voices”) have. For example, most of us have an optimistic part, whose activity within our internal system is tempered by a pessimistic part. We have generous parts, and also parts that are looking out for “number one.” If we feel that our competence has been questioned, we have angry, defensive parts that will rise up to dispute the accusation, so as to protect wounded parts that may fear that we are not as capable as we expect ourselves to be.
The churn of these emotions influences our thinking and behavior at the bargaining table and throughout our lives. Experienced negotiators know that not only much of the negotiation process is driven by emotion, but also that the most difficult negotiations are often those that take place internally. The purpose of this session is to explain the model, describe some applications of the model to actual negotiations, and then discuss how it compares to other models that negotiators find useful in explaining the psychological dimensions of negotiation.