PAUSE to negotiate

In 2018 President of the United States, Donald Trump announced that a tariff would be levied on all steel and aluminium imports into the United States. Immediately after the announcement, Australian government officials commenced lobbying the Trump administration for Australia to be exempted from these tariffs. As a result of meetings, the Australian government elatedly announced on 6 March 2018 that the US had granted Australia the exemption it sought.

How did this exemption come about? Negotiation

You give yourself the best chance of being part of a successful negotiation when you take the time and effort to:

  • focus and affirm the relationship between the parties
  • understand what both parties hold important (ie the interests underlying the stated positions on the issue) and
  • use the understanding of these interests to drive the search for a mutually acceptable outcome.

Negotiating reasonable solutions to material issues, is something that will helps us build and maintain good and healthy relationships as we navigate through life. There are many negotiation models used by parties to come to a mutually acceptable resolution of material issues (ie issues that require an specific decision or outcome, eg what car should we buy?).

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit

The Bible lays out the best principles to follow in negotiating a reasonable solution to a material issue. One of the clearest places where this is seen is in Philippians.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  (Philippians 2:3-4)

The PAUSE principle is one easy way to remember and practice the biblical framework for negotiating problems:

Prepare and pray

Affirm the relationship

Understand interests

Search for creative solutions

Evaluate options objectively and reasonably

No matter how good secular models may be, not all negotiations are actually successful – particularly if one party chooses to be stubborn.

…  have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Secular strategies cannot respond to this impasse but the Bible counsels us to consider two additional matters to looking to others’ interests.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:5                       

For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. (Phil 2:21)

So as Christians when we find ourselves having to negotiate on a material issue, we are encouraged not only to look to the interests of others, but to also look to Jesus Christ’s interests and seek to have his mindset. Considering Jesus Christ’s interests and seeing things from his perspective is in fact the best thing we can ever do in a negotiation because ultimately everything (including whatever we are negotiating about) has been created through him and for him.

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17)

But what happens if we do PAUSE before we negotiate, consider Jesus Christ’s interests and try and see things from his perspective – and we are still unable to come to a negotiate to a conclusion that we are happy with?

I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord

We can choose to leave it with God, knowing he is sovereign and we have done our best to be obedient to God’s Word and remind ourselves that finally, finally – knowing and being loved by Jesus Christ is far better than any successful negotiation we could have achieved.

 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ (Phil 3:7-9)

(For further information on the PAUSE principle see Chapter 11, The Peacemaker by Ken Sande, Baker Books, 3rd Edition)

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