In principle, when parties cannot agree on an issue the next peaceful step is for them to decide how they are going to decide the issue. For instance, “We can’t agree on the floor plan for the new building, so we’re going to spend time on this at our next meeting, hear both sides, and vote. Is that okay with everyone?” If everyone can agree on how the thorny issue will be decided, that’s progress toward agreement. When we send something to a committee or say something like, “Let’s ask Louise and let her decide,” we are making a decision about how to decide.
When diplomats or politicians spend time on meeting arrangements, seating plans, and the details of meeting agendas — the conditions under which the parties agree to meet — they are really deciding how they will decide. They are building agreement.
Practical Tip: When it seems like you are stuck and cannot decide something, at least decide how you will decide. Name a next step that moves you in the direction of eventual agreement. Make a plan for a future discussion and vote, send it to a small group or committee with a specific charge, or name a third party decider.
Thanks, Sandy. Can you share an example or scenario of “deciding how to decide”? Do you have a list of “decision-making approaches”?