A or B – which option

We often argue about different options (or solutions) and try to pick the best option among the ones on the table. Sometimes you are one of the parties making the argument, and sometimes you are the one who ultimately needs to pick the suitable options—in either case, discussing options and which one to choose is frustrating and time-consuming.

Harvard Law Professor Roger D. Fisher explains in his book Getting to Yes that the main problem with arguing on options is that explaining an option A has close to zero effect on the position of the other party who is backing up option B. Instead of discussing options, parties should discuss criteria and try to reconcile interests. Interests are what each party is trying to solve and thus define the overall problem. Focusing on interests makes parties work together towards finding a solution that solves for collective gain.

In other words, you should spend most of the time discussing the problem and its framing and not its solutions. Once everyone is aligned on the problem statement and its criteria, agreeing on solutions is a simple tradeoff.