Listening to Save Places

Last week, I attended the workshop “Negotiating to Yes,” which discussed successful negotiation techniques. As preservationists, we often encounter conflict which requires some level of negotiation.

As part of the workshop, we watched the TEDx video “The Power of Listening” featuring William Ury. I have always considered listening one of my important tools as a preservationist, but this video gave me some additional things to consider.

Here are my thoughts on listening and negotiation as it relates to preservation.

Listen to someone so they’re willing to listen to you.
This is an extremely important lesson, especially when discussing preservation with individuals who don’t understand or value preservation. Giving them the time and consideration to hear their viewpoint can build trust. Carefully listening and understanding what they do value can inform your response. As William Ury states: why do we listen? To connect, understand, and get to yes. If we can connect with people and get them to understand why preservation is important, we can build more allies in our movement.

There are not two sides to a negotiation, but three.
The third party is the community surrounding the issue. In situations where we are negotiating to save a building, the third side can be the community in which the building is located. Look at the situation from the community point of view: do they value the resource? How would they feel if it was lost? By taking the position of the third side, we can be more neutral as preservationists and help build consensus.

Use objective criteria to inform decision making.
Preservation is often viewed as extremely subjective. How can we rely onĀ  data to support a preservation outcome? I see this especially relevant to historic preservation commissions, where a regulatory body must interpret projects using semi-subjective criteria. What objective criteria exists that we can use in making the case for preservation? Examples might include economic data, such as property tax studies. The great work of Presonomics understands the inherent connection between economic development and saving places. How can we get more data to support our preservation work?

What did you think of William Ury’s The Power of Listening?” How do you successfully negotiate in the preservation world?

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