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By Brett Burney

March/April 2007 Table of Contents


Disagreements are inevitable, but civilized negotiations can restore faith in humanity. That is why I am intrigued by Parley, a simple and straightforward application from Theory Inc. Parley most often is used by one side of a conflict but also can be used to help two parties with opposing views see the issues and possible resolutions to a disagreement. Parley analyzes and displays all the possible outcomes in an easy-to-view graph.

In my opinion, everything that Parley does also can be done on paper, in a Microsoft Word document or in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. None of those applications, however, is as elegant as what you find in Parley with its unpretentious and clickable interface. Parley helps you examine opposing viewpoints better than anything I have seen before.

You can download a free fully functional 30-day trial from the Web site. Parley’s Web site also features an easy-to-follow tutorial that I recommend for anyone interested in the product.

You start off by defining both parties at the bottom of the application. Then you list all the issues between the parties. Each issue should indicate a single point of disagreement. For example, in an employment disagreement, the issues could include salary, signing bonus, vacation time, title and office space.

After you input all the issues, you will need to brainstorm resolutions for each issue you listed. The more issues and resolutions listed, the greater the range of options in the end. For example, if salary is the issue, you could list a range of salaries between $60,000 and $80,000. If vacation is the issue, you could list resolutions such as two weeks, three weeks or four weeks.

Next comes the fun part. Once you have all the issues and their corresponding resolutions listed, you slide the “importance” bar to its appropriate location for both parties. For the salary issue, you slide the bar left or right depending on how important that issue is to each party. The slider bars change colors as you move them, glowing bright orange when the importance is high and a dull blue when the issue is inconsequential. Then, for each issue, you need to rate the value of the corresponding resolutions. A two-week vacation might be of great value to the employer, while a four-week vacation would be of tremendous value to the prospective employee.

All of these determinations will take some time, and they should be well-considered so that the resulting graph is accurate. Once all the data is entered and values are assigned, you can click on the “Analysis” tab to have Parley perform its magic on your data. An easy-to-read graph appears and the resolutions you entered are tracked on the graph as dots. I had to squint to see which color each dot was, but a legend color-codes them to tell you which contracts benefit each party. Clicking on a dot brings up the detail at the bottom of the application — summarizing the benefits or disadvantages each side would experience at that point in the graph. At either end of the graph, each party would get everything they want, but Parley lets you see every possible outcome in between. This helps each side zero in on an agreement they are both happy with.

If you regularly create documents that show the pros and cons for different parties in a disagreement, then Parley is worth a look. The trial version is easy to download and the tutorial is a breeze to walk through. This software can help make the negotiation table a little friendlier.



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