HOUSTON — With the federal government nearing a record for days partially shut down, we asked experienced negotiators what it takes to end stalemates.

Both said negotiating requires one basic premise: no one really wants to fight or argue. That is common ground which is where agreements begin.

“It’s give and take,” said Raymond Garivey, Freeport Police Chief who spent 16 years helping negotiate high-pressure, life and death crisis in Pasadena.  Always, his team prepared to bend a bit.

“When you’re talking with these folks, you’re letting them know that you’re there to help,” Garivey said. “But at the same time, you’re listening to what they have to say and taking in and grasping both sides of the story.”

That is a start. When talks stall in court, each sides interests then become key, according to lawyer Trey Bergman whose firm arbitrated and mediated more than $95 billion in disputes over the last 29 years.

“Everybody will tell you what their needs are, but it’s their interests that are the deep down, driving determiners of what gets a case resolved,” he said.

Appealing to those interests leads to common ground where moving each other away from demands is easier.

“You might have only two or three moves when you’re buying a house,” Bergman said. “When you’re mediating a dispute, you might have 10 or 20 moves. So the longer they’re involved in the process, the more likely they are to stay and not walk out.”

“That’s why it’s called negotiations,” Garivey said. “If you want to get something from this person, take for instance a hostage. We’re willing to give you something but we want a hostage in return. Again, if you’re not willing to do that, you’re going to go absolutely nowhere.”