The art of effective negotiation

The art of effective negotiation

The key to success is remembering that everything is negotiable, and that to get a deal you must ask for one. Many people stop there because negotiating makes them uncomfortable. They view the process as a contest of wills in which power determines outcome, each party seeks to best the other, and the little guy doesn’t stand a chance. That kind of positional bargaining may produce some short-term results, but it is a distasteful, win-lose process that can leave both sides exhausted, resentful and dissatisfied with the outcome.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Effective, principled negotiation will efficiently produce an agreement that meets the needs of both sides while improving or at least maintaining personal relationships. In negotiating the key is to focus on four areas:

Separate the people from the issues to avoid personalising them. Make sure each party understands the other’s perception of what is involved. Identify the underlying emotions on both sides and acknowledge them. Listen actively and speak to be understood, not to argue a position. Don’t debate-cooperate.

Focus on interests instead of positions. Behind each position lie compatible interests as well as conflicting ones. To identify the interests, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Why would he take such a position? Does any aspect of your proposal conflict with those interests?

Work with the other party to generate a variety of options. Separate the brainstorming from the decision-making process. Look for areas of agreement by identifying shared interests. Look for ways to dovetail differing interests by exploring options that are of low cost to you and high benefit to the other party and vice versa.

Insist upon negotiating within mutually-agreed-upon standards of fairness. These criteria may range from current market value to procedures for resolving conflict, and will bear directly on your ability to come to an equitable final agreement. Standards such as these are also crucial to establishing a foundation of trust on which to build a relationship.

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