We think we negotiate every day – all too often we only bargain.
Bargaining is trying to force others to give us what we want (extra space in this picture), while they either resist or hold out for more gain. So we tend to start with unrealistic positions, because we expect to be dragged down from them.
Negotiation is about listening to needs, looking for common ground and finding solutions that satisfy the needs of both sides.
As a result it’s much harder, but more likely to create a workable, longer lasting, more satisfying outcome that builds and strengthens relationships between people and organisations.
Principled negotiation, developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project has proven successful between individuals, companies and even countries. It suggests four steps:
Separate the people from the problem – if “they” are the problem, negotiation language becomes personal, accusatory and they will respond by defending their position to the death. Far better to jointly identify the underlying problems – respect, security, finances, career development, freedom and so on.
Focus on interests not positions – what is in their best interest may not be reflected in the position they adopt, which is confusing and time wasting. They may take an extreme position because they expect to be pushed off it. By exploring their best interests and how they match your own, more creative solutions can be developed that create the basis for a “win-win”.
Invent options for mutual gain – creative problem solving, coming up with weird ideas that could be in everyone’s best interests and which address the underlying problem. Not allowing the “oh we tried that and it didn’t work” attitude to take hold, but being adventurous and seeing what might work.
Measuring results – understanding what success will look and feel like, knowing how to measure it and when and what to do if the results suggest a change of plan.
Clearly while negotiation is a skill in itself it relies on another one.
We all communicate but few of us are taught how to do it effectively, without causing misunderstandings or offence, either in the words we use or in the way we say them.
What makes communication even more difficult is if those involved are in disagreement or conflict, when communication styles create barriers, we don’t hear what’s being said and so the potential for misunderstanding is magnified.
Facilitators are taught communication skills to allow them to help those doing the negotiation to stay focussed on the future, not get stuck in a vicious cycle of the past.
To find out more about how we could help with your negotiation, use the link to Resources where you'll find downloads with more detail, or to discuss how we could help in your specific circumstances, use the Contact Us section at the bottom of the page or call Jeremy on 0773388 2543.