The Confident Negotiator

Negotiation is a key skill to have in the workplace.  Inter departmental agreements are based on successful negotiations as are contractual arrangements with customers, suppliers and staff.300px-Mediation-arbitration-negotiation

Fisher and Ury’s, 1981 book, Getting To Yes – negotiating an agreement without giving in, sets out how to learn to negotiate based on interests and principles as opposed to win/lose positional bargaining.

To separate the people from the problem, focus on interests not positions and invent options for mutual gain requires confidence.  That confidence needs to be founded on a number of critical beliefs:

  1. That better solutions will emerge if interests and principles drive discussions.
  2. That it is possible to create options where both or all parties gain.
  3. That the other side is not out to do you down or take advantage of you.
  4. That agreements that lead to someone feeling like a loser are to be avoided at all costs.
  5. That you feel strong enough to walk away from bad deals.

How is such confidence achieved?  Training in relevant techniques helps.  Trust building initiatives generate confidence.  Breaking negotiations down into a series of stages helps and limiting the size of the negotiation groups to three or four also aids confidence.  Ultimately you just have to believe that the best outcomes will emerge from a problem-solving approach as opposed to a blaming and shaming exercise.

It’s interesting to compare and contrast the confidence required for principled-based negotiation with its opposite; positional bargaining.  In positional bargaining you need to be confident that:

  1. You can grind the other side down by holding tightly to your position.
  2. Your arguments are stronger and better than the other side’s.
  3. You can hold out to win your case no matter how long it takes.
  4. You can out gun the other side.
  5. You are in a stronger position than the opposing parties.

Managers, human resources and training people need to equip people with the confidence to negotiate successfully to avoid there being sore losers from one-sided positional negotiations.  Creativity and innovation are much more likely to thrive in environments where people are confident in their negotiating skills and where they do not need to fear being taken advantage of.  In the last analysis its all a question of what kind of confidence that you build throughout your organisation.  Believing in better outcomes really builds confidence in principled negotiation.  In an increasingly interdependent world win/win makes much more business sense than does win/lose.

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