Monday, October 12, 2009

Win-Win Negotiation

Do you feel that someone is continually taking advantage of you? Do you seem to have to fight your corner aggressively, or ally with others, to win the resources you need? Or do you struggle to get what you want from people whose help you need, but over whom you have little direct authority? If so, you may need to brush up your win-win negotiation skills.

The purpose of negotiation is to resolve situations where what you want conflicts with what someone else wants. The aim of win-win negotiation is to find a solution that is acceptable to both parties, and leaves all involved feeling that they've won – in some way – once the negotiation has finished.

There are different styles of negotiation, depending on circumstances.

Where you do not expect to deal with people ever again and you do not need their goodwill, then it may be appropriate to "play hardball", seeking to win a negotiation while the other person loses out. Many people go through this when they buy or sell a house – this is why house-buying can be such a confrontational and unpleasant experience.

Similarly, where there is a great deal at stake in a negotiation, then it may be appropriate to prepare in detail and legitimate "gamesmanship" to gain advantage. Anyone who has been involved with large sales negotiations will be familiar with this.

Neither of these approaches is usually much good for resolving disputes with people with whom you have an ongoing relationship: If one person plays hardball, then this disadvantages the other person – this may, quite fairly, lead to reprisal later. Similarly, using tricks and manipulation during a negotiation can undermine trust and damage teamwork. While a manipulative person may not get caught out if negotiation is infrequent, this is not the case when people work together routinely. Here, honesty and openness are almost always the best policies.

Preparing for a successful negotiation…

Depending on the scale of the disagreement, some preparation may be appropriate for conducting a successful negotiation.

For small disagreements, excessive preparation can be counter-productive because it takes time that is better used elsewhere. It can also be seen as manipulative because, just as it strengthens your position, it can weaken the other person’s.

However, if you need to resolve a major disagreement, then make sure you prepare thoroughly. Think through the following points before you start negotiating:

Goals: what do you want to get out of the negotiation? What do you think the other person wants?

Trades:
What do you and the other person have that you can trade? What do you each have that the other wants? What are you each comfortable giving away?

Alternatives: if you don’t reach agreement with the other person, what alternatives do you have? Are these good or bad? How much does it matter if you do not reach agreement? Does failure to reach an agreement cut you out of future opportunities? And what alternatives might the other person have?

Relationships: what is the history of the relationship? Could or should this history impact the negotiation? Will there be any hidden issues that may influence the negotiation? How will you handle these?

Expected outcomes: what outcome will people be expecting from this negotiation? What has the outcome been in the past, and what precedents have been set?

The consequences: what are the consequences for you of winning or losing this negotiation? What are the consequences for the other person?

Power:
who has what power in the relationship? Who controls resources? Who stands to lose the most if agreement isn’t reached? What power does the other person have to deliver what you hope for?

Possible solutions: based on all of the considerations, what possible compromises might there be?