How Can Your Next Negotiation Be A “Win-Win” Negotiation?

Everyone wants to create a win-win negotiation
Everyone wants to create a win-win negotiation
Image Credit: Dennis Skley

By now just about all negotiators have heard about “win-win” negotiating. These are the types of negotiations in which both sides walk away feeling as though they got what they wanted out of the negotiation. This is in contrast to “win lose” negotiating where somebody wins while somebody loses. If you want your next negotiation to be viewed as being a “win-win” negotiation, then you are going to have to take some steps to make sure that you can reach this outcome.

What Is “Win-Win” Negotiating?

Among negotiators there is a genuine confusion: what exactly is a win-win negotiation? In order to understand this style of negotiating we have to go back to the 1980’s. Back then, the way in which negotiators thought about negotiation changed dramatically. Thanks to the bestselling book “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In”, millions of people came to believe that a win-win negotiation is an improvement on the dominant win-lose mindset. Yet as the concept of win-win negotiation started to diffuse and became a catchphrase, confusion also grew about what exactly it described. In win-win negotiation, are the counterparts supposed to divide resources evenly?

More to the point, can it still be called a win-win negotiation if you’re trying to gain as much as possible for yourself? What we need to realize is that the answer to the question is a definite yes. Win-win negotiation doesn’t require you to have to split resources right down the middle with a sole focus on trying to be “fair.” It doesn’t mean that you have to automatically make a concession just because the other side made one. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you should try to avoid conflict and tension at all cost during a negotiation. Instead, win-win negotiating involves working to get the best deal possible for yourself during a negotiation while also working to ensure that the other side is satisfied.

It means you need to make offers that are good for them and even better for you. And it means thinking creatively about how you can get more of what you want by helping the other side get what they want. We need to understand that what might first look like a win-lose negotiation may turn out to be a win-win negotiation for us down the road. Finding your way to a win-win negotiation often involves reaching mutual gains by trading off their differing preferences to create value.

How Can We Create Win-Win Negotiations?

If we decide that we want our next negotiation to be a win-win negotiation, then what will we have to do? The first thing that we’ll need to realize is that all sides that are involved in the negotiation have different interests and priorities. In your next negotiation one side may have a strong interest in building a long-term partnership with the other side. In contrast, the other side may be focused on getting a great deal on price. This kind of difference can led you to propose a value-creating tradeoff that can led to a win-win deal over time.

All of the parties that are involved in the negotiation may have different beliefs about what will happen in the future. When parties have different beliefs about how the future will unfold and how it will affect the agreement being negotiated, they can decide to negotiate contingent contracts – basically “what if?” proposals that stipulate what each side will do if its vision of the future does or does not come true. If each side truly believes its predictions will play out, then both should be willing to “bet” on those predictions in their contract. The good news for you is that this can enable a win-win deal.

Finally, everyone involved in the negotiation may bring a different attitude toward time to the table. Negotiators often have different time horizons that can provide them with wise tradeoffs. For example, suppose that there were two banks that are interested in buying a business together. One is looking to make a quick return, while the other has the ability to be more patient. They could reach a win-win negotiated agreement by agreeing that the less patient party will get a bigger percentage of early returns in exchange for agreeing that the more patient party will earn a much bigger share of returns down the road.

What All Of This Means For You

Every negotiator has heard about a “win-win” negotiation. The challenge that we all face that that most of us are not quite sure exactly what this really means. We know that a “win-win” agreement is supposed to be a good thing and so we’d like to be able to reach it during our next negotiation. The challenge that we’re facing is that we’re just not quite sure how to get there.

A win-win negotiation is better than the win-lose mindset that used to be the approach that negotiators took when entering into a negotiation. A win-win negotiation allows you to try to get the most for yourself. However, at the same time you have to be looking for ways that you can get the best deal while also trying to make sure that the other side gets the best deal for them. This can cause us to have to trade off differing preferences. We have to realize that all sides in a negotiation have different interests and priorities. All sides may also have different beliefs. Additionally, everyone may have a different attitude towards time.

Clearly, a win-win negotiation offers a negotiator far more flexibility than just splitting resources 50-50. If we can find a way to capitalize on differences and by negotiating assertively, negotiators can move into win-win territory. Ultimately this is what we are going to need to be able to do in order to get the negotiating outcome that we are looking for.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should tell the other side that you want to reach a win-win agreement with them?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

With a little luck you know how to negotiate. You understand that your goal during a negotiation is to find a way to get the other side to accept the proposals that you have made to them. However, it turns out that there is a bigger question here. What can you do as a negotiator in order to boost the chances of successfully reaching a deal with the other side? It turns out that how you set up the actual negotiation itself can play a big role in how it turns out. Understanding how you can design a negotiation to give you the results that you are looking for is key to getting what you want.