Using Negotiating Documents To Get A Moral Commitment From The Other Side

In a negotiation, what you really want from the other side is commitment
In a negotiation, what you really want from the other side is commitment
Image Credit: Next TwentyEight

When we are negotiating with the other side, no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used what we are really looking for from them is commitment. Commitment to do what they promise to do. Commitment to continue to uphold their side of the deal even if things change. Commitment to make sure that we get what we want to get out of this deal. Commitment is a very powerful thing. However, commitment comes in many different forms and so we need to make sure that we know what form of commitment we are really looking for.

In A Negotiation, What Is Commitment?

If commitment is what we are looking for out of our next negotiation, then perhaps we need to have a discussion to make sure that we really agree on just exactly what we mean when we talk about commitment. During any negotiation there will always be a set of intangible issues. These issues may be important, but they are intangible and very hard to nail down in order to get an agreement on.

When you create a letter of intent (LOI) before a negotiation or a memorandum of understanding (MOU) during a negotiation, you need to spend time thinking about the issues. This can cause what was an intangible issue to become more clear. LOIs and MOUs are signed by both sides; however, they very clearly state that they are nonbinding on both parties. However, even though they say that, they often form the basis of a moral commitment between both parties that they will both feel obligated to uphold.

What you want to do here is to be the one who writes the LOI or the MOU. When you present it to the other side, if he or she agrees with what you have written and if they now feel morally committed to implementing it, then they are going to be less likely to come back later on and contradict that agreement. In order to make changes later on, the other side would have to come back and discuss those changes with you and admit that they were breaking their moral commitment that they had made.

Why A Moral Commitment Is So Valuable

If you present an LOI or an MOU to the other side and they don’t come back with changes that they want to have made to it, then you have a moral commitment from them to you. It’s important that you understand that the value of a moral commitment has a lot to do with the morality of the other side of the table.

In every negotiation there are a number of different commitments that will be made. Clearly, one of the most important is the legal commitment that the other side is willing to make. However, if you can get the other side to make a moral commitment to you that may be just as, if not more, valuable. One of the key points that you need to be aware of is just exactly who on the other side is making the moral commitment to you.

If you can get a moral commitment from a senior executive or a board of directors, then they will have a significant stake in seeing the deal be executed. The power of getting these people to make a commitment to you is that it will get them to move beyond asking the question of whether or not they should enter into an agreement with you. Your LOI or MOU can show the other side what a final deal may look like and it makes it that much easier to agree to it.

What All Of This Means For You

The goal of any principled negotiation is to get commitment from the other side of the table. Commitment can take on many different forms. The form that we are most used to is a legal commitment. In addition to this is a moral commitment.

A moral commitment can come from when you create an LOI or a MOU and present it to the other side. Although it is intended to be nonbinding, it can cause a moral commitment to be created between both parties. If you can get the moral commitment from the right members of the other side, then you can feel comfortable that it will be implemented.

If you are willing to spend the time negotiating with the other side, then you want to be able to walk away from it with a deal that you can feel that the other side will be committed to implementing. Commitment can take on many different forms but if you can get a moral commitment from the other side then you’ll have a deal that may be even better than just getting a legal agreement signed by them.

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

Question For You: What would be the best way to determine if you have gotten a moral commitment from the other side?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If we ran the world, and we don’t (yet), then every time that we started a negotiation we’d be in control of how it was going to go. We’d be able to control what issues the other side would object to and which ones they’d be willing to go along with. When an objection came up, we’d deal with it masterfully and quickly resolve it in our favor and then move on. Although we don’t control the world, we can take steps to make our next negotiation go the way that we want it to go.