Why “Off-The-Record” Is An Important Part Of Closing Every Negotiation

by drjim on March 8, 2013

Some parts of a negotiation are best said in private…

Some parts of a negotiation are best said in private…
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Just exactly how do you think that a negotiation lurches closer and closer to a resolution? If you think that it happens because of all of the clever negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that both sides use, think again. It turns out that there is a secret to making progress towards an eventual deal in any negotiation. The secret is to have off-the-record discussions with the other side of the table.

Why Are Off-The-Record Discussions So Valuable

One way to view a negotiation is to think of the discussion that occur during the negotiation as happening on a stage. That means that there are bright lights on everyone and there is an audience that is listening to everything that is being said. As you can well imagine, this changes everything.

The people who are involved in the negotiations don’t feel free to talk about certain things. They realize that what they are saying is really for their side of the table to hear – they need to show their company that they were standing up for its best interests at all times.

When this is happening, it is very easy for a negotiation to head off towards a deadlock. However, things don’t have to go this way. You can take the other side of the table aside and offer to have an off-the-record discussion with them.

These types of discussions are exactly what they sound like: a discussion between you and the other side that takes place away from everyone else and in which no recordings are made or records are kept. The purpose of an off-the-record discussion is to provide both parties with an opportunity to tell each other which issues are really important to them and what the major stumbling blocks are going to be.

It’s important to understand just how powerful this technique is. What gets talked about during these off-the-record discussions is what is going to help you to move the negotiations towards a settlement. The reason that this happens is that these discussions provide each side with an opportunity to discuss what kind of constraints their company has placed on them as well as what their personal feelings about what is being negotiated are.

It is during this type of discussion that either side can indicate how they would like the negotiations to proceed. This includes identifying areas where they are going to be willing to compromise and the issues that they think that both sides can engage in some give-and-take on.

The Hidden Danger Of Talking Off-The-Record

As powerful a tool as talking off-the-record is, it turns out that there is also a hidden down side to this technique. There are plenty of negotiators who have not realized this and it has come back to bite them.

It turns out that not every issue that is being negotiated should be talked about during off-the-record conversations. Some issues are so large and have so many different people who have a vested interest in them, that all discussions about these issues need to take place in the light of day.

Additionally, another danger that comes along with any off-the-record talk is that by their very nature they are informal. What this means is that it is possible for you to say too much during these discussions. You need to always remember that you are in a competitive situation and you don’t want to reveal too much of your negotiating strategy even during informal talks.

What All Of This Means For You

Negotiations don’t like to head towards closure all by themselves. Instead, they seem to need you to nudge them in the right direction. One way to hurry this process up is to have some off-the-record talks with the other side of the table.

These off-the-record talks are where both sides can really let their hair down. You can speak frankly and reveal what is going to be possible to accomplish during the negotiations. However, you have to be careful because not everything can be discussed off-the-record and sometime too much ends up getting discussed during these conversations.

As a negotiator, your job is to reach an agreement with the other side that everyone can live with as a result of your principled negotiation. Use the power of off-the-record discussions to move the negotiations along and reach a deal faster.

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

Question For You: When during a negotiation do you think is the correct time to have your first off-the-record discussion with the other side?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Thank goodness, you’ve finally reached an agreement with the other side of the table. That means that the negotiations are now done and both sides can put their negotiation styles and negotiating techniques away. Well, maybe not quite. If you haven’t nailed down just exactly what “done” means, then you’re not done yet.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lea-BPO24hour.com March 13, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Keep the discussions results oriented because negotiations are tricky. Yyou have to be very comfortable with yourself to deal with something without any egoed

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Dr. Jim Anderson March 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm

You are correct — before you can hope to be able to reach a deal with the other side you first need to make sure that you are comfortable with both what you want to get and how you plan on getting it!

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