So Just Exactly How Are We Supposed To Get To Yes?

Getting to "yes" is a journey that you need to know how to navigate
Getting to “yes” is a journey that you need to know how to navigate
Image Credit: Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

As negotiators, there are a few books that I’m guessing that we have all pretty much read. One of the classic negotiating books that everyone should have on their shelves is “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In”. In this book, the authors explained that negotiators don’t have to choose between either waging a strictly competitive, win-lose negotiation battle or caving in to avoid conflict. What they said was that negotiators can and should look for negotiation strategies that can help both sides get more of what they want. If we take the time to listen closely to each other, treat each other fairly, and explore options to increase value, we can find ways of getting to yes that reduce the need to rely on hard-bargaining tactics and unnecessary concessions. Great idea. Now exactly how can we go about making this happen?

Understand That People Are Not The Problem

In a negotiation it’s a bit too easy to see things as “us vs them”. We can forget that the other side has feelings, opinions, values, and unique backgrounds that contribute to what they do and say during talks. When misunderstandings and conflict arise in negotiation, it is our responsibility to deal with the “people problem” directly rather than trying to gloss over by making concessions. Strive to imagine the situation from the other side’s viewpoint. If someone is refusing to back down from a hardline position, ask them how they think things are going. Exploring each side’s perceptions openly and avoiding the tendency to blame are key negotiation skills that you need to develop.

Keep Your Focus On Interests, Not People’s Positions

When we start a negotiation we like to go right in and as a first step we begin by stating our positions on the topics being discussed. When we stake out firm positions, we are setting ourselves up to create an impasse in the negotiations. If we have the goal of getting to yes, we need to draw out the interests underlying the other side’s positions by asking questions. By identifying what interests are motivating the other side, and sharing your own interests, you can open up opportunities to explore tradeoffs across issues and increase your odds of getting to yes in this negotiation.

You Need To Learn How To Manage Your Emotions

Be sure that you and the other side have ample opportunities to express and discuss any strong emotions related to your negotiation. Allowing one another to speak your mind will provide benefits to both sides. If we can free ourselves from the burden of unexpressed emotions we will become more likely to work on the problem. When you know that you will have your turn to express how you’re feeling, it will be easier for you to listen when the other side has their turn.

Always Take Time To Express Appreciation

Negotiators need to understand that expressing appreciation is a means of breaking through a negotiating impasse. As we all know and understand, nobody likes to feel unappreciated, and this is particularly true when we are negotiating. Negotiators need to express appreciation by working to understand the other side. We can accomplish this by communicating understanding through words and actions. These are all critical negotiation skills.

Don’t Get Caught In The Cycle Of Action And Reaction

Negotiators need to be able to recognize the common negotiation trap of action and reaction. When we are negotiating, if the other side announces a firm position, you may be tempted to criticize and reject it. If they criticize your proposal, you may be tempted to defend it and dig yourself. To head off this vicious cycle, we need to use a negotiation skill called “negotiation jujitsu”. This skill allows us to avoid escalation by refusing to react. Instead, we channel our resistance into more productive negotiation strategies, such as exploring interests, inventing options for mutual gain, and searching for independent standards.

What All Of This Means For You

What every negotiator wants to get out of their next negotiation is a deal. In order to make that deal happen, they are going to have to find a way to get the other side to say “yes”. It turns out that making this happen is a skill that every negotiator can develop. We just need to know how to go about doing it.

A negotiation is all about two or more people coming to an agreement. In order to make this happen we need to see the other side as people that we can get along with. During a negotiation, everyone will take a position on an issue. As negotiators we need to be sure to keep our focus on the interests that we’re talking about and not focus on positons. It can be all too easy for us to allow our emotions to come to the surface as a negotiation drags on. We need to learn to keep them under wraps and not allow them to interfere with what we are trying to accomplish. The oil that keeps a negotiation moving is appreciation and we need to take the time to show some to the other side. It is all too easy for us to instinctively react to what the other side does and that can get us caught in a never-ending cycle. Don’t allow this to happen to you.

The most magical word that we can hear during a negotiation is the word “yes”. Since we know what we want to hear, now all we have to do is to find ways to get the other side to say it to us. Taking the time to work towards a yes is the secret to finally being able to get there. During your next negotiation keep your eyes on what you want and with a little luck you’ll get the yes that you are looking for.

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

Question For You: If you feel your emotions starting to get the better of you during a negotiation, what actions can you take?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Negotiators are always looking for ways that they can get more value out of their next negotiation. Although there may be many different ways to accomplish this such as using different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, one way that we tend to overlook too often is by negotiating a right of first refusal. Just in case anyone doesn’t remember what the right of first refusal is, also known as a matching right or right of first offer, it is defined as being a guarantee that one side to a business deal can match any offer that the other side later receives for what is being negotiated. As negotiators we need to realize that the rights of first refusal could be a win-win tool that can enhance your negotiation skills, but to ensure that it is mutually beneficial, it needs to be negotiated with care.