How Negotiators Can Use Tradeoffs To Create More Value

It is possible to increase the value in a negotiation
It is possible to increase the value in a negotiation Image Credit: Kyle Pearce

I would suspect that most of us don’t go into a negotiation thinking about what we can give up. Rather, I suspect that we will be going into our next negotiation thinking about what we can get the other side to give us. It turns out that if our goal is to reach the best deal possible with the other side, then we just might be going at this all wrong. If we want to get the best deal possible, then we might want to spend some time thinking about what the other side really wants and how we can go about giving it to them.

It’s All About Fairness

How do our expectations of fairness and reciprocity at the bargaining table impact negotiator decisions regarding the strategies and tactics we use during bargaining? Sometimes a negotiation can get off on the wrong foot. Maybe you and the other side had a different understanding of the meeting time, or one of you makes a statement that the other misinterprets. Such awkward moves at the beginning of interaction can lead one side to question the other side’s motives. Research has examined trust building in negotiation. When a negotiation begins, the researchers found, both sides are likely to be apprehensive about being exploited if they are too cooperative, if they reveal too much information, and so on.

Over time, trust can serve as a useful social process that helps both sides overcome that initial uncertainty. In most new, successful negotiation relationships, positive developments will accumulate slowly, creating trust, and allowing the dialogue to improve. Essentially, through a set of reciprocal moves on both sides, trust evolves naturally during the negotiation process. Trust, being foundational to a working relationship, will make tradeoffs easier and will insure future cooperation. Opportunities for creating value and claiming value, as well as sustained dialogue, are best facilitated by creating an atmosphere of both honesty and reciprocity at the negotiation table.

Finding Ways To Restore Trust at the Negotiating Table

When talks get off on the wrong foot during a negotiation, finding ways to restore trust becomes essential. Researchers have distinguished among three stages of interaction: initial, early, and late. During this initial stage, the negotiators don’t necessarily expect cooperation from the other side, nor have they yet really committed to the relationship. The negotiation is in the early stage. Once the negotiators have started to trust one another, that the relationship can become vulnerable. During this early stage, violating the other side’s trust can be especially damaging because the nature of the relationship has not been fully established. Later on, both sides may have built enough trust to overcome what appears to be a violation of trust. However, if the violation is strong enough, it may do more harm later in the process. This is because of the sense of betrayal felt by the injured party. One careless move can have a profound influence on dealmaking. Recognizing this fact and avoiding missteps and dealing with them if they do occur are critical skills for negotiators to have.

What All Of This Means For You

A negotiation can be a tricky thing to steer towards a successful deal. During the negotiation, we understand that in order to get what we want, we are going to have to make a series of smaller deals with the other side. These deals will require us to make tradeoffs. Since tradeoffs require us to give up something, this means that we need to be able to trust that by giving up something the other side will be willing to do something for us. It’s how we go about creating this level of trust that can have a big impact on how the negotiations end up turning out.

How a negotiation ends is often determine by how it begins. There will be times that when we are starting a negotiation, we make a mistake and things get started on the wrong foot. In order to get around issues like this, we need to work to develop trust in the negotiation. Trust development happens slowly. If mistakes have been made, negotiators need to find ways to restore trust. The three stages to a negotiation allow a negotiator to work though issues like this. Negotiators need to be careful to not make missteps as each of the phases is worked through.

In order to get the deals that we want to get out of our next negotiation, we need to find ways to make both sides willing to make tradeoffs. This can only happen if both sides are able to trust each other. As negotiators, it is our responsibility to find ways to add more trust to our negotiation. We have to understand that trust is a fragile thing and events can cause it to be damaged or lost. If this happens, we then need to step in and find ways to rebuild it. The good news is that with care and effort, we can make sure that our next negotiation has all of the trust that it needs in order to end successfully.

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

Question For You: How do you think that you can measure the level of trust that is currently in a negotiation?

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