Any Successful Negotiation Is All About Commitment

Commitment is the key to getting what you want from a negotiation
Commitment is the key to getting what you want from a negotiation
Image Credit: Ed Schipul

I believe that it pretty much goes without saying that the goal of any negotiation is to eventually reach an agreement with the other side of the table. It’s how we are able to reach that agreement despite all of the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that are being used that can at times be so very challenging. When we talk with the really good negotiators, they always have the same thing to say: getting that big final commitment can only be achieved by getting a series of smaller commitments. Now all we have to do is figure out how to accomplish this.

During A Negotiation, General Commitments Are Your Friend

During a negotiation, there will always be several issues on the table to be discussed at any point in time. Each one of these issues may be a point of contention between you and the other side. There is not going to be any easy way to get the two of you to come to an agreement in regards to any of them. When you realize that you are facing a situation like this, you are going to have to take a different approach.

This type of situation calls for the use of what we like to refer to as “general commitments”. When you are in a difficult negotiation, you are going to want to use general commitments to obtain concessions from the other side of the table. What this is going to require you to do is to make promises to the other side. Don’t worry too much about these promises because they won’t have that much to do with the details of the actual negotiation that is taking place.

Instead, the general commitments that you’ll be making will be of a more general nature and you’ll be making them in order to gain an advantage in the negotiation. An example of this type of general commitment would occur if you looked at the other side and told them “I want to let you know that I am fully committed to reaching an agreement with you.” By making this kind of statement what you are really doing is telling the other side that you are willing to make a moral commitment to not walk away from the negotiations.

Things Change And So Do General Commitments

When we step up and make general commitments to the other side, we are doing it for a reason. This is all part of our strategy for getting what we want out of this negotiation. When we make a commitment to the other side, what we are expecting to happen is for them to then make a commitment back to you. This type of reciprocity is what is going to move you closer to being able to reach the deal that you really want with the other side.

As we all know a negotiation can be a fast moving and at time chaotic place. During a negotiation a great deal can change. What this means is that the circumstances under which you felt comfortable making a general commitment to the other side can change during the negotiations. If this happens, then the door will open for you to refute your moral commitment because now circumstances are requiring you to do so.

You are hoping that you won’t have to back pedal on any of your general commitments, but there are cases where this has to happen. However, there is an important point that you are going to have to keep in mind. This is that just because you had to take back a general commitment does not mean that a concession that the other side offered you because of your willingness to make the general commitment also has to be taken back. If they start to make noises like this is what they are going to do, then you need to take the time to remind them of their agreement to you and then push on in the negotiations.

What All Of This Means For You

The only way that you are going to be able to be successful in your next principled negotiation is by finding a way to guide the other side of the table to the deal that you want to reach with them. In order to reach this deal, both sides will first have to reach a number of smaller agreements. How you make this happen holds the key to your success as a negotiator.

You are going to want to stay away from the really big issues that are being negotiated. Instead what you are going to want to do is to offer the other side of the table general commitments. These can be things like agreeing to reach a deal with them. When you make a commitment to them, you are going to want them to make a commitment back to you. You’ll also have to understand that during a negotiation, things change and you may have to take back some of the general commitments that you’ve made. If you do this, you’ll need to make sure that the other side does not do the same thing.

There is a saying that if you want to get someone to say “yes” to something, you have to first get them to say “yes” to other things so that it will be easy to say “yes” when the big question comes. This thinking also applies to negotiations. In order to get the other side to start to make the concessions that you are going to need them to make in order to reach the deal that you want, you are going to have to start things off by making a series of general concessions. This will cause the other side to make concessions to you and you’ll be that much closer to sealing the deal that you want.

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

Question For You: If the other side tries to take back their concessions, what should you do?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As negotiators we all want to be successful. We may define what we mean by success differently, but in the end it all comes down to the same thing – we want to get our way in the negotiations without having to give too much away. Although there are many different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that we can use to make this happen, it turns out that there is really one thing that is going to control just how successful we’ll be in our next negotiation.