Exactly How Is A Negotiator Supposed To Get To “Yes”?

Getting to yes is a journey but you have to know how to get there
Getting to yes is a journey but you have to know how to get there
Image Credit: Marcelo

As negotiators, when we go into a negotiation, we need to have a plan for what we want to achieve. We’ve got a number of different ways that we can go. We can hope to use our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to get everything that we want while not really caring how things turn out for the other side (win-lose) or we can hope to find a balance where both sides get what they want (win-win). The good news is that we don’t have to choose between either waging a strictly competitive, win-lose negotiation battle or caving in to avoid conflict. What we need to do is to look for negotiation strategies that can help both sides get more of what they want. Let’s take a look at how to go about doing this.

People Are Not The Problem

When we are deep in a negotiation it’s easy to 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 conflicts arise in a negotiation, we need remember to deal with the “people problem” directly rather than trying to gloss over it with concessions. You need to 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 common tendency to blame are key negotiation skills.

Keep Your Focus On Interests And Not Positions

When we are beginning our negotiation we state our positions. When we stake out firm positions, we are setting ourselves up for an impasse. If our goal is to get to yes, we need to draw out the interests underlying the other side’s positions by asking questions, such as, “Why is this important to you?” By identifying what interests are motivating the other party, and sharing our own interests, we can open up opportunities to explore tradeoffs across issues and increase our odds of getting this negotiation to yes.

Learn To Manage Your Emotions

During a negotiation you need to make sure that you and the other side have ample opportunities to express and discuss any strong emotions related to the negotiation. Allowing one another to speak their mind will benefit both sides. Freed from the burden of unexpressed emotions negotiators will become more likely to work on the problem. One rule that you could try would be the one where only one person is permitted to get angry at a time. This tactic can prevent arguments from escalating. When you know that you will have to wait your turn to express how you’re feeling, it becomes easier for you to listen when the other side has their turn.

Take The Time To Express Your Appreciation

If you want to break through an impasse that has halted your negotiation, then one way to do so is to express appreciation for the other side. The key here is that no one likes to feel unappreciated, and this is particularly true in a negotiation. Negotiators should express appreciation by working to understand the other side’s perspective. We need to seek merit in that perspective, and communicating our understanding through both words and actions—all of which are critical negotiation skills.

Always Put A Positive Spin On Your Message

It turns out that communicating in a positive way is a much more effective means of getting to yes than blaming and criticizing the other side. Instead of speaking on behalf of your group, you need to speak only for yourself. An example of this would if you were speaking to a member of your negotiating team and said “Everyone on the team feels that you’re not pulling your weight”. Saying this is likely to distract them from your message. They will start to wonder who has been talking about them and what they’ve said. A better way to handle this is to instead talk about what you personally have observed and express your concern: “Your recent work has fallen short of your normal high performance levels. Is there anything going on that is keeping you from doing your best?”

Find Ways To Escape The Cycle Of Action And Reaction

As negotiators we need to avoid the common negotiation trap of action and reaction. What can happen is that the other side announces a firm position and you may be tempted to criticize and reject it. If they criticize your proposal, you may be tempted to try to defend it and dig yourself in . . . if they push you hard, you will tend to push back. If you want to head off this vicious cycle you will need a negotiation skill called negotiation jujitsu. This negotiating skill involves avoiding escalation by refusing to react. Instead, we need find ways to 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

Every principled negotiation provides us with a new opportunity to find ways to create a deal. We can start a negotiation with the goal of getting as much for ourselves as we can or we can start by trying to discover how we can reach an agreement that both sides can live with: win-win.

During a negotiation we need to take steps to not allow miscommunications to create problems for us. We have to take the time to understand what the other side’s interests are and not get tripped up by the positions that they seem to be taking. Emotions will always play a role in every negotiation that we participate in and we need to learn how to keep ours under control. In order to prevent impasses from occurring, during a negotiation take the time to express your appreciation for the other side. When you have to communicate something, find a way to put a positive spin on it. Make sure that you don’t allow yourself to fall into a never ending cycle of reacting to the other side’s actions.

The ultimate goal of any negotiation that we find ourselves participating in is to find a way to create a deal that both sides will be willing to implement once the negotiating is done. In order for this to happen, both of us are going to have to be happy with the final deal. Creating a win-win solution will make this happen. Use the techniques that we’ve discussed to create a win-win solution the next time that you sit down to negotiate!

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

Question For You: What should you do if you can’t find a way to put a positive spin on what you have to tell the other side?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When we enter into a negotiation, we never know who will be sitting across the table from us. Will they be a negotiator who is just starting out or a skilled professional who has done this countless times before? In any negotiation that you participate in, you will undoubtedly find yourself on the defensive at certain points in time. What you need are strategies that you can use to get the deal that you want out of the negotiation.

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