As negotiators we spend a lot of time trying to understand just exactly what this thing that we call a negotiation is. We can get lost in the study of countless different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques . It turns out that we’re probably not spending enough time thinking about something else that is just as important: trying to learn what a negotiation is NOT. If you want to be a successful negotiator, then you are going to have to take the time to study the other side of the coin.
Negotiation Is NOT A Science
One of the defining characteristics of science is that everything can be measured. You can very clearly say whether or not something is or is not of some type. When it comes to negotiations, what we are really dealing in is a sense of satisfaction. This cannot be measured in any meaningful way.
The goal of any negotiation is to make both sides of the table have a feeling of satisfaction with the outcome. We do this by leading the other side to a state of satisfaction. This is not the kind of thing that has a clear path on how to get to. Rather, you may end up taking many paths that you didn’t even know existed before the negotiation started in order to get to where you want to be.
Negotiation Is NOT About Winning
This may be the hardest lesson for all of us to learn. The problem with focusing on winning a negotiation is that it is far too simple of a concept. Thinking that somebody has to emerge from a negotiation a winner while the other side comes out as a loser is very short sighted.
Instead, what you are going to want to do is to spend your time focusing on creating both a friendly relationship and trust with the other side of the table as a part of the negotiating process. If you can’t establish a level of trust with the other side, then the next time they want to do a deal, they’ll go looking for someone else to do it with.
Negotiation Is NOT Continuous
How long does a typical negotiation take? I’d like to be able to tell you that we can sit down and get it done in one session, but that rarely happens. Often times a negotiation can stretch over several sessions. This means that you are always going to be having continuity issues.
During any one negotiating session, you’ll reach agreements with the other side of the table. When the next negotiating session starts, you can’t assume that these agreements are still valid. A lot of time has passed since the two sides last talked and they may have acquired new information or their circumstances may have changed. What they agreed to yesterday may not be what they’ll be willing to agree to today. You always have to be checking because negotiations are not continuous.
What All Of This Means For You
Negotiators need to take the time to understand just exactly what a principled negotiation is not. It’s only by doing this that we can answer the real questions that will help us to become better negotiators.
It turns out that no matter how many “rules” we think that we can apply to a negotiation, it’s not a science. Rather a negotiation is ruled by the level of satisfaction that both sides feel. We can’t negotiate with the goal of “winning”. You are going to need to spend the time to establish a relationship with the other side of the table. Finally, there is very little consistency to a negotiation. Things change and you’re going to have to learn to deal with that.
Nobody ever said that this negotiation stuff was going to be easy. As we come to understand that what a negotiation is can be defined in part by understanding what it is not, that’s when we’ll really start to become good negotiators. Take the time to look at both sides of the coin and you’ll find yourself better equipped the next time you sit down at the negotiating table.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™
Question For You: If you can’t assume that things won’t change during a negotiation, how can you hope to make progress?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
If I was to ask you what you were hoping to get out of your next negotiation, what would you tell me? I’m willing to bet that it would be something along the lines of “to get a good deal”. Sure, that’s something that we all want, but if you took the time to think it through, what other reasons for taking the time to negotiate would you come up with?