How Much Should You Share During A Negotiation?

Negotiators need to know how much to share during a negotiation
Negotiators need to know how much to share during a negotiation
Image Credit: ryancr

Negotiation is all about sharing. Well, at least pretty much all about sharing. One of the big questions that every negotiator is dealing with when we start a negotiation is just exactly how much we want to share with the other side. We all know that no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques we use, we are going to have to share at least some information with the other side. The question that we are facing is how much is too much? Negotiators need some guidance in how to go about doing this sharing thing the correct way.

The Challenge Of Knowing When To Share

When negotiators get together, they need to make decisions about how much information to disclose. Should they bring up their discussions with other potential partners? When should they share their proprietary business data? Should they share personal information? Fearful of being hurt by revealing too much information, most negotiators play their facts and preferences close to their vest. At the other end of the spectrum, the current negotiation theory advises us to cooperate whenever possible, revealing information in order to create maximum value.

Yet the question of when to reveal information in negotiation is seldom clear-cut. Whether we are relying on traditional assumptions about competing for scarce resources or on newer ideas about realizing a joint gain, wise negotiators pause to consider the possible benefits and costs of revealing or concealing information. They also recognize that different types of information – ranging from facts to opinions to preferences – exist in any negotiation and that the importance of this data may change as the process unfolds.

Before talks begin – and, if possible, even before your initial contact with the other side – you need to list the information you need to resolve your dispute or to build a strong deal. Also, you should anticipate the information the other side will want from you, and consider how you’ll respond to these queries.

The Right Way To Share In A Negotiation

What negotiators need to understand is that not all information is the same. In fact during a negation we often deal with different types of information. The type of information that we are currently dealing with should have an impact on our willingness to share it with the other side. We need to make sure that we are aware of the type of information that we have before we open up to the other side.

Information in a negotiation typically falls into these three categories:

  • Facts: Information about relevant past events, services, and goods; ongoing liabilities and obligations; parties needed to conclude talks; and so forth.
  • Opinions, predictions, and values: Information subject to different interpretations, such as a company’s value, the outcome of a future court decision, the likely income from a new product, or whether the dollar will rise or fall.
  • Preferences: Information that negotiators express as their needs, interests, objectives, goals, bottom lines, desires, and reservation prices.

During a negotiation, once you have identified the information you need and may be asked to reveal, you’re ready to consider the reasons you and the other side might choose to disclose or to conceal it. Note that the answer to this question is going to be important for you to determine. If you feel that there is good reason to reveal the information then go ahead and do it. If you don’t think that the other side would reveal it to you, then perhaps you should not reveal it to them.

What All Of This Means For You

A key part of any principled negotiation is the sharing of information with the other side. The challenge that we face as negotiators is that we know that we need to share information, but we just don’t know how much or what kind of information we need to share. What we need to do is to take the time to understand the different types of information that will be used during a negotiation before we can answer this question.

In modern negotiation there are two different approaches to sharing information. One is to not share and keep all of your information close to you. The other is to open up and hope that by sharing you can build a better relationship with the other side. How best to share is never that clear. Before starting a negotiation you need to create a list of the information that will be critical to this negotiation. We need to understand that there are three types of information in every negotiation: facts, opinions, and preferences. Once we know what information we might choose to reveal, we need to consider if we believe the other side would reveal it to us.

We will always reveal information during a negotiation. The question is how much and what kinds of information we will be revealing. We need to think things through very carefully and consider how we believe that the other side will be dealing with the issue of information sharing. If we can come to an agreement with them, then we’ll be able to share the appropriate amount of information with them and with a little luck, we’ll be able to reach a deal with the other side.

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

Question For You: How do you think that you can tell if you have shared too much during a negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

It would be nice if in the world of negotiations we could all just get along. We’d have nice negotiations and there would be no conflict between the different parties. However, as we all know, we don’t live in that world. Instead, sometimes it seems as though conflict rules the day. In fact, there seems to a number of different types of conflicts that we encounter during a negotiation. Just exactly how can a negotiator avoid having to deal with all of this conflict?