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3 things to keep in mind during negotiations

One thing the government shutdown has made me think about is the need for some better core negotiating skills. I know there’s lots of different opinions and many different ways to make things work but I just speak for myself and say that anytime I’m trying to get something accomplished with somebody else and we’re working through how this is going to play out; there needs to be a little give and take. I have three big things that I try to be conscious of. They are as follows:

  1. Big picture. You need to be able to take a step back from the minutiae of all that you’re working through and understand how those details affect the big picture. That way you can understand if those details are worth scuttling the big picture progress.
  2. You have to be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. First of all, this helps you to understand how they can make such wildly outrageous demands. If you take a step into their shoes, you can oftentimes understand why they’re asking for such outrageous things and they begin to see just a little less outrageous. It can also help you do some creative deal making. If you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you can sometimes come up with something that is maybe not quite so wild and outrageous from your standpoint and something that you can live with that maybe they hadn’t considered before. It oftentimes opens the door for a creative solution.
  3. The third thing is that you have to be focused on the outcomes. One of the things that you see all the time when you’re trying to get through a deal or negotiate something out is that as the tenure of the deal making gets to be a little bit more competitive or there gets to be more posturing on the other side, the focus strays from what you’re trying to accomplish into becoming focused on the individual actions that have occurred during the negotiations. That really should have no bearing on the actual negotiating of an outcome. The deal making process itself shouldn’t become a hindrance to the outcome of the negotiation. Unfortunately, a lot of times people let the competitive nature of it carry them away. They become less concerned with am I getting what I need to out of this and more with am I going to win.

So that’s the last piece and the real killer of so many negotiations that could be successfully concluded; the fact that people get carried away in the wind and less focused on the outcome. I’m curious what other folks think. I’m sure there are many more things that could be added to this list but those are just my big three.

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Peter Sperry

Know when to walk away. Your purpose should be to achieve a goal by reaching an agreement rather than abandoning your goals in order to reach an agreement.

Recognize that most progress is incremental but not all increments are progress. Always closely examine whther the proposed agreement moves you closer to or further from your goals.

In DC negotiating remember the nicknames for the two parties and recognize agreements which are both evil and stupid may be bipartisan but they are rarely helpful.