Negotiating the Fear out of Negotiation: Part II


Welcome back to your therapy session to remove the anxiety from negotiation!  Last week, I discussed some of the lessons I learned during a recent training – lessons that I believe apply broadly to many scenarios in the workplace, whether there is a negotiation or not involved.  This week will go more specifically into an approach to negotiation and some specific tactics.  Please keep in mind that the negotiation strategy is the overall plan to achieve your goal because it’s very important to see the big picture.  The negotiation tactics are the specific approaches you include within your strategy to achieve the goals.

One way to begin developing your strategy is to choose a method of negotiation – one such method is Interest Based Negotiation (IBN), developed by Roger Fisher in his 1991 book “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In.”  With IBN, you focus on understanding the other party and your relationship with them (taking a soft stance on people), but continue to take a hard stance on the problem and debate the merits of both positions. To successfully execute an IBN approach, there are the four main components to consider:

  1. Separate Interests from Positions:  We tend to focus on the different positions that people take within a negotiation; however, both parties may have similar, or the same, interests.  For example, I may want to have a tree removed from my lawn because of the noise the birds make, so I focus on removing the noise of the birds rather than the tree.  My boyfriend may want to have the tree removed because it blocks sunlight from the growing grass, so he focuses on needing to re-sod the lawn.  We are taking different positions (birds v. sunlight/lawn), but we are both interested in the same action – the tree being removed.
  2. Generate Options before deciding what to do during the Negotiation:  Once you have an idea of the other parties’ interests, it may be possible to generate different options that can lead to mutual gain.  It’s important to note during “options generation,” that all parties should reserve judgment on possible options/solutions, because judgment can stop the creativity flow.
  3. Separate the People from the Problem:  Everyone has emotions, and many times, they can be heightened during a stressful situation, like a negotiation.  There may be feelings or a part of someone’s identity associated with their position and interests, and it is important to consider these elements, while remaining professional and focusing on the problem at hand, rather than making statements or decisions based on personal preference or differences.
  4. Develop your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA):  This does not mean your bottom line (i.e. This is the lowest I will go); this means that if the negotiation does not work, or does not work in your favor, what other alternatives do you have?  For example, if you are not able to come to an agreement with the car salesman for a new car, are there better deals at another location?  Would you be able to get a different loan at another bank?  Could you use public transportation for awhile and save more money?  You can compare the best alternative you develop, to the negotiated decision prior to finalizing, to make sure that you are getting the best option -whether it be the negotiated agreement or your BATNA.

Now that you have an idea of negotiation methodology, what types of tactics could you use to reach a negotiated agreement that ideally is a win-win situation?  Some tactics are not highly recommended, as they could result in a negative outcome, or abruptly end the negotiations (ie. utilizing threats, bluffing).  However, others may be appropriate depending on the factors in the negotiation:

  • Establish a Deadline:  This not only sets a time limit for a negotiated agreement, but it might result in the other party making concessions to meet the timeline.
  • Release a Trial Balloon:  First, this tactic’s name is just hilarious.  Second, you may have unintentionally done this before:  the idea is that you mention a proposal to the other party outside of the negotiation, and then see if you receive feedback during the negotiations about it.  It removes some of the pressure from you as you are mentioning it informally (of course, you will want permission from your boss before offering this proposal!), and it allows the other party to have more time to think about it, which can be good or bad.
  • Accent the Positive:  This tactic involves focusing on how the negotiated agreement would benefit the other party – i.e. what they would gain from this decision, even if in reality, you may be gaining more, or may be gaining more of what matters to you.

The views expressed in this document reflect the personal opinions of the author and are entirely the author’s own.  They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or the United States Government.  USAID is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied herein.

Samantha L Corey is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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