Want to know six well-documented ideas for a successful negotiation?

A person using a pen to map their way through a puzzle


From the books The Servant Manager, Peaceful Resolutions, and The Collaboration Effect, here are six well-documented ideas for a successful negotiation. As a mediation and negotiation specialist, I wanted to share these with you.  Hopefully, they will help you, too.  These six ideas are:

  1. Identify core values/beliefs you have in common
  2. Be tough on the problem and gentle on the people
  3. Acknowledge your emotions and theirs without blame
  4. Treat others as they would like to be treated
  5. Positions polarize – interests integrate
  6. Acknowledge and appreciate areas of agreement – put a positive spin on your message


Identify core values/beliefs you have in common


Three underlying themes for resolving a conflict are understanding, appreciation for each other, and finding common ground based on interests. The area associated with understanding revolves around identifying core values and beliefs. Give each party pride and a sense of self.  Research the other participants, including social media, peers, and networks, to do this. The more you know, the greater the likelihood of finding areas of shared values. When you meet virtually or in person, look for ways to reach out regarding honesty, integrity, openness, acceptance, and responsibility. This may enable you to develop greater trust with each other.  


Be tough on the problem and gentle on the people


This requires separating the people from the problem. Everyone has feelings and opinions based on their own biases and experiences. We are all biased. Explore the other side’s perspective. Listen actively, be empathetic, and summarize and paraphrase what they say. Suspend your judgment. Imagine their perspective.  Why do they feel the way they do? What has influenced their thinking? Try to expand your perspective with alternatives from a different angle. If price or money is the issue, what about the perception of other stakeholders?  Consider timing, quality, other factors, future interactions, and other issues that may help change the focus from the bottom line numbers. Always be polite, respectful, and professional with the other party.


Acknowledge your emotions and theirs without blame


Avoid the two stinky twins of BO and BS—blaming others and blaming self.  Stay focused. Do not go below the line. Manage your emotions. Demonstrate emotional intelligence by not letting yourself become angry. Help others remain focused, too.  If you are part of a team and someone goes below the line, help them focus on the negotiation's facts, issues, and interests.  You will tend to demonize the other party.  Be aware of this tendency and stay focused on the problem. Remind yourself to be gentle on the people.


Treat others as they would like to be treated


You know the golden rule about treating others as you would like to be treated. The platinum rule is to treat others as they would like to be treated. How do you know what that is without getting to know them? Sure, you can be respectful, smile, show up on time and be prepared, be mentally present, one person speaks at a time, everyone participates, listen with an open mind, think before you speak, and attack the problem, not the people. However, do cultural or organizational norms need to be explored to ensure a genuine appreciation for the other party?  For example, you may not know that the other party has had bad experiences with parties like yours, and so is very skeptical about whether you can be trusted. This means you will have to work on building trust from the outset of this negotiation.


Positions polarize – interests integrate


Interests integrate.  Behind every position is at least one interest. Interests are the seeds of a solution. How can you do this? Ask open-ended questions and then ask the other party to tell you more. For example, when someone states their position, you can ask them why they have that position or what they would like to see happen in an ideal world. This may help uncover interest and underlying concerns, allowing for better understanding.  There may be tradeoffs across the issues identified to help mitigate the situations. Many are open concerning their interests. Others are very tight-vested. They may not want to share. Being vulnerable and open may persuade them to be more open with you.


Acknowledge and appreciate areas of agreement – put a positive spin on your message


Both sides want to feel appreciated. Please make a point of appreciating the other side and where they come from. Others want to be listened to and acknowledged for what they bring. Seeing merit in their actions and how they proceed can help break down barriers and promote understanding.

As a mediator, I often phrase outraged and position-based commentary so that it comes across as neutral, at least, and in some cases, favorable to the other party. Learn from this technique and rephrase your commentary to give it a positive spin. Instead of “you are late, and you did not contact us,” you could say, “We were worried about you, and we are glad you are home.” See how a difference in temperament can help de-escalate the situation? Try this before you speak with “I” or “we” statements instead of you statements.

The Harvard Program on Negotiation offered “Six Guidelines for ‘Getting to Yes’.” Note the similarity of their six points to these six points. They are not the same, but they have apparent similarities. Finally, having made an emotional connection, finding common ground by focusing on interests, and working towards a resolution that both parties can, at minimum, live with and may even be happy with going forward, good luck.

What do you think? I welcome your thoughts.

Check out these links if you need assistance or want to learn more about collaboration, conflict resolution, or enhancing your Servant Manager skills

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]