What Types and How Much Information Should You Reveal in a Negotiation?

Clear water with fish just below the surface

In a negotiation a common question is what types of information can be revealed and if so how much of that information should be revealed in a negotiation?

Many factors enter into this question. This article explores three of the most common elements.

Often the concern is to not provide too much information to the other side for fear it could be used against you. On the other hand, it is desirable in a collaboration to work together to enhance cooperation and make the pie potentially bigger for all rather than simply trying to carve out a larger piece of the pie from a fixed size pie. What should you do?

What Should You Do?

It is important to ponder this question before the negotiation ensues. You should consider this up front so that you and your team have some general guidelines up front. As a negotiation unfolds, this issue can become gray. Having thought about this before hand and discussed who will provide commentary on various elements and up to what amount of information, this can only help when the actual negotiation takes place. Having been involved with mediation while at the same both parties are in a parallel path with litigation, this can be tricky.

Fact versus Evidence

Keep in mind that in general a fact not introduced in court on the legal side is not in evidence and is not considered by the court. A fact introduced in court is evidence. Often competing parties compete with depositions in order to discredit the other party and work to disclose weaknesses. This can be very detrimental to a mediation. On the other hand, knowing this information this may very well present an opportunity for the parties to work towards a mediated solution, given weaknesses exposed on both sides. Evidence is one form or information. I would offer there are three kinds of information. These are facts, opinions and interests.

Facts: Historical information, existing financial statements, costs, margins, profits, historical relationships, contracts, processes etc. are facts that may be very helpful.

Opinions: Opinions may be expert opinions based on credentials, expertise, education and experience, or opinions not based on expertise, but perceptions. These may be subject to interpretation such as valuation based on a premise of value, technical approach, underlying assumptions and other criteria. These may influence future decisions as well.

Interests: These may include financial, environmental, and social impacts and evaluations as well as overall goals and objectives both short term and long term as well as other needs and concerns.

Knowing your facts, opinions and interests, it is likely worthwhile for you to document what you believe the facts, opinions and interests are of the other party and how you may want to approach the negotiation in light of this information. You should ask yourselves, what are we prepared to reveal and what we should consider not revealing at this negotiation session. It may be that you would be willing to possibly reveal more now or at a later negotiation session. Consider the rationale as to why you do or do not want to reveal the information now.

Having considered this commentary, this will hopefully provide you with food for thought in your next negotiation when you consider what and how much information to share.

Contact Mike Gregory to speak to your group or consult with you, and check out his website, books and helpful content on the right side of his About page. Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA and a Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court, is an international speaker that helps others resolve conflict, negotiate winning solutions and inspire leaders by emphasizing collaboration. Mike services clients business to IRS, business to business and within businesses. Mike may be contacted directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311.