The who, what, when, where, why and how of negotiations

Two silhouettes in front of a legal balance having a discussion

Have you ever thought about the tactics from beginning to end that are involved with a negotiation? This article starts with the very beginning in mind to set you up for success and then explores value added techniques, how to influence the outcome and how to protect yourself during a negotiation.

 

Tactics from the beginning

 

Who

The most important question is the who.

Who should be at the negotiation from your side and the other side? You want to have decision makers. These individuals should have the authority to make a decision on behalf of their side. You need key individuals that can help with the process. Who don’t you need? You don’t need anyone that is entrenched that will work to actually undermine the negotiation. On the other hand, you do want someone that can look for potential negatives. That person can help ensure that you don’t neglected to consider something that you should have during the negotiation.

Where

Where you meet is often critical. It can be at your location. It can be at their location. You could meet at a neutral location. Depending on the negotiation it may not matter. On the other hand, to ensure even handedness a neutral location may be necessary.

 Think this through thoroughly.

If the negotiation is something minor consider a text. If the parties know each other well, consider a negotiation over the phone. If you don’t know each other well, consider a face to face or on an online system. In today’s world explore video conferencing with Zoom, Skype or a similar on line system. Given travel costs this may be a viable alternative. However even with video conferencing elements may be lost. Not being able to see everyone in the room exploring body language and facial expressions may be significant. For that reason,

face to face interactions are still best for difficult negotiations

When

Time of day

Select a time that works well for everyone concerned.

Explore the various participants perspectives relative to time of day as well. Many prefer a morning beginning when they are fresh. That is not true of everyone however. Night owls do their best work in the afternoon. The more you know about your team and the other side’s perspective the better your chances of selecting the best time of day. Consider time zone differences too.

Duration and refreshments

How long should the meeting last. Consider what you want to accomplish and mutually develop an agenda.

Leave plenty of time for breaks for hydration and use of the rest room.

Consider appropriate refreshments and if necessary, how you will address meals. Do you want to have a working lunch for example and have it brought in, or do you want to actually break for lunch? Here is an article from Harvard Program on Negotiation directly on point regarding eating during a negotiation.

Ground rules and agenda

From the very beginning encourage both parties to be truthful, honest, forthright, professional, one person speaking at a time, no interruptions, etc.

Have the parties develop their own ground rules.

Work with your own team to enforce these ground rules.

Consider Negotiating the agenda. Draft an agenda based on your interests. In some instances, share it with the other side and ask them for their thoughts relative to the agenda. Develop an agenda as broad or as specific as the parties need to feel they have been heard as part of the process. Have a beginning and ending time.

 

Value added techniques

 

It is easier to assume we are right and the other side is wrong. This type of thinking is how two opposing army’s view each other in war. Similarly, in many negotiations the parties may begin by assuming we are right or mostly right and the other side is the party that must concede. However,

encourage both parties to enter the process with an open mind.

That is to explore the process considering not only the bottom line, but with a wider perspective of trying to understand interests, this can be very positive.

After all it is only by exploring underlying interests that it is possible to address areas of mutual concerns. The key is to understand underlying values. With an understanding values it is often possible to encourage dialogue and to connect with the other parties. Actively listen using the techniques of summarizing, paraphrasing, asking open ended questions and empathizing. By listening, it may be possible that the other side may listen to you. Listen first, then judiciously educate. The other party may be more open to listening to you after having been listened to.

Explore ahead of time what you want. Know your own BATNA. That is your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. Try to determine their BATNA. Consider being the first to offer an anchor in a negotiation. Many times, the first person to throw out an offer can help focus the negotiation towards their perspective.

 

Influencing the outcome

 

Consider how you approach each issue. Think about how you want to present the issue. How might your approach be perceived by the other party? Might they pleased or displeased based on your commentary?

To help diffuse the situation, do all you can ahead of time to learn as much as you can about the other party.

Try to develop a good working relationship. By building trust and a relationship before the session and during the session this can have a significant impact on the outcome.

Make use of various persuasive techniques such as silence, appreciation, disappointment, ask them for advice or seek advice from a third party, and by being fair. By being fair, present an offer that you deem as being fair based on all of the facts and ask them for their perspective. This can be extremely helpful.

 

Protecting yourself

 

Not everyone plays fair. Some negotiators are not fair and don’t play fair. It can be tough to deal with difficult people. They may threaten, lie, be deceptive, bullying or unethical. To an extent this can be addressed early by building the connecting relationship.

Prevention of unfair tactics is the best defense.

When unfair tactics emerge, it is often best to address the tactic head on. This may very well work to de-escalate the situation if that is possible.

 If the situation blows up, take a break.

Encourage both parties to stop, reflect and see if it may be possible to come back together. If not now at a future date.

Many times, referring back to the ground rules and the agenda can help the parties to focus on why they are there. This can keep the negotiations going and avoid distractions associated with derogatory behaviors.

 

Overview

 

In summary, do think about and prepare for the negotiation ahead of time.

Prepare, prepare and prepare. Be flexible relative to the process,

 but do focus on the issues at hand. Avoid negative commentary or actions. Should these arise by the other side, point out the tactic. If necessary, take a break. Look for win-win scenarios to make the pie bigger and be creative looking for value added beyond the initial focus of the bottom line.

 

About the author

 

Mike Gregory is an expert on conflict resolution business to government (IRS), business to business, and within businesses. Mike is an international speaker and he has written 11 books including Business Valuations and the IRS: Five Books in One, The Servant Manager and Peaceful Resolutions. Mike may be contacted directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]