Posted by Lora Boiago on Jun 20, 2013 10:42:00 AM

leadership development consultantsLike it or not, negotiation is a fact of life.  Without even knowing it, you negotiate something every day.  A discussion on the price you are willing to pay for a house with a stranger or a curfew time with your daughter.  Perhaps you will find yourself negotiating with your partner about what to buy, where to eat, what television station to watch or who gets the remote!  At work, you’re faced with discussions about a raise with your boss or the perfect time for a meeting with your colleagues.

Negotiation is the basic means of getting what you want from others.  It is the back and forth communication designed to reach an agreement when you and the other side have some interests that are shared and others that are opposed.

Leadership development consultants help skill professionals with the capacity to effectively negotiate agreements that result favourably for the organization they are representing.  As a starting point in this article, we decided it would be wise to cover the basics about negotiation, followed by a few pointers on how to identify the interests of the other party when taking on an interest-based bargaining strategy.


Negotiate Skills: Soft & Hard

Soft negotiators want to avoid personal conflict.  This negotiator makes concessions readily in order to reach an agreement.  They want amicable resolution, yet often end up being exploited and feeling bitter.

Soft negotiators tend to:

  • Maintain goal of agreement
  • Trust in members of the other party
  • Accept one-sided losses to reach agreement
  • Insist on agreement 
  • Make offers

Hard negotiators see any situation as a contest of wills in which the side that takes the more extreme position and holds out longer fares better.  They want to win, yet they often end up producing an equally hard response, which exhausts them and their resources and harms their relationship with the other side.

Hard negotiators tend to: 

  • Maintain a goal of victory
  • Distrust members of the other party
  • Demand one-sided gains as the price of agreement
  • Insist on position
  • Make threats

Other standard negotiating strategies fall between hard and soft, but each involves an attempted trade-off between getting what you want and getting along with people.


Types of Negotiation Strategies

1) Positional Bargaining

Positional bargaining is a negotiation strategy that involves holding on to a fixed position and/or idea of what you want and arguing for it and it alone, regardless of any underlying interests.

Although supporters of this negotiation strategy do exist, leadership development consultants fear that the use of this strategy among colleagues will serve as counterproductive, leading to conflict and ill-feelings.

When negotiators bargain over positions, they tend to lock themselves into those positions.  The more you clarify your position and defend it against attack, the more committed you become to it and the more difficult it will become to change it.  Your ego becomes identified with your position as your new interest becomes ‘saving face’.

When more attention is paid to positions, less attention is devoted to meeting the underlying concerns of both parties.  The chances of a logical agreement becomes less likely as any reached conclusion would reflect a equal splitting of the difference between final positions, rather than one carefully crafted to meet the legitimate interests of the parties.


2) Interest-Based Bargaining

Interest-based bargaining is known by many names, including win-win bargaining, mutual gains and integrative bargaining.  This bargaining strategy begins with understanding the problem and identifying the interests that underlie each side’s issues and positions.

In the office environment, training consultants recommend first taking an interest-based bargaining strategy approach.  This method of negotiation suggests seeking for mutual gains whenever possible.  Where there is a conflict of interest, the result should reflect fair standards independent of the will of the other side.  Interest-based bargaining allows for the negotiator to steer the focus to team goals and takes the issues out of the personal “ego” realm. 


In a workplace setting, the benefits of taking a positional bargaining over an interest-based bargaining strategy are clear; how to go about it is less clear.  A position is likely to be concrete and explicit.  The interests underlying it, however, may well be unexpressed, intangible, and perhaps inconsistent.  



How to Identify Interests

Remember: Negotiators are People First

A primary basic fact about negotiation is that you are dealing with human beings.  They have emotions, deeply held values, different backgrounds and viewpoints; and they are unpredictable.  So are you.

Failing to deal with others sensitively as human beings prone to human reactions can be disastrous for a negotiation.  Whatever else you are doing at any point during a negotiation, from preparation to follow- up, it is worth asking yourself, “Am I paying enough attention to the people problem?”

Identify Interests

Ask “Why?”

One basic technique is to put you in their shoes.  Examine each position they take and ask yourself “Why?”.  Why, for instance, does your landlord prefer to fix the rent-in a five-year lease year by year?  Taking a moment to wonder 'why', may lead you to think that one of his interests may be to be to be protected against increasing costs. 

Ask “Why Not?” - Think About Their Choices

Our training consultants suggest that one of the most useful ways to uncover interests is by first identifying the basic decision that those on the other side probably see you asking them for, and then to ask yourself why they have not made that decision.  What interests of theirs stand in the way?  If you are trying to change their minds, the starting point is to figure out where their minds are now.

Realize That Each Side Has Multiple Interests

In almost every negotiation, each side will have many interests, not just one.  As a tenant negotiating a lease, for example, you may want to reach a favorable rental agreement quickly and easily in addition to maintaining a good working relationship with your landlord.  You will be simultaneously pursuing both your independent and your shared interests.


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