A couple of times over the last week I have been told by prospect clients, that whilst they suspect they get involved in negotiations, they are not quite sure if they are negotiating or not. It seemed to them that all they had to do was discover the optimal position that could be agreed by all parties and that would inevitably win the day.
This struck me as both being a bit idealistic and also somewhat soft. The optimal position may indeed mean that I do not meet my, or my organisations best case. Worse still who decides what the optimal position is? Me, them or some arbitrary power?
When individuals are in conflict, and negotiation is a method of conflict resolution, they mostly think in terms of positions that they want to take. What they need or demand of the situation. We want a 10% increase in price? We need 90-day payment terms? These are positions. What the negotiator is more interested in is the interests that lie beneath these positions.
Typically, there is only one way to meet a position, but there may be hundreds of ways, literally (depending on how creative you are) to meet an interest. People however find it very difficult to articulate what their interests are. They are pretty good at knowing what they want, but less good at recognizing the drivers that sit beneath it.
Some pretty simple analysis should be used before entering any significant dispute. What are my fundamental goals? What am I trying to achieve and why? What is most important to me? Repeat the process for the other side.
In many ways this should be the first step in any basic analysis about whether to begin the process of preparation for a negotiation. Other things like alternatives, bargaining arenas, costs of the negotiation itself both financially and emotionally and if the deal could actually be implemented will fall out of this basic objective setting exercise.
So do you negotiate? Well if you don’t get your own way 100%, 100% of the time, I suspect you do. In my view negotiation is critical in business, but also a fundamental life skill.
Take control of it by understand the issues and drivers and you are starting to think like a negotiator.