Everyone, every single day is negotiating. In his book, Getting To Yes, Roger Fisher teaches principled negotiation, And you’re going to need it to improve your negotiation skills.
1. Separate the People from the Problem
You and your counterpart have two kinds of interests, substance and the relationship. Most negotiations take place with somebody you have a relationship with, and who you’ll need to work together with in the future. This is part of the reason why positional bargaining is so harmful, it mixes up the relationship with the substance of the negotiation.
In order to separate the relationship from the substance of the issue, we need to think about three things. First, Perception. The difference in your perception of the problem, and the other person’s perception of the problem, Is itself the problem. To overcome this you need to really understand the other person's perspective. Second, Emotion. You need to recognize what is causing yours and their emotions. In order to solve this, make it clear that emotions are part of the negotiation and talking about them is part of the negotiation as well. Third, Communication. It is very easy to be misunderstood. Easy ways to combat this are to speak about yourself primarily and remember that some things are better left unsaid. Understanding these components will have a big impact on your ability to unpack problems that come from relationships
2. Focus on Interests, Not Positions
The main issue in negotiation isn’t a difference in positions, but a difference in each side’s needs, desires, concerns and fears. When you strip away the positions, you’ll quite often find that your interests are compatible. A good start to begin to strip this away is to ask why questions to both yourself and the other side. Doing this will unpack each of your positions and get into the real issues. Then, you should talk about your issues. Having a good understanding of both your issues and their issues should help you reach a common ground with them. You are trying to find a position which meets both of your interests.
3. Invent Options for Mutual Gain
In most negotiations, there are 3 major challenges that prevent the creation of an abundance of options.
- Premature judgment. When you listen to options presented by the other side, nothing is more harmful than the mindset of waiting to poke holes in their arguments.
- Searching for the single answer. Remember that there is no single best answer, and the best way to come up with the best idea is to have a lot of ideas.
- The assumption of a fixed pie. Most of us see negotiations as either/or - either I get what is in dispute or you do. Looking to solve both of your problems will likely be much more beneficial.
Now that we’ve covered what gets in the way of creating multiple options, let’s talk about how to clear the path.
- Separate inventing from deciding. But if you can separate the act of inventing possibilities from the act of criticizing or analyzing them, both sides will come out ahead.
- Broaden the options on the table rather than look for a single answer. There are many ways to do this, and they all look like a brainstorming session. The key here is that you are able to step outside yourself and put yourself in the shoes of a dispassionate third party. Less highly charged emotions equals more creative options.
- Search for mutual gains. Instead of searching for where your interests are not aligned, search for ways in which they are.
4. Insist on Using Objective Criteria
Making decisions based on objective criteria is the best and easiest way to keep the focus on the issues. There are many things you can consider to be a standard, including market value, precedents set in other situations, what a court would decide, professional standards, and anything that allows you to make a decision based on principle and not pressure.