“Like it or not, you are a negotiator. Negotiation is a fact of life.”
Getting to Yes, page xvii
We negotiate every day of our life. We negotiate on everything; where to go on vacation, the sale price of a house, even a raise from the boss. Or rather, we should be negotiating. For most people though, the idea of conflict is so disagreeable, that they give in to pressure and walk away from the discussion feeling cheated and unsatisfied.
Enter Roger Fisher and William Ury, collaborators on the Harvard Negotiation Project, in which they developed their method of ‘principled negotiation’. Principled Negotiation is the process of finding acceptable compromise through determining which issues are ‘fixed’ and which are ‘flexible’.
The negotiation principles shared in this book are useful for everything from negotiating the price of a car to determining an agreement on limiting nuclear arms development. Which makes it pretty versatile and useful stuff.
Separate the People from the Problem
“A basic fact about negotiation, easy to forget in corporate and international business transactions, is that you are dealing not with abstract representatives of the ‘other side,’ but with human beings”.
Getting to Yes, page 18-19
Negotiations always have two components. First, you have the substance of the negotiation- in essence, what you’re trying to resolve. As importantly, negotiations also address the long term relationship of the person with whom you are negotiating. As a real world example, a salesperson wants not only to make the sale but to keep the customer for a long period of time.
The reality is that, in most cases, it’s more important to maintain the long term relationship than to “win” the negotiation.
The ‘people’ and the ‘problem’ often become entangled to the point where we are treating them as one. Take, for example, when one spouse says to the other “The kitchen is a mess”. While the well intentioned spouse was merely trying to identify a problem, their comment may come across a personal attack, leaving the other party feeling angry. In our two GEMs below, we identify two valuable techniques to use in negotiation.
GEM # 1
Deal directly with the people problem.
“To find your way through the jungle of people problems, it is useful to think in terms of three basic categories: perception, emotion, and communication.”
Getting to Yes, page 22
Let’s take a look at the three elements, and how we can best harness them.
How often have you been in a negotiation with someone, thinking they are out of their mind because of their opinion or beliefs?
One of the hardest things to understand is where someone is coming from. Yet the most important thing to do is to put yourself in their shoes. A husband may see a refreshing half full glass of water on the kitchen table, while his wife sees a dirty, half full glass of water about to leave a water ring on the wooden table. Understanding where a person is coming from is NOT the same as agreeing with their position, but it does help when negotiating as you can customize a solution that fits both parties.
Since it’s important to understand where they are coming from, both parties points of view should be discussed. Through this discussion, both parties will feel as if they are contributing to the resolution of the conflict.
Any final agreement will be more likely to be seen as “win” by both sides if both parties have input into the solution. Any solution created solely by one party has a much lower likelihood of being accepted by the other side.
Next time you find yourself in a negotiation, ask yourself, “have I included the other party in creating this solution?”
My dad used to tell to me about the importance of not falling prey to your emotions. When emotions become involved in any negotiation there is the chance of one or both parties becoming irrational.
Of course, the first step is to identify how you’re feeling during a negotiation – nervous, angry, worried, etc. – but also look at the other party. How do you think they are feeling?
There’s no better way to understand how someone is feeling than to discuss it with them. To do this, communicate how you are feeling with reasons to back it up and ask them if they feel the same way.
If emotions build to the point of anger, let the other party blow off steam. The more they get off their chest the better they’ll feel afterwards. So listen intently and quietly, never reacting to their emotional outbursts.
Very rarely are positive outcomes achieved when both parties become emotional.
One of the biggest challenges I face when negotiating with someone is actively listening to what they are saying. I’m constantly thinking about a previous point they made and my response to that point. It’s much more effective to listen carefully to what they are saying, and to stop them every once in a while to ask them to clarify or to repeat what was said. You want to make sure you’re hearing what they intended.
Imagine what happens when a negotiation involves many parties, each with their own feelings and thoughts about what is being communicated. For this reason alone, it’s easier to come to an agreement if you can limit the number of people involved in the negotiation.
GEM # 2
Develop your BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.
“If you have not thought carefully about what you will do if you fail to reach an agreement, you are negotiating with your eyes closed”
Getting to Yes, page 100
BATNA is your ‘Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement’. The more powerful your BATNA, the more power you have in the negotiation. Imagine walking into a job interview with no other job offers, how would the salary negotiations go? Now compare this with if you had two job offers in hand.
So how do you create your BATNA? It’s a simple exercise of listing the things you will do if the negotiations fall through. Once the list has been created, take the better ideas and expand on them to make them ‘more real’. The final step is to pick the one that seems best.
There are two sides to every negotiation, so understand that the other party also has a BATNA. It’s just as important to understand what their options are if an agreement cannot be reached.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to come to an agreement with someone. That in mind, it’s imperative that you’re clear of not only your own BATNA, but the BATNA of the other party, as well.
One risk many people run into when creating their list of BANTA is they think the more options they have the stronger it will be. The strength lies not in the sum of your options as many are mutually exclusive. The strength lies in your strongest single option.
Like most things in life, one can only truly master the art of negotiation by practicing it over and over. The golden nuggets of information that lie in this, and any book are useless without action (hence the value of Actionable Books. And that’s the difficult part, because most of us have bad habits of shying away from negotiation, and growth (read: change), as we know, can be uncomfortable. Then again, keep in mind that without going outside your comfort zone, you’ll never grow!