“Everything is negotiable.” We’ve all heard that line.
Those who are most skillful at negotiating usually come out ahead. Negotiation is the key to resolving conflict. Let’s face it, few of us enjoy dealing with conflict – be it with customers, employees, co-workers or even family members. This is particularly true when the conflict becomes hostile and when strong feelings become involved. Resolving conflict can be mentally exhausting and emotionally draining. But conflict avoidance just makes problems worse.Part of the problem is that we are predisposed to think of conflict (or resolution of conflict) as an isolated incident or event. In reality resolving conflict is more of a process, or a series of events over time involving both external and internal variables. Conflict episodes typically represent the result of past behaviors of both parties. Therefore negotiation is not a static exercise. Effective negotiation must include the “background events” in the relationship. These cannot be separated from the resolution.Professor E. Wertheim of the College of Business Administration at Northeastern University says, “an effective negotiation usually involves a number of steps including the exchange of proposals and counter proposals.” In good-faith negotiation, both sides are expected to make offers and concessions. The objective is not only to try to solve the problem, but to gain information that will enable you to get a clearer notion of what the true issues might be and how your “opponent” sees reality. Through offers and counter offers there should be a goal of a lot of information exchange that might yield a common definition of the problem.Negotiation is not so much about winning or losing but rather about meeting your opponent half way and convincing your opponent to meet YOU half way. Here are some tips in how to effectively negotiate for the win – win:
- Conduct your negotiation tactics in order to obtain more information.
- Try to understand and identify with your opponent’s motive.
- Conflict should not be avoided; rather it should be faced head on.
- Confrontation is not bad, rather it is good and more often results in resolution.
- Resentment is often the result of conflict avoidance.
- Conflict involves the thoughts, perceptions, memories, and emotions of the people involved; these must be considered when negotiating.
- Negotiations are like a chess match. So make sure you enter into negotiation with a firm strategy.
- Anticipate how the other will respond and act accordingly.
- Be honest with yourself regarding the strengths of your position.
- Evaluate how important each issue is to your opponent and how important it will to yourself.
· Begin with a positive approach and try to establish rapport and mutual trust before starting.
- Try for a small concession early in the negotiation.
- Pay little attention to initial offers. Often times these are points of departure; they tend to be extreme and idealistic.
- Find agreements and joint gains. Make these your primary focus.
- Focus on the other person’s interests and your own goals and principles, while you generate other possibilities.
- Be very clear on what Professor E. Wertheim calls your BATNA; “Your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. This is important because the negotiation needs to aim to match or do better than your BATNA. The BATNA establishes a threshold for the settlement. Determining your BATNA or walk away is not always easy. You have to establish a concrete value for various alternatives.”
- In the planning process it is also important to estimate your opponent’s BATNA.
· Try to come as close to the other person’s BATNA as you can.
- Aim to influence your opponent that their alternatives may not be as good as they perceive them to be.
While we all engage in many negotiations during a week this doesn’t mean we will become more proficient negotiators. As they say PERFECT practice makes perfect. To become better we need to become aware of the structure and dynamics of negotiation and we need to think systematically, objectively, and critically about our own negotiations. After engaging in a negotiation, reflect on what happened and figure out what you did effectively and what you need to do better.Often times at the Small Business Advisory Network we are called upon by our client’s to both assist and coach them in negotiating business issues or relationships. If you are looking to learn more about how effective negotiation might improve your business performance, please let us know. Our mission is to influence decisions, improve performance and inspire change. That’s what our consulting, workshops; web site, weekly articles and The Small Business Hour Radio Show are all about.