Contrary to the belief of many, negotiations actually serve as a stepping stone to a potentially long-term, mutually beneficial alliance. Fair-minded negotiations are not the one-and-done actions played out by those who lack the skills and temperament to look beyond the moment, but are in fact, an interaction to ignite a satisfying, enduring relationship. In business it typically means that the people negotiating have come to an equitable agreement on terms for the outcome and where the “win-win situation” happens. For example, this could be product delivery, cost, quality, warrantees, and follow-up service… really anything one or more parties want to provide or to purchase. Creating relationships that are conducive to “everyone’s a winner” can be done, but is not always easy.
The Unbalanced Negotiation
The best outcome of a negotiation is when the end-result is mutually beneficial for all parties, but what happens if that is not a sentiment felt by everyone involved? You may be faced with a situation where a negotiation is, simply, not worth your time and effort. When one party’s demands create a “win-lose” scenario, it will hurt both parties in the long-run. When you concede more than you can realistically provide it may potentially diminish your ability to deliver on what you agree upon. In this instance, both you and the demanding party will lose. This can happen when a negotiator’s focus is unilateral with disregard to the other parties involved. This type of interaction should send up a red flag and alert you to the tenure of the negotiation which you can either walk away from, or re-steer to focus on what will create an equitable outcome.
Keep in mind, you have arrived prepared to discuss your points and substantiate your position. If you allow another party to dictate your negotiating posture, you’ve in essence relinquished control of your position and allowed the other party’s tactics to control the outcome. It’s fine to be flexible, and to a certain extent you should expect to be, but you need to do this without compromising your position and losing sight of what you envision to be an equitable outcome. Balanced negotiations set the stage for a win-win outcome and open the door to compromise and communication without anyone being affronted in, both, the short and long-term.
There will always be instances when negotiations are not conducted on a level playing field. We have all been in discussions with someone whose position, power or financial resources intimated or out-classed us. This is going to happen and sometimes our first experience at negotiating up begins at an early age (i.e., children negotiating for a higher allowance.) In a business situation, this doesn’t mean you should expect a negative outcome, but it does mean, you need to be better prepared and remain confident in your strategy. Research and preparation are two critical keys when presenting a solid case, but not just when negotiating up; these two practices should be present in all negotiations.
And always keep in mind, you are in the midst of a negotiation because you belong there. The value of your contributions has been recognized and you’ve been given the opportunity to put your complement of listening and speaking skills to use.
Can You Hear Me Now
The communications do not need to be hostile, but obviously opinions will differ or be contradictory in nature during conversations about how everyone can come out a winner. In large respect, this is a form of negotiation and negotiating with skill is not a science, but an art.
As with most interactions, becoming angry and loud is not as effective as remaining calm and deliberate in your delivery. Professors at Stanford University conducted a study to determine the effects of how anger can enhance or harm someone’s delivery during times of negotiation. What they found was, the presence of someone being non-temperamental, but pointed in her argument, was much more effective than when anger was used as a negotiating tactic. The feedback from the participants revealed that outbursts of anger were viewed as ineffective rather than a calculated use of language and guile. On the other hand, coming across as an automaton is not a recommended approach, either. It’s fine to show bridled emotions to tactically accentuate a point or to gain and give better understanding. Of course, timing will be a factor when using emotions as a tactic, so be sure to understand how this comes across both audibly and through your body language.
It’s Not Rocket Science
Maintaining a level-head, being confident and focusing on what you want to gain by the end of the negotiation will help you stay on track. Simple techniques such as: being prepared with facts and figures to support your comments and rebuttals, having a checklist to stay organized, compartmentalizing each of the items to be discussed to add applicable value to each discussion point at the correct time, deciding upfront what you ideally want at a minimum and what you are willing to relinquish (remember, negotiations are a give and take), as well as remaining patient, calm, and even finding humor in the discussion will help ease a potentially tough interaction.