A negotiator should approach their negotiation much like an investor approaches the stock market. With today’s wild swings in the stock market, this can be quite a challenge! But, here’s what I’m talking about.

Prudent investors look to increase the value of their money. They look at growth potential, expected dividends, and the risks associated with an investment. Investors attempt to calculate the present value of the potential investment given the expected growth rate and dividend payouts. In this way, their investment decision is balanced against the associated risks; compared to other potential investments; and a decision is made to buy or not. Is this potential investment fairly priced, over-valued or under-valued?

A good negotiator does the same thing — but on a very subjective level. Negotiators need to focus on the present value of satisfaction; determine the value of future satisfactions (and dissatisfaction); and compare this to making a deal, making no deal, or working to create a better deal.

This brings up a fundamental but subtle point about any negotiation. The flow of positive and negative satisfiers in any deal is in the mind of each participant. Some participants are optimistic about the future. Others are pessimistic. Some want immediate satisfaction, while others are prepared to wait.

Much of your strength as a negotiator comes from your ability to provide satisfaction to the other party. You can help increase the present value of the deal by getting the other party to place a higher value on future satisfaction. You can do the same thing by showing the other party that future dissatisfactions are unlikely.

Concessions can play a big role in creating a flow of satisfaction. But this flow between people is not a simple as it looks. Before you start making concessions to increase the other party’s satisfaction, think about how you want to do it. Take into account who will benefit, in what way, when, and from what source.

A concession can provide satisfaction to the receiver now or later. Maybe the receiver wants to take it all at once or a little at a time. A concession can direct its benefits to the organization, specific parts of the organization, third parties, to the other negotiator on a personal level, or to all of them at once. Make sure your well meaning concession does indeed provide satisfaction — and not doubt, or dissatisfaction. Concessions can move people closer together (raise satisfaction) or move people further apart (decrease satisfaction). Be careful!

Every negotiator has the same role to perform: to raise the present value of future satisfactions for the other person and help the other party reach a decision that will provide satisfaction to both parties.

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