Business Negotiation December 24, 2015

Approaches to Consider as Closure Draws Near

Closure, even after considerable give and take, is often difficult to attain. There are always some issues not adequately discussed and matter not quite settled. Yet, after a period of time, most of what can be said has been said over and over again by both parties and a general understanding exists. Both know that if would be better if every point were nailed down but are apprehensive that by doing so they might undo the settlement that is so close at hand. As closure draws near, there are approaches designed to help negotiators nudge talks to agreement. One approach is with physical actions that nudge talks to agreement.

At the moment of closure, a negotiator has to make a difficult decision. Unless what has been offered is very attractive, he or she is left to choose “the bird at hand or the two that may be in the bush.” There comes a time in the bargaining process where little can be gained by further talk. Everything that can be said has been said more than once. Both have made it as clear as they can that further concessions are not possible or probable. Collaboration has been tried and found wanting. It seems useless to spend more time on reaching agreement. The agreement reached is good enough or all that can be achieved. Yet talks drone on. What can be done?

Some actions can be taken to move the indecisive party toward decision. I’ve seen people take a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue from their desk and propose a toast to the not-quite-hatched agreement. A good Cuban cigar serves the same purpose and is a favorite of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. Taking the initiative by summarizing the agreement on a laptop computer or even the act of borrowing a sheet of paper and jotting down a draft of points in common can move both parties toward “Yes.” Sometimes it’s best to say, “Let’s celebrate by going to a really good restaurant for lunch. All this talk has me starving.”

When further talk seems likely to be unproductive, a pleasant physical action can facilitate a cordial close.

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