Business Negotiation October 22, 2015

How to Move a Competitive Negotiation into a Collaborative Mode

Two people get together to iron out differences they wish to reconcile. Before long they inadvertently say or do something that adds distance to the gap separating them...

Two people get together to iron out differences they wish to reconcile. Before long they inadvertently say or do something that adds distance to the gap separating them. Compromise generally serves to bring them closer to agreement but often fails if the gap is large or one of the two has not been tactful in expressing him- or herself.

Settling differences in an oncoming impasse like this can best be accomplished if the parties change their mode of dealing with one another. Each by now is exhausted; they have said all they can about the remaining difference and moved as much as deemed responsible or wise.  Further jousting for concessions seems futile.  A change in strategy is called for.

Collaborative Both-Win® negotiating is the way. The magic of this approach is that it transforms their bargaining attitude from competitiveness to cooperation, from self-centeredness to mutual gain.  The following segues that follow work well in moving a competitive negotiation to one in which joint effort between parties takes center stage.

The “Let’s find a better way for both of us” approach. This approach is simple and direct.  Just to suggest to the other party that a better way for both is available if we look for it together.

The “Ask for something in return” segue. The hidden power of asking for something in return when you make a concession is that it provides negotiating space for further talk and opens previously unexplored avenues for agreement.

The “Ask the other side for help” segue. When in doubt about what to do next or how to bridge the gap or difference, ask the other party to suggest ideas.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how please they will be to help in most cases.  The existing difference may be as unpleasant to them as it is to you. They may know about avenues for potential mutual gain that you are not aware of.

The “Ask higher authority on their side for help.” Experiments confirm that people in authority like to help others when requested to do so in a courteous manner. Often they know more about solving a problem than those at lower levels because they have had experience with such matters already.  Their advice may well become a point for further modification and collaboration with the other side because someone at a higher level in the organization had a role in suggesting it.

The “Krunch” segue is appropriate when you make an offer or concession to the other that they reject with the remark, “You’ll have to do better than that.” This objection, which I call the “Krunch,” is hard to handle, both because it is so general and because it always appears so firm.

The best way to respond is to move the discussion from the general to the specific. “What do I have to do better than?” is a “help me” question that sometimes elicits information useful to further collaboration, especially when the relationship between parties is good.

In my next post, I will give more examples of Both-Win® segues to help move the negotiation toward a collaborative mode.
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