January 5, 2024

Non-Negotiable Positions

Nonnegotiable positions are an inevitable part of business negotiations. You will find yourself on both sides of them. Nonnegotiable positions are inherently neither good or bad. However, when a person encounters a nonnegotiable stand for the first time, the common reaction is to get angry and lash back.

Are nonnegotiable positions negotiable? Do they serve a purpose at the bargaining table? The answer to both questions is Yes.

Nonnegotiable positions are appropriate under some circumstances. They serve to lower the expectations of the other party. They can also help make the other party more willing to compromise rather than risk a serious confrontation. However, you should not make something nonnegotiable unless you have considered the cost of deadlock, the degree of mutual dependence between the parties, potential backlash, face-saving needs, and your ability to support and defend your position.

Sometimes nonnegotiable positions are so extreme that compromise appears virtually impossible. At stake may be deep-rooted values or policies that are of an ethical, religious, professional, or economic nature. The introduction of such a position creates hostility. A nonnegotiable position is dangerous for the party making it. It can so inflame the other party that deadlock becomes inevitable on all issues.

Is there room for taking such positions in your negotiations? Of course there is. It happens every day.

"We cannot reveal our costs."

"We will not give you our design secrets."

"We cannot reduce the price because government regulations prohibit us from doing so."

"We will not permit your people to interfere with our management decisions."

These positions may or may not be nonnegotiable, but they sure sound like it to the inexperienced negotiator.

The following countermeasures will help you keep emotions under control even when deeply held values are threatened:

  1. Conduct "off-the-record" talks to diffuse the hostility and gain a better understanding of the other party's position.
  2. Explain why the demands are nonnegotiable. Sometimes the best concession you can give is simply a good explanation.
  3. Be prepared to discuss the issues that are negotiable. Agreement here may soften the "nonnegotiable" positions of the other party.
  4. Don't panic—remember all of the tools you have to use from the Effective Negotiating Seminar.
  5. Don't be afraid to use your strength—with discretion.

Approach something that appears to be nonnegotiable with a cool head, complete information, and a through understanding of the organizational and personal issues surrounding the position. When challenging a nonnegotiable position, you must provide sufficient time for acceptance of your arguments. This will help soften the nonnegotiable position. In my experience, most nonnegotiable positions turn out to be somewhat negotiable.

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PROCUREMENT at AMERICAN EXPRESS

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INTERNATIONAL SOURCING at FMC TECHNOLOGIES

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