We all wish we were more effective negotiators, both within and outside our organizations. We negotiate daily — at home with our families, at work with our colleagues, our bosses and those we supervise, and with customers and suppliers. And often, when the negotiation has been completed and terms have been agreed upon, we feel dissatisfied or abused.
A successful resolution comes when both parties feel that they have “won” and feel good about the outcome. Negotiations are destined for failure when one or both parties believe that there needs to be a “victor” and a “loser.” Viewing negotiation as a competition in which one party loses and the other wins can have negative long-term effects on the relationship, whether it be with a family member, a co-worker or a customer.
Gregorio Billikopf, in his book “Party-Directed Mediation,” reminds us that it is important to focus on the long-term relationship, not the short-term goal of winning. For example, when an employee builds a strong case to justify an increase in salary, and then the boss gives an increase that is not meaningful, then that employee does not feel valued. The employee’s loyalty and commitment to the organization diminishes.
Lack of loyalty and commitment to the organization can manifest itself in poor performance, absenteeism and job turnover. If the employer is not able to give a significant salary increase, perhaps the employer can show that the employee is valued through other means: time off, paid educational opportunities or potential for advancement.
Billikopf recommends we use “interest-based negotiation” in order to arrive at a suitable outcome for everyone involved. This method of negotiation requires us to step back and take time to better understand the needs of the other party. This type of negotiation takes time, patience, empathy and creativity. Here are a few tips:
1. Before you start the negotiations, know your bottom line. Evaluate all of your options. This will enable you to stay focused on outcomes and not get caught up in the process.
2. Seek to understand the other party’s needs. Use your best listening skills, and allow the other party to speak first and to explain their needs. Repeat back to the person what you thought you heard in order to confirm that you understand. Resist the temptation to interject our opinions and concerns. You will have the chance to express your viewpoints later.
3. Strive to control emotions. Anger is sometimes an expression of fear or a lack of confidence. Sometimes it can stem from not feeling respected or valued. Negative emotions can get in the way of finding creative resolutions to an issue. Don’t threaten, don’t name call, and don’t walk away.
4. Break down bigger issues into smaller ones. Why has the employee asked for a raise? Is it just about money or is the employee looking for a sign that their work is appreciated? Why is a client hesitant to renew a contract? Is it a service issue? Price? System reliability?
5. Maintain integrity. Trust plays an important role in arriving at a successful resolution and in preserving long-term relationships. Will you follow through on your agreement? Are you being totally transparent and honest? It is not wise to walk away from a negotiation feeling that you “took advantage” of the other party.
6. Look for sustainable solutions. Don’t just look for a compromise. Work toward solutions that will have long-term benefits for all parties. This may take patience, preparation and creativity. Be neither the victim nor the aggressor. Keep insisting on working toward a resolution that will meet the needs of all parties, or you may be revisiting the problem again very soon.