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Practical Negotiation

Practical Negotiation

When learning about negotiating, a great deal is written about strategies and tactics. There are at least ten different strategies that are proposed. Some examples are BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Alternative), Principled negotiation, and Start with No. There are also many books on the market to choose from. One is actually titled, “How to Negotiate Like a Child”. 

The most popular method and the one that is taught by most learned institutions is Principled (or Win/Win) Negotiation. This was originally a book written in the 1990s titled “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard Negotiation Project. It is based on negotiating interests not positions. How you can tell what the other negotiator’s interests are is often unclear. In fact, when “Getting to Yes” is taught, the professors or trainers teaching it often ignore the follow-up book by William Ury, “The Power of the Positive No”.

I believe that a negotiator should be aware of many strategies that might be needed. Planning for a complex negotiation is often necessary. However for most negotiations these strategies, even when prepared, do not seem to be used.

What is overlooked in the literature and does not appear well researched in “Style”. That is what the negotiator brings to the table. When you negotiate, you bring your values, your experience, your language skills, your interpersonal skills, your personality, your knowledge and your culture. These all coalesce into your “Style”.

What most people do not realize is that once a negotiation commences, you forget the complex methodologies that you have studied and learned. Once you sit down and commence discussions, you revert to your natural style. If you are an introvert, you are relatively quiet. If you are an extrovert, you end up doing the talking. Likewise, if you are trusting, you immediately start negotiation presuming you can be relatively open about what is said. If you are normally cautious, again, you will approach negotiation in this manner.

This is why Practical Negotiation is necessary. Practical Negotiation is focused on how you negotiate – your style – not the methodologies used in preparation and in theory. When you sit down to negotiate, what is taking place is more important than what you hoped would take place.

There are many elements that can improve the negotiation but there is no point in proceeding unless you understand the dynamics that take place. Understanding who you are and how you behave in a negotiation are necessary if you are going to succeed. You need to change your behaviour, not your methods.