Negotiating Without Giving In

We all negotiate every day, whether in our private lives or at work. In fact for some of us, negotiation is a key part of what we do. Improving our negotiation skills will therefore have a positive impact on our effectiveness.

One inexpensive way of improving this key skill is by reading and learning from accomplished negotiators. One of them is Roger Fisher formally of Harvard Law School and one of the authors of “Getting to Yes”.

What is the best way to settle a difference; to reach an agreement without giving in? According to Fisher and Ury, an effective negotiation method developed at Harvard is the principled negotiation method, which is hard on merits and soft on people.

The principled negotiation method is based on 4 basic points:

1. Separate the people from the problem. Deal with the people as human beings and with the problem on its own merit. Therefore allow the other party to save face by reconciling the agreement with values you both hold and with the self-image of the negotiators.

2. Focus on interests not positions because it is interests that drive the positions. Ask yourself what are the main drivers (interests) behind this position? What does the other party really want? There could be multiple interests and the most powerful are basic human needs such as security, economic well-being and control over one’s life.

3. Generate several possibilities before deciding what to do. To generate creative options you should create the options first, then judge them later. Next, broaden the options on the table rather than look for a single answer, then look for mutual gains and invent ways of making the other party’s decisions easier.

4. Finally, you should insist on objective criteria that will be applied to all the options. Objective criteria should be independent of each sides will and should be practical. Agree on the criteria before considering the terms of the final agreement.

Negotiation is not easy and you need plenty of practice to become good at it. “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury will show you how but it is up to you to put the method into practice and reap the benefits that will surely come.

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