Negotiation is a daily part of owning a small business or working in a non-profit. Whether you’re negotiating a contract with a client, discussing a pay raise with an employee or delegating job tasks within your team, negotiation skills are a valuable asset.
Have you ever been in a negotiation where both sides are locked into a position and stubbornly refuse to see the other side? If so, you’re not alone. A common approach to negotiation is to dig-in to your position in order to get the other party to ‘chicken out’. Alternatively, some people when negotiating will concede important points to the other side in order to preserve the relationship. Neither of these are effective in building long-term solutions.
Why avoid arguing over positions?
These impacts are even further magnified when multiple parties and interests are present.
What can you do instead?
Fisher & Ury (1981) advocate for a four-point strategy to help negotiations move forward from locked-in positions. These strategies will help to put your negotiations on a positive path.
1. People: separate the people from the problem.
Fisher & Ury urge readers to disentangle any personal problems from the substantive issues and if possible, deal with them separately. This can be a difficult task, as people may not be aware of their emotions or how the history of the relationship impacts the negotiation. It may be helpful to consult a conflict coach who can help you identify the emotional aspects of the negotiation for both you and the other party. (Contact us if you’d like to learn more!)
2. Interests: focus on interests, not positions.
When we are negotiating, we want to get away from stated positions and look at the interests that are underlying. For example, when negotiating a salary increase with an employee, they may be stuck on a certain number that you can’t afford to go above. But upon further discussion, you may discover that they are seeking that higher salary because they have unexpected medical costs they need to cover or because they feel as though they are not valued at the company. By finding out what underlies their position, you may be able to find some creative solutions that are mutually agreeable.
3. Options: invent multiple options, looking for mutual gains before deciding what to do.
Where possible, set aside designated time to think of possible solutions that satisfy shared interests and work to reconcile differing or competing interest. The more time you invest to creatively come up with solutions, the more likely you are to find something that is mutually agreeable and sustainable long-term.
4. Criteria: insist that the result be based on some objective standard.
Negotiations can get hung up on who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. By having the agreement reflect some fair standard independent of the will of either negotiator (example: market value, expert opinion or law) you can increase the buy-in of both parties.
Negotiating is a daily part of business. Doing it well can make a big difference for the success of your business or organization. Fisher & Ury offer some helpful strategies for improving your negotiation and finding mutually agreeable, long-term solutions.
If you find that your negotiations are stalled or not progressing the way you’d hoped, reach out and let us know how we can help!
Fisher, R., Ury, W. (1981). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in. Penguin Books.