Sunday, April 26, 2009


Negotiation is really the ultimate expression of communication skills. It is the real test of one’s skill at influencing, managing relationships, and openly discussing different perspectives. Just think of the skills that a Police or Government negotiator must have to create safety and trust; to recognize behaviors that signal the underlying reasons for differing points of view; to be able to influence another (sometimes irrational) individual to reconsider their current course and adopt a new one.

Most of us will never be involved in such a high-risk negotiation, but we will all want to be able to handle those that are important to us well. I will talk a bit about negotiations over the next few weeks.

When we talk about a negotiation, we are talking about resolving differences. Perhaps you have something that is of value to me (a boat) and I have something that is of value to you (money). How do you get me to see that the value of the boat is equal to a certain amount of money?

Before we go into that, let’s talk about the two kinds of negotiations: Distributive and Integrative.

Distributive negotiations are those in which there is a fixed amount of value to be distributed between the negotiating parties. In my boat example, there is the boat and the money. How those things get divided between the two parties is all that is involved. The person with the boat wants to get top dollar and the person with the money wants to pay the lowest price. This a potential win-lose if I overpay (or underpay) for the boat. These kinds of negotiations are usually conducted when there is no thought of a long term relationship between parties. Our interests are opposed (everything I “give up” to you, is something I lose). My motivation is individual gain.

Integrative negotiations are those in which there are opportunities to create (integrate) new kinds of value into the equation. As you might expect, these kinds of negotiations are usually conducted when there is a probability of a long term relationship between parties, our interests are different but not necessarily opposed and we are motivated by group gain.

Let’s say I liked the boat, and was willing to pay your price for it but had no place to store it at the moment - couldn’t take delivery. Then you (the boat owner) would have some choices – another way you could create value and make the deal more attractive. You could offer to store the boat (at a charge or no charge) until I could take delivery. Let’s also say I had never actually owned a boat before. You could, for a charge or no charge) offer to help me get acquainted with some of the maintenance chores associated with a boat.

Finding new ways to create value in a negotiation is the way to transform win-lose into win-win.

Next time we’ll talk about the 4 things you HAVE to know before you start negotiating.

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