Strategy: Planning Is Critical
the past quarter century, a great deal of effort and scholarship
has been devoted to developing negotiation theory and practice
to move beyond competitive negotiation and toward real problem
solving. With problem solving, or interest-based bargaining,
parties look at their underlying interests rather than merely
asserting positions and demands. Together they search for
solutions to meet those underlying interests while making
concessions consistent with their own needs and concerns.
do this, negotiators must recognize that needs and interests
frequently differ, and reflect different values, concerns,
and motives. These differences allow the negotiation to
become an inquiry to find differing needs and the solutions
that will satisfy them. While problem-solving negotiation
often deals with money, as most negotiations do, it can
become one element of a solution that has many other aspects.
Negotiation is a side-by-side dialogue where parties can
trade on their differences, rather than a battle over a
usually a mistake to approach negotiation as a casual encounter
without much forethought. Such sessions are likely to become
reactive and meandering meetings rather than being proactive
with specific goals in mind. Lack of planning often appears
at the negotiating table as too much reliance on demands
and ineffective attempts to persuade the opponent. Good
planning, based on the five strategies below, can provide
a negotiator with the direction needed to do effective problem
solving at the negotiation table.
on Priority Interests and Rank Them
make the most of the negotiating sessions, each party should
initially decide upon its goals for the session. What interests
underlie the current demands that have been made? Is it
only money? Is it a continuing relationship or an enhanced
business relationship with the other side? Is it a resolution
of this matter, which may be disrupting other business?
Is it recognition of the validity of one’s claims
or status? Or is it the harm caused by the other side? After
identifying its goals, each party should determine the priorities
of these items. Negotiation is, after all, a matter of both
parties conceding and reaching a solution. The key to interest-based
concessions is to trade items of less importance in order
to secure items of more importance.
the Other Side’s Priorities
party to a negotiation should spend some time in the other
party’s shoes, imagining what the other side might
really want to achieve. The more one can understand the
values, needs, and issues from the other side’s perspective,
the better the chance of guessing at what they might want
as their priority needs.
is beneficial to make such guesses, because human imagination,
when considering the reality of the other side’s position,
can lead to creative thinking about possible solutions outside
of purely monetary exchanges. Educated guessing can lead
to ways to meet both parties’ most important needs
in a way that both sides win. For example, consider a client
who is upset with an actual mistake made by a firm’s
junior accountant that cost the client $5,000. What does
this client really want? Most likely it wants to be made
whole, and that typically assumes a present outlay of $5,000.
But what might be equally important to this client is an
explanation and an apology. One solution option might be
an explanation of how the mistake occurred, coupled with
a promise that only a senior associate will treat the client’s
affairs in the future, as well as a year of free service
worth $2,500, plus a present payment of $2,500. This solution
can salvage the business relationship, shows good faith
in acknowledging the mistake of a junior associate, and
limits monetary outlays in the long run.
may not always lead to the right answers. Even so, this
analysis can identify potential nonmonetary solutions and
get the ball rolling during the negotiations. Offering creative
solutions can also set a tone of exploration, and avoid
the tough dynamics associated with more rigid positional
Represents Other Needs
often forgotten that money is a substitute for many other
genuine human needs. Lawsuits offer a limited solution set
of either money or preliminary injunctions or declarations,
such as ordering a person to perform a certain obligation.
When negotiating, there is the potential to explore exactly
what the money means to the other side and then look for
ways to satisfy those needs more productively. Does the
money represent psychological or psychic satisfaction for
mistreatment or being wronged? Would a public pronouncement,
or changes that would help avoid the problem in the future,
be useful? Does the money represent peace of mind? Does
the money represent revenge or proof that the claimant was
in the right? Would a public clearing of its reputation
outside the box about why a person is claiming specific
monetary recovery can offer options that meet both sides’
needs more productively. If that option doesn’t work,
an invitation to the other side for suggestions might reveal
what they really want and establish a problem-solving focus.
Factual Inquiries Carefully
plan for a specific and fruitful information inquiry during
the early stages of the negotiation usually arises after
analyzing the other side’s possible underlying interests
and priorities, and options that might satisfy them. The
best negotiators spend time asking questions, staying curious,
and uncovering the other side’s views of the situation,
facts, interests, and priorities. The information-acquisition
phase can confirm some of the planning analysis or reveal
new data. Of course, having two skilled negotiators will
help ensure that each side is securing this type of data.
They use and respect the norm of reciprocity: If information
is shared by one side, that side should receive the information
it requests. Naturally, negotiators will always be wary
about revealing detrimental information, to avoid being
taken advantage of by the opposing side. But as reciprocity
is respected, two negotiators can develop a trust that allows
for better information flow.
best deals can arise from solid information sharing. It
paves the way for creating viable solution options. It also
creates a tone between negotiators that focuses on problem
solving rather than positional bargaining.
Money Moves Based on Objective Principles
will almost always arise as a component of the negotiated
solution. Consequently, the better the monetary issues are
handled, the better the outcome.
first move of any negotiation sets the tone for the entire
process. Studies have shown that, among negotiators resolving
the same problem, the first negotiator to make the more
ambitious offer or demand for money that does not undersell
its claims and leaves room for concessions will get a superior
result. Nonetheless, a reasonably balanced offer or demand
will help avoid the possibility of a conflict spiral that
may result when a negotiator makes outlandish demands. A
reasonable offer is more likely to be appealing to the other
side, and will induce more reasonable counteroffers in return.
This first move, and all others, should be supported by
the most objective rationale that can be found. It’s
hard to fight reason, and the better a demand is supported,
the more difficult it is to counter. Then again, principled
reasoning facilitates the cordial tone of the negotiation
and advances the search for a viable, fair solution.
technique for the money phase of the negotiation is to establish
a formula, rationale, or framework whose principles will
enlighten monetary issues. Once the formula is agreed upon,
its application is far easier than engaging in the give-and-take
of even an objectively justified negotiation dance. Nonetheless,
the debate about the appropriate formula usually rests on
differing values, and that alone often becomes a negotiation.
For example, a business valuation conducted according to
acceptable accounting principles may be the goal, but the
specific valuation formula might become an area for discussion
and negotiation. But once an agreement is reached, the money
issue often falls into place quickly. While planned money
moves might be changed during the negotiation based on information
discovered therein, forethought will provide a better guide
to making those adjustments than will an off-the-cuff decision.
planning for negotiation can lead to better confidence at
the table and a plan of action for uncovering factual data,
interests, and priorities that can be used to craft the
best solution possible.
Cronin-Harris is an attorney and alternative dispute
resolution specialist. She is senior consultant to the CPR
Institute for Dispute Resolution and a lecturer at Columbia