When we show up at the negotiation table, whether for an interview, arbitration, mediation, transition, deal, even quite frankly for a first date, we are taught to come armed with our “Must Haves” and “Deal Breakers.” We are never instructed to come prepared with our “Would Be Nices.” These are the areas, concepts and items for which we might be willing to settle. The grey area where there is some give and take; a bit of wiggle room. Where we would be willing to meet in the middle, some space to bend, but where we will not break.
Often negotiations break down or go south at this point. This is the point where one is left scrambling, stammering and often compromises their position. This is the point in the story when we give our power away!
Was there a place instead where we would have bent but not broken? Where we would be willing to give an inch but not a foot? Was there a middle ground where we could still feel victorious and have reached a compromise without stepping beyond our boundaries?
That my friends, lies in intimately becoming acquainted with your “Would Be Nices,” and this should happen long before you enter the negotiation table.
Furthermore, when entering into a negotiation it is critical to have a clear understanding of the strengths, weaknesses and environment of your opponents. That is of course if you want to win! If you are dealing with seasoned negotiators they will have done the same. Negotiation on your home turf will give you the advantage of familiarity. This is not always possible so come prepared by doing your homework. What is the atmosphere, culture, attitude, and dress code at the site of the negotiation? Sticking out like a sore thumb will not help you win.
Next, work through scenarios for addressing possible weaknesses. Practice playing to your strengths. Preparation is key to showing confidence in the throes of a debate.
Knowing before you go is always crucial. The more you learn about your opponent prior to a negotiation the more success will be yours! Remember that underneath the issues, ideas, items and possessions you are negotiating (fighting) over are people. Understanding why these issues, ideas, items and possessions are SO important to them in the first place will give you the upper hand. You will win!
What is really going on here? Dialing down even deeper, why are these things important in the first place? Often it is not based on rhyme, reason, or often reality for that matter. We hold on to what is important to us because we do. We are willing to fight, debate, go to bat, go to war, break up families; all to hold on to our stance of what we feel is right, or rightfully ours. Look for those meanings and the behind the scene stories of your opponents. Remember to keep yourself in check here too. Ask yourself how important this really is to the big picture before trying to move mountains? Frankly, negotiate for what makes sense.
Above all I like to be assertive not aggressive. I liken myself to “Silk Wrapped around Steel.” Soft on the outside to psyche out my opponent and maintain a calm civility; yet strong on the inside, not willing to compromise beyond my beliefs, values and ideals.
I think of effective negotiation as the “Power of Edge.” I compare myself to a seasoned fisherman possessing an imaginary fishing rod. I envision myself standing at the edge of the ocean. I have surveyed the climate. Secured the best bait. I know how much fish I need to survive. Patiently I wait until the timing and climate are right. I cast my line in what I believe is the perfect spot.
In the end; nevertheless, I am prepared, ready, willing and able to accept any and all outcomes.