Chapter 2: The World's Shortest Negotiation Course (930 Words)

"Success does not depend on luck. It depends on forethought."

-- Wo Fat, Hawaii 5-0

They have what you want. You have what they want. You decide to discuss the matter and come up with things you can do for them and them for you so you can both get what you want.

There are three steps to this short-course:

Step 1: Establish Criteria.

Step 2: Probe for Information.

Step 3: Reach for Compromise.

Before any of these steps can be effectively followed it is important that each side develop enough trust in the other so there can be an open dialogue.

Step 1: Establish Criteria

You must start the negotiation by openly discussing what each side needs from the other and what getting those things will do for the other side.

In summary:

They tell you what they really want.

You tell them what you are prepared to do, enabling both of you to get what you want.

My favorite method for doing this is to use some form of the Magic Wand technique. When talking about what they really want I usually ask, "If you were to wave a magic wand and make everything exactly the way you want it, what would that be like for you?" Listen carefully for the answer.

There is often a difference between what people say they want and what will actually solve their needs. A wife may say she wants to go to dinner when she really wants to spend time with her husband.

So the key is to begin finding out what the person really wants.

After having established the criteria, proceed to step two.

Step 2: Probe for Information

Victor Kiam was right when he commented, "Information is a negotiator's greatest weapon." Information collection is the most crucial part of the negotiation process. You must not jump to conclusions or make assumptions (see OFS Process). You must simply ask questions and listen to their needs.

In this step you are looking for the reasons behind the demands.

The best time to collect information is long before negotiations begin. A later chapter is devoted to information collection. However, the following method does work if enough trust has been established.

To narrow down what the other side really wants ask questions like these:

"What are you hoping this 'X' will do for you?"

"If you have 'X' how will that solve your problem?"

What people say they want may not be what they really need. The key issues are underlying in the following examples:

1. A man asking his boss for a raise may really need better health coverage because his wife has cancer. He wants the money to pay for medical expenses.

2. A child demanding he be allowed to go to a concert may really want more autonomy in life and the concert is irrelevant. He is sick of his father controlling his life.

3. A wife may want more attention from her husband rather than simply needing to go out to dinner.

Do not proceed to Step 3, Reach for Compromise, until you understand what the other side really needs. You simply cannot meet needs if you do not know what they are.

Step 3: Reach for Compromise

The "Trade-off" Strategy

When reaching a compromise each side is going to trade what they have for what they want. Whenever possible try to trade things that are of low value to you for things that are of high value to the other side.

When using the "If I Do That for You, What Will You Do for Me?" strategy all you do is ask for something in return from the other side every time you make a concession of some type to them.

Consider the following responses to the examples in Step 2:

Employee Needs a Raise Example.

"You know, Tom, if I can make it possible for your health coverage to cover all your medical expenses what will you do for me?"

Child More Autonomy Example

"You know, son, I do recognize you are 15 years old now and need more autonomy. If I give you more autonomy so you can do what you want, what can you do to help increase my trust in you so I do not need to worry about you?"

Wife Needs Attention Example

"You know, sweetie, I want to give you more attention. I have this project due at work on Monday morning. You are very important to me. If we go to dinner and a movie tonight, what will you do to help me get ready for the presentation for Monday?"

Just Say 'No'

We do not always need to negotiate just because an opportunity to negotiate presents itself. We don't have to negotiate with terrorists, our children, with a taxi driver, or with jerks. We negotiate to meet our needs. If our needs will not be met by negotiating then why negotiate?

Quick Course Summary

Step One: Find Needs.

Step Two: Dig Deeper for Real Needs.

Step Three: Reach a Compromise trading what you have for their real needs while reaching your own.

Be certain to use the Trade-Off Strategy ("If I do that for you what will you do for me?")

Dr. Brent Lundell has a PhD focusing on negotiation and has published a real world book entitled "Reality Negotiation." He acts as a consultant on negotiation as well as conducts on-site seminars on that topic.

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