For some people, negotiating is sheer misery. They’re concerned with failing to achieve their goal, or alienating the other party… or both. And yet, negotiation happens every day. Whether we’re selling products or services, purchasing supplies, negotiating salary and job requirements, obtaining internal resources for project support, or even agreeing on household chores.
Unfortunately, the negotiation process can quickly become combative when one or both parties are focused solely on getting the upper hand and winning at the expense of the other. Rejection of another’s proposal can easily cause hurt feelings or result in a power struggle that leads to a stalemate.
In many negotiation relationships, the two parties find themselves working together on a regular basis; for example, co-workers in the same company, or vendor and client. So in the interest of maintaining a good relationship, many negotiators seek to arrive at a compromise, calling it a win-win. But is it really? When both sides make concessions, neither achieves their objective.
Collaboration based on mutual interest allows each party to obtain the high value concession and goals they desire without conflict. One key to this approach is taking the time to ask the right questions in order to fully understand the other party’s true interests or desire.
Let’s consider a scenario where two sisters each want the same orange, and in an effort to compromise, they cut the orange in half. One sister peels her half, eats the orange and throws away the rind. The other sister peels her half, grates the rind into a mixing bowl and throws away the fruit.
Clearly, each sister could have achieved 100 percent of their objective without compromise if they had approached the situation from a standpoint of clarifying mutual interest. The idea is to give low cost concessions that may have high value to the other party. And likewise, to gain what may be of high value, but at relatively low cost to the other.
A true “win-win” negotiation requires open communication, creative thinking and a willingness to collaborate. With proper training, skill and practice, mutual victory can be achieved.