Even before taking her lunch break, Helen has had to cope with many negotiations. Some seem trivial, some are minor but irritating, and others are important to her career or personal success.
These situations and similar ones we all face daily are important to consider for four reasons.
First, we care about the results. We care because we have one or more goals that we hope to accomplish, and our goals often conflict with other people’s goals. The traffic cop wants to meet his quota for tickets, but we want to minimize travel time and cost. Our boss wants a quick, forced solution to a problem, but we have to
live with our associates afterward, so preserving our relationships is more important. If people openly shared all their goals, they might be more easily achieved. And, in fact, as we will soon see, aligning our goals is a useful negotiating strategy in contexts where collaboration is feasible and important. But we will also see that openly sharing goals can be a wasteful, even damaging, strategy in other situations.
Second, in negotiation, we have emotional as well as rational goals. This is perfectly natural, since negotiation is a human activity, and humans are both rational and emotional. When we let our emotions take over and drive the negotiations without recognizing them or planning how to offset them with tough rational thinking, we are bound to negotiate out of control. All of us have said things we wished we hadn’t, or fired off an angry e-mail that
we wished we could call back through cyberspace. Emotional outbursts can be extremely damaging in negotiation—but emotions can also be very powerful and critical to winning a point. It takes a carefully planned strategy to prevent passions or gut instincts from spoiling the outcome.
Third, our rational and emotional goals lead us to work with the other party to pursue specific outcomes in the negotiation. The outcome is the result of the way that the parties resolve conflicts in their broader goals; it is what they agree to do as a result of their discussions. The outcome may be more supportive of our goals;
it may favor the other but be very disappointing to us; it may actually be neutral; or it may favor neither of us. The outcome is the traditional focus of negotiators, and therefore it is helpful to keep it in context, but only as one of the four main concerns of strategic negotiation.
Fourth, we often have a relationship with the other people involved in the negotiation. All negotiations affect the relationship in which they occur, and the importance of the relationship with that other party must therefore be considered carefully in the development of any negotiating strategy. Thus, we might negotiate differently if we are buying a used car from a dealer lot, from a neighbor down the street, or from our aging grandmother who
has decided it is time to stop driving. The critical idea to keep in mind is that the more important it is to maintain a good relationship, the more likely it is that we may make sacrifices on pursuing the desired outcome. While we might negotiate aggressively with the used car dealer, we might give Grandma more than the car is worth just to please her. Helen accepted a negative outcome in some of her negotiations because she wished to maintain a good
relationship with that person; for example, she didn’t poke Jim and tell him to turn off the alarm clock.
Many people plan and execute negotiation strategies without considering their impact on the key relationship. If your relationship with the other party is one you value and want to keep strong by maintaining open communications, high trust, and positive feelings, be careful what you do.
These four concerns are the cornerstones of a careful, planned approach to negotiation
Like Helen, we all face many negotiations in which there are important goals we need to try to achieve. Some are tangible: money, time, materials, and so on. Others are intangible: establishing a broader principle, maintaining a precedent, or looking strong and tough to other people. Based on these tangible and
intangible goals, we formulate a few specific desired outcomes— which, if we negotiate well, we may actually manage to accomplish.
Add up what’s at stake in many negotiations, and you’ve got a collection of goals, desired outcomes, and relationships that need tending to and thinking about—every day, and both at home and at work. It is imperative to recognize that your goals, desired outcomes, and relationships will not sort themselves out without your careful attention. You need to negotiate. And you need to become a skilled negotiator in order to accomplish your bigger-picture
goals, such as forming and maintaining healthy personal and business relationships, achieving outstanding business results, and advancing your career.
This, then, is the negotiation imperative: recognize the many times each day you have to negotiate and influence others. In doing so, treat these as opportunities to advance your personal goals, help your business prosper, and build stronger supportive relationships in a widening business and professional network.
At the beginning of this chapter, we compared negotiating to breathing and said that it was a natural part of social interaction; nobody can avoid it, and most of us do it unconsciously. That’s true as far as it goes, but the comparison is flawed in one respect: unlike breathing, we are not born with an innate knowledge of how to negotiate well.
People spend much of their childhood learning to negotiate.
We are convinced that negotiation begins when a baby learns to get a caregiver’s attention—to be fed, to have a diaper changed, or just to be picked up and cuddled. Young children learn how to get their needs met from parents. They learn how to share with sisters and brothers. Some learn to be bullies, some learn to be passive, and
some learn how to work out differences so that each party benefits.
Parents, teachers, and older siblings serve as role models who may or may not be experts themselves. We don’t get formal instruction in the art and science of negotiating when in school, although parents and teachers give us a lot of informal guidance on how to get along and play well with others. Eventually most of us piece
together a patchy, partial understanding of negotiating, usually related to a preferred approach to handling conflict (more about this later). But we usually never question the adequacy or completeness of this approach until we are not meeting our goals and the approach is not successful at getting us the outcomes we want.
Some people compare negotiating to the martial arts, because there are so many who try but so few who achieve mastery. This is a helpful comparison in its own way, because it reminds us that there is much to learn and much need of practice if we hope to be
Be clear about your goals.
Be aware of emotional goals.
Specify desired outcomes that are consistent with goals.
Pay attention to the importance of the relationship with the other party.
able to master exceptional negotiating skills. Learning to negotiate well requires constant practice and a consistent willingness to step back, examine how things were done effectively and ineffectively, and specify improvements that need to be made in the next negotiation.
But negotiation is not a martial art; it’s a social art, and it is not always (or even usually) practiced to inflict damage on the other side. Part of the negotiation imperative is the necessity of conducting negotiations that are constructive, not destructive. Great negotiators create great solutions, and it’s always harder to create than to destroy. Whether you are negotiating to win against a tough competitor or to engineer a friendly collaboration with a coworker
or family member, your goal is always to create a constructive solution that moves everyone ahead and truly resolves the conflict.
In this book, we take a productive, well-managed approach to negotiations—both the occasional formal ones and the far more frequent informal negotiations that fill our days and affect the quality of our lives and work. This approach suggests that first, we must clarify our goals and the goals of those with whom we must negotiate. Second, it means substituting a careful, rational plan for the impulsive, emotion-based approach we often tend to take to
such situations. And third, it means optimizing outcomes, or relationships—or if you are really good, optimizing both.