I got inspired today and decided to share some thoughts on negotiations. I do not remember going to any type of training about negotiation skills, so everything below is conclusions of my personal experience and things that I learned over time. So it’s highly probable, that you already know all of that.
In my past, I worked as a Business Analyst for several years. People were rather satisfied with the results and style of my work. Retrospectively, it is a surprise for me, because I’m not an expert in business analysis. I do not know many tools or methods and I know multiple people that are better skilled and more passionate about business analysis than I have ever been. I started wondering why the feedback I received was so positive. Finally, I figured out that what helped me was the way I negotiate with people.
Compromise is bad
I’m not talking about negotiating a price – I hate that type of negotiations! It’s a synonym of a compromise for me. I think it was around 15 years ago when I attended a PMP training and our tutor opened my eyes that compromise is the worst possible result of negotiations. Since then I try hard to avoid it at all cost.
I’m thinking about principled negotiations. Google it, there are multiple articles on it and a few really good books e.g. “Getting to yes” by Roger Fisher. The goal of such negotiations is that you try to avoid giving up on what you want (the same does the other party) and focus on finding a solution that satisfies both sides of the dispute. I love it, because it’s so creative! And the results are astonishing! I won’t bore you with the details of it. If you want to know more read the book I mentioned above or find more materials on the Internet. Instead, I will give you two hints from my own experience.
Give up sometimes. In some cases, finding a solution which is satisfying for both sides takes time. Sometimes you might not have enough of it, to work it through. So if you can live with it and it won’t cost you that much, just give up and let the other side win. Do not compromise, because then both sides lose. Turn on long term thinking: you give something up this time, the other side will see that you value her/his priorities. There is a huge probability that in the future they will do the same for you. That’s how many people work – if you give them something, they will want to give you something back. Not everyone will do that, unfortunately, but still, I believe it is worth the risk. I treat it as some kind of trade-off and on many occasions, trade-offs will help you achieve your ultimate goals.
Speak openly. Take the risk and be the first one to open yourself up. In case of principled negotiations, the key is to understand what the other side wants to achieve, because then you have a better chance to find a solution that satisfies everyone. The problem is that people learn from the very beginning to withhold their true goal because they feel it weakens their position in bargain type negotiations. To solve that problem, you need to be the first one who says what you want to achieve and why. Yes, it is risky, but it works, because then the other person starts to trust you and opens up as well.
Not so long ago I went to a meeting to agree on how to solve a problem. I knew that my solution is not acceptable for the other party and the solution proposed by the other person is not acceptable for me. I think it was the third or the fourth sentence that one of us said that we won’t find a solution and that we need to go to the company’s board to decide. It hit me at that moment, that we both work for the same company and most probably we both want what’s best for it, so there must be a better solution. I took a deep breath, risked and said honestly and openly what I wanted to achieve and why. 10 minutes later we left the room smiling and happy with the solution we worked out.
So, as you can see this is not a principled negotiation skills course but perhaps one day you will find these hints useful.