I came across a 2009 blog the other day written by Anthony K. Tjan for the Harvard Business Review. It contains 4 simple rules for effective negotiations; reading through them- I found them to be old friends; rules that I have discussed before in my blogs:

• 1. Be prepared. Mr. Tjan suggests that each party does her homework before the negotiations even begin by evaluating not only her own needs and interests but those of each other party as well. Look at the issues from the other person’s perspective- you will be amazed at what you see; it is truly an “ah hah” moment.

• 2. Negotiating against yourself. During the negotiation, do not negotiate against yourself. Do not give in on your initial points too easily or too early in the process. Often times, a party does not have all of the information needed during the early stages of mediation and learns things as the process proceeds. Such new information causes a change in position. So… wait until you learn new information before conceding points.

• 3. Impasse. In almost all of my mediations, there comes a point when neither party is willing to move any further aka impasse. DO NOT GIVE UP. Rather, take a few moments, take a break and think “outside of the box”; think about other things and whether there is something tangentially related that may add value. For example, if the parties are stuck at two very different monetary values, perhaps there is something of a non monetary nature that will add value. In my “lemon law” cases, it may be including an extended service contract or a “supervised” repair that may get the parties over the hump of impasse.

• 4. Closing the deal. Mr. Tjan offers some excellent advice: never be the party to be the one that walks away from the deal; let the other party make that move. So many times, I have had one party tell me that “X” is the last and final demand while the other party tells me that “Y” is her last and final offer. I tell one party to sit tight while I go talk to the other party and lo and behold, the other party is willing to move a little and, in response, the first party is willing to move a little bit as well… and before I know it, the parties have a deal. Neither the offer nor the demand was truly the “last and final.” Patience is the key as well as not being the one to walk away. By playing “chicken”, you may just end up with a deal!

I know I may sound like a broken record as I have discussed each of these points several times before- but they are invaluable and make the difference between resolving a dispute and continuing the acrimony.

…. Just something to think about.

by Phyllis G. Pollack

Phyllis G. Pollack is a full time neutral in Los Angeles where, as President of PGP Mediation, she focuses on business, real estate, contract and “lemon law” disputes. She may be reached at Phone: 213-630-8810 / phyllis@pgpmediation.com / Website: www.pgpmediation.com