IMAGINE you want to negotiate and you have no clue about what, with whom and where and when to start…

IMAGINE you want to negotiate and you have no seat at the table…

IMAGINE you want to negotiate and the parameters, rules and goal posts are constantly changing…

We could continue this daunting list and you would become increasingly irritated.

If we move beyond the assumption that a negotiation aims to achieve something better, a successful negotiator needs to be able to distinguish the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ of a negotiation in order to make an informed decision about what steps to take first and how to prioritise them.

If we asked you to operate a new machine or fly a plane you may ask for a few lessons first. Ironically, in our experience, we find that most people will plunge straight into a negotiation employing their instincts and thinking that their primitive reactions represent the height of sophisticated methodology. Using instinct as the only resource is like gambling at the casino with the outcome of a negotiation.

Successful Negotiation

The difference between a successful and a less successful or even failed negotiation lies in effective preparation and a well-managed process, ideally by a negotiation expert who coaches you through the tough negotiation ride. As involved parties we are hindered in our resourcefulness having to remain centred and in control by our emotions, thoughts, and biases. Let’s face it, we all want the best deal for ourselves. And that’s OK. How do we get there?

Creating Value

Negotiation in its purest and most effective form is about claiming value in a non-positional way. This is the contribution of mediation which describes a process to resolving a positional dispute focussing on rapport building and exploration to help the parties move from positions to interests. It is about creating value – baking a bigger and richer pie.

Claiming Value

Having created a bigger pie, we eventually have to distribute it. We call that the ‘Bargaining phase’ within a mediation. That’s the moment when it can all go wrong if not managed well. When it comes to distribution, we tend to fall back into tribal behaviour, become positional, feel scarce and choose competition over collaboration. Whereas ‘mediation’ sounds nice and clean, ‘negotiation’ has the dodgy connotation of manipulation, a whiff of having to give up or fight, of losing and winning or be left with an unsatisfactory compromise. We’re facing our EGOs, worst nightmares and fears.

Enjoying your value

When preparing well – having a negotiation agenda, knowing your BATNAS and WATNAS, your weak and your strong points, your risks, your trade-offs, having an idea who the other stakeholders are and what they might want – you have a real chance to achieve the best outcome for yourself and others without having to become a negotiation villain. You can enjoy the value you created through constructive negotiation behaviour.

We end this blog with a quote of a famous statesman who himself had to lead on some tough negotiations, ‘Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.’ (John F Kennedy, UN General Assembly, 25 September 1961)

To learn to more on preparation, read our Negotiating in the Moment blog

Susanne Schuler is a qualified lawyer and an accredited mediator in the U.K., Germany and Switzerland. She has been working in the dispute resolution field since mid of 1990’s and has facilitated more than 100 mediation processes in recent years. Her clients mainly originate from the corporate world but community and divorce mediation also form part of Susanne’s dispute resolution work. Professional Background.