I had the great pleasure of studying Strategic Negotiation Skills at Pepperdine’s Straus Institute with Dr. Randolph Lowry and John Lowry, both of Lipscomb University last weekend. Although I have been mediating for more than a decade, I had never indulged myself in 20 hours of advanced Negotiation training and it was enlightening! Here is a tidbit of what I learned. In negotiation, every move has both a substantive and a symbolic value.
In a simulation exercise, the X move was seen as a more aggressive, competitive move, which consistently won the individual more points–unless everyone played an X move, in which case you had more to lose than to win. The Y move was seen as “safe” and more collaborative, but risked being vulnerable to being taken advantage of by the X negotiating partner. In the end, there was some reciprocity and some messaging that came from each move. The negotiation proved to be a necessary balancing between how to win the most points and how not to lose. Per Dr. Lowry, “You can’t be a Y card player in an X card game”. The other take away from this exercise was that people naturally interpret ambiguous instructions differently.
The game was called “Win as much as you can”, but was played in teams of 4. Was the objective to pit each of us against the others in our group or to collectively win the most points for our group as any other? None of this made much sense to me when I read about it prior to playing the game and analyzing the results. So I can leave you with this advice: Strategic Negotiators have studied Negotiation or engage mediators who can assist them in developing a strategy that will bring value to you and your clients. And a few days along the Coast in Malibu at the beginning of the summer is well worthwhile too.