Using Principled Negotiation

Principled Negotiation

Principled negotiation is an interest-based approach that focuses on conflict management and resolution over getting the best possible deal. It comes from the ideas of Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton, who spearheaded the push for conflict resolution outside of positional bargaining. Negotiators rely on the underlying interests of the parties involved to determine how to resolve the dispute in the best possible way for both parties involved, creating an integrative environment.

By shifting the focus on interests and understanding the basic needs of the two parties, principled negotiation allows the parties to approach conflict resolution with an open mind. This differs from distributive bargaining, which focuses on dividing the pie between the parties rather than finding ways to leave both sides in the best position.

In positional bargaining, the parties feel entitled to recover as much as possible from their goal and focus only on winning over finding mutually beneficial options, which leads to win-lose or lose-lose situations. Distributive bargaining will often result in frustrated parties who do not wish to continue with the negotiation process. This article will look at how integrative negotiation can help invent options for mutual benefit.

The Elements of Principled Negotiation

To better understand how principled negotiation can impact the overall outcome of a negotiated settlement, it is important to consider the four elements of principled negotiation. When negotiators use these elements in their work, they can find wise outcomes and common interests to create a win-win situation.

People are Not the Problem

The first element of principled negotiation is the shift in focus to the problems over the people presenting them. Often, when we are competing against someone or see things from a different point of view, it can be easy to demonize the other party or believe that they are a bad person. This will result in a heated battle over personality issues and can end in injured relationships.

Instead, principled negotiation encourages either side to separate the person from the problem they are presenting. This means that you treat each party’s concerns with care while not associating the problem with the person. This can create a better understanding among the people and uphold long-term relationships among participants.

Focus on Interests

Principled negotiation also encourages participants to look more at the underlying interests, not positions. When negotiators are stuck between two firm positions, they will likely not be able to make any progress toward the goals that they have and it leaves little room for negotiations to move forward. By using negotiation skills to identify the interests that are driving the positions, negotiators can find more options for resolution and continue negotiating with each other.

For example, if two department heads are struggling to divide the new business acquired by the firm among them. As they negotiate, one party notices that the other one wants a certain account because they have a good working relationship with the client on another account. While negotiating, the first department head may give that account to the other for that head to continue building long-term relationships while asking for more in return.

Generate Alternative Options for Mutual Gain

When people negotiate with one specific goal, it creates a greater risk of disappointment with the result of the negotiation. Principled negotiation elements include creating various options for the sides to reach an agreement to help them find a way toward mutual gain. This means that the first agreement the negotiators identify should not be the final agreement between them. When you generate various options, there are ways to create a solution that benefits everyone.

Use Only Objective Criteria

When people are negotiating from interests, there is room for strong emotions to impact the way that they participate in the negotiations. Principled negotiation encourages the participants to insist on using objective criteria to justify their requests or demands. Objective criteria include industry protocol, independent standards of conduct or business, expert opinion, and market value, among many others to support the requests. For example, the department heads above may claim that they are best suited for a client based on a history of drumming up a business deal for them every month.

Negotiation Strategies for Principled Negotiation

In addition to the elements of principled negotiation, there are negotiation skills that can help to implement the practice within your own negotiation practice. These skills help identify interests and create more options to add value to the suggestions that you bring forward. Implementing some of these skills will ensure that you create the best deal for yourself and the other party.

Active Listening

Active listening is a large part of identifying interests and steering a negotiation toward the goals you have in mind. This skill requires that you listen to the other side when they are speaking instead of preparing for what you would like to say next. It may also include paraphrasing what the other side has said to ensure that you understand where they are coming from. By thoroughly listening to what they are saying, you may catch information that you may have missed if you were only listening to some of what they said or preparing your rebuttal.

Know Your Best Alternative

Another concept that is important in principled negotiation is knowing your best alternative to a settlement through negotiation. This helps you know where your line is and whether the options generated in the negotiation are better or worse than where you would be if you do not find an agreement.

Final Thoughts

Principled negotiation helps you find solutions that work for both sides. Next time you find yourself in a negotiation, focusing on these principles may help you find the best solution for everyone.

To learn more about principled negotiation, interest-based negotiation, and more, contact ADR Times today!

Emily Holland
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