“Getting To Yes – Negotiating Agreements Without Giving In” (2011, Penguin, R.Fisher and W.Ury)
Critically, interests differ to positions – a position is what a party wants whereas an interest is why. For example, if you completed a project outside work hours you may be negotiating with your boss to take time in lieu. Your position is straightforward – take time in lieu. But your interest might be for a number of reasons. Maybe you wish to take leave to go on a holiday you booked earlier in the year or you need to schedule medical appointments. Understanding a party’s interests are key to integrative negotiation. When fixated on positions, it’s easy for parties to attack and defend positions. Asking ‘why’ opens up a collaborative environment and increases the chance of a mutually beneficial outcome. Interests can also play a role in distributive negotiations. They enable you to generate arguments or counter offers depending on the other party’s response. Understanding the other party’s interests can then be a powerful negotiation tool.
Roger Fisher and William Ury and Bruce Patton also developed the concept of BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). This concept refers to the best alternative that we can possibly have when facing a negotiated agreement. It is important to note that the alternative isn’t just one option more, but rather a way to satisfy our interests in the event that we cannot do so in the negotiation. Interests allow you to measure your alternatives to the agreement and paint a picture of your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) and worst alternative to a negotiated agreement (WATNA). Ideally, you should not negotiate for anything less than your BATNA. This isn’t always possible and understanding your alternatives – as well as the other party’s – will be determinative in a successful negotiation
In a negotiation, relationships can help determine how fixed your stance is on certain positions, how aggressive you can be on certain issues, and what negotiation approach you can take. Before engaging in a negotiation, you should always ask: how important is the relationship with the other party to me; will I ever see the other party again; is my / my organization’s reputation important? You may choose to negotiate harder if you don’t care what the other party thinks. Further, even if you don’t interact with this party again, you may consider your reputation if they are part of a particular industry or market in which you work or operate.
Options are the different combination of outcomes possible. They differ from alternatives, which explore what happens if you cannot reach an agreement. For example, when you were negotiating to buy your first car, an alternative might be to buy from another dealer or buy a second-hand car online. An option might be that you pay a little extra for aluminium tyres and roadside warranty. When you have reached this element of a negotiation, it means you are progressing towards reaching an outcome. However, be mindful that discussing options is intended as a brainstorming exercise. It’s not a signal for taking offers or making concessions. The idea is that you create options first, and evaluate them second. Discussing options can empower both parties as they have a say in resolving the issues. So take care to avoid expressing judgment or drawing conclusions too early.
How do you substantiate the fairness of your offer? How do prove that your counter-party’s offer is unfair? You need some objective standard of fairness for the claims made and not just something that you have discussed at the negotiating table. For example, if the car dealer offered to let you finance the vehicle, how do you know the interest they are charging is reasonable? A legitimate offer would be comparable to a market rate. Legitimacy not only solidifies your offers, but it can weaken the other party.
Communication is an obvious element that is part of all negotiations. It goes beyond voicing your position and your offer. It also involves listening, the tone of your voice and even body gestures and movements. Here are some easy communication tips to remember:
- Ask open-ended questions to gather as much information as you can
- Listen mindfully (this means putting your phone away from sight), and
- Think carefully about your non-verbal signals as well as what you say
Remember, you want to know more than just what the other party is offering or their positions. An effective negotiator will be able to communicate and speak about interests.
The final element of negotiations is ensuring that there is a commitment by both parties. Commitment is two-pronged. Firstly, you want to ensure that the outcome that you have agreed to is realistic. Secondly, both parties must be able to uphold their end of the bargain. Where these outcomes are non-existent, it is likely that the parties will have to negotiate their deals again. To ensure that there is the requisite commitment, some key questions to consider at the beginning of the negotiation might be:
- What kind of commitment can I expect at any future negotiations?
- What is the other party’s level of authority?
- How authorized is the other party?
For example, if the car dealer was only an associate and had to get the paperwork signed off by the principal salesman, then it is likely that they cannot fulfill all their promises. Asking these questions before you negotiate can save you the time and hassle of having to renegotiate with the person with actual authority and commitment responsibilities.