Zen and the Art of Negotiation

It is always worth recalibrating yourself regarding your approach to negotiation on a regular basis.  Regular negotiation training is a useful way to do this but a simple period of introspection can deliver the same value.  This was brought home to me recently when someone re-told the ‘Story of the Orange’ and how it describes the difference between ‘Positional’ and ‘Interests’ negotiation strategies.  For those that need reminding, the story goes something like this:

Jenny and Jimmy are arguing about who should get the last orange.  The ‘negotiation’ was being conducted on a ‘Win/Lose’ basis where one of them was going to miss out.  Each presented their ‘Position’ as being the only acceptable solution, ie “I get the orange”.  Even if they bring in an arbitrator (Mum) the result from a positional negotiation strategy is either Win/Lose, Lose/Win, or if the arbitrator pulls rang, Lose/Lose.

If Jenny and Jimmy were to adopt an ‘Interests’ based strategy we might find that Jenny was looking for the zest for a cake she was baking while Jimmy was interested in the pulp to eat.  Tackling the task of what to do with the last orange from an ‘interests’ point of view can therefore deliver a Win/Win solution that is closed to those adopting a ‘positional’ approach.  Even if the arbitrator dictates a half each solution, the participants only get 50% of what they were looking for.

The power of this simple story is that it conveys a complex idea in an easily understood way.  It also provides a catalyst for your ‘thinking about negotiation’ quiet time.  During this time you can pose questions to yourself such as:

  1. Did I really get to understand who the other party was & what they were looking for?
  2. Did I communicate clearly to them what I was looking for from the negotiation?

*These questions are loosely based on the ideas of Professor Stuart Diamond author of “Getting More”

While there are a range of approaches with multiple stages, most of which start quite correctly with planning, they don’t necessarily promote self-awareness and introspection as a key step.  This is unfortunate because one of the unsung skills of good negotiators is situational awareness.  If you are too focused on your process of negotiation you might very well miss the important cues that are being sent out to help you answer Question 1.

So take the time to sit back and reflect on recent negotiations; could you have done a better job answering the two questions above?  Are there other questions you should be asking yourself?  Finally, do you conduct a personal ‘debrief’ at the conclusion of a negotiation?  Disciplined self-reflection is one of the tools of continuous improvement contained within the PDCA cycle which is often missed.

If you need help developing your interests based negotiation strategies or setting up negotiation debriefing processes, don’t hesitate to get in touch at andrew.downard@adsupplychain.com.au or call +61 (0)419 581 705.

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