This past week I was once again reminded of how crucial negotiation skills are to running a business. Whether you are talking to clients, vendors or employees, you will often find yourself in a position where you must negotiate over something. Whether it is over a multi-million vendor contract, the price of an hour’s consulting or the rent for your new location, having the skills to come to a conclusion that is advantageous for all is fundamental to an entrepreneur, business owner or executive.
This past week, I listened to the story of a person preparing for a difficult negotiation and was reminded of the book, Getting to Yes*. In particular, I was reminded of a chapter titled, “What if They Won’t Play?” in which the authors take up the situation of negotiating with someone that is staking out an unequivocal position, and does not want to budge. Here is what the author’s suggest.
In a situation where the other negotiating party has taken a hard line, Fisher and Ury suggest three possible approaches: first, attempt to center on what you can do, then focus on what they can do, and finally, focus on what a third party can do.
The first approach is referred to by the authors as the Principled Approach. Central to this approach is to separate the people from the problem, In particular, take care not to attack their position, nor to become defensive if they attack yours. Rather, focus on each party’s interests, and if necessary invent options that can lead to mutual gain. The last component of this approach is to use objective criteria to judge the value of any proposal.
The second approach, which Fisher and Ury dub the “Jujitsu” approach, involves using leverage rather than brute force. As with the martial arts, the key is not to defend yourself by trying to blunt the attack. Rather, deflect the attack away from you by focusing the attack on the problem. In doing so, you refuse to respond or react to criticism or anger, thereby defusing the attack.
When you are stuck in “positional bargaining” that is each side has a position and does not want to move, the authors suggest using a third party to work through the impasse. A mediator may be able to separate the people form the problem, and help to invent a solution to the impasse that neither side can see clearly.
Although it was published in 1977, I feel that Getting to Yes remains one of the best books on negotiation on the market. I encourage you to give it a read, and if you have read it before, a second time through wouldn’t hurt!
* Getting to Yes. Fisher and Ury. Penguin Books,New York,NY. 1983.