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By Jennifer Ware
Senior Editor, MindEdge Learning
Negotiating is an attempt to exchange things we have for things we want. People negotiate when they have different interests and need to reach an agreement.
You’ve engaged in countless negotiations in your life, without benefit of any formal training. But there are formal skills you can learn, which will improve your chances of getting what you want or need out of different situations.
Not all negotiations are the same. To get the most out of every negotiation, you need to think carefully about what you want and why you want it. How you approach a negotiation will be largely determined by the relationship you have with the person on the other side of the negotiating table.
If that person is someone you are close to, or with whom you have a valued relationship, you may be more inclined to make sacrifices or explore outcomes that also serve that person’s interests. If you don’t have a close or meaningful relationship with the other party, you may approach the negotiation with a more competitive strategy.
Of course, some negotiation strategies should always be avoided because they are unethical: presenting inaccurate or false information, offering bribes, or issuing threats.
Here are three general approaches to the negotiation process:
When the parties involved in a negotiation have an important relationship that they value, it can be a good idea to explore outcomes where everyone gets what they value most. In such cases, an integrative approach, where the goal is to find a win/win solution, is probably appropriate.
The first step in an integrative negotiation is to identify ways that additional value can be added to the current situation. The idea is that if more value can be identified or created, then both parties may be able to get what they want without making any significant sacrifices.
Integrative negotiations almost always require that the negotiating parties figure out not only what they want out of the negotiation, but why they want those things.
For integrative negotiations to be successful, both parties must be motivated to work collaboratively rather than competitively, and the interests of both parties must be compatible.
Distributive negotiations are used when two (or more) parties are trying to claim the maximum amount of profit or benefit for themselves. The focus is on individual gain—both parties want to get as much as they can and neither is interested in giving the other party what they want. Someone will inevitably lose and someone else will gain as a result. These competitive interactions occur when the interests of the parties are incompatible.
Typically, distributive negotiation works well when the nature of the interaction is short-term and transactional.
Many inexperienced negotiators rely solely on distributive negotiation techniques. They do so either because they believe that competition is the only way to negotiate, or because they assume the other party will take a competitive approach. This is a mistake; you should only select a strategy after you have evaluated the issues completely, have an idea of the strategy the other party will pursue, and have assessed the importance of the negotiation’s outcomes and your relationship with the other party.
Mixed Motive Negotiation
Mixed motive negotiation employs aspects of both the integrative and distributive approaches. The idea is to create additional value so both parties have some of their interests met, but with an understanding that the newly created value might not be enough for everyone to get the same amount, or everything they want.
There is no one way to conduct mixed motive negotiations. The parties may blend tactics from the integrative and distributive negotiation, or they may switch from one strategy to the other.
Mixed motive negotiation is most often used when the parties involved are not sure if their interests are compatible.
[An earlier version of this article ran in the MindEdge Learning Workshop Blog on June 28, 2018.]
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