Some Important Points re Prenegotiation Preparation
Rex C. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Note: much of this is adapted from Lewicki, et al (2007). Essentials Of Negotiation

  1. * "Other things being equal, the negotiator who plans better does better."
    * "On the surface, the drama and theatrics of face-to-face confrontation can easily create the impression that negotiation success lies in persuasiveness, eloquence, clever maneuvers, and occasional histrionics. Although these tactics make the process interesting, the foundation for successful negotiation is the planning that takes place prior to the actual interaction process."
    * "Many negotiators are poor planners!"

  2. It is important to prepare and plan as well as you can: "If you don't know where you're going, you might wind up somewhere else!" (Yogi Berra)
    However, you have to work with the situation as your negotiation proceeds: "Plans get you into things, but you got to work your way out." (Will Rogers, Jr.)

  3. It is important to develop your negotiation strategy in advance, including various alternatives and tactics that may be appropriate as the negotiation proceeds. This requires a thorough understanding of negotiation strategy options and the major positive and negative aspects of various strategies. Savage, et al. (1989) proposed a set of five fundamental choices that is exactly parallel to the five conflict response modes of Thomas and Kilmann (1974) that we considered earlier:

    * This negotiation strategy choice diagram is conflict response diagram we used earlier, with different axis labels: Importance of Relational Outcome horizontally and Importance of Substantive Outcome vertically

    * Avoiding is non-negotiation, by definition. However, it may be an appropriate strategy in situations such as:
    • All your needs and interests can be met without negotiating
    • There are one or more acceptable alternatives to a negotiated agreement
    • Your negotiating position is very weak and your BATNA is likely to be better than the outcome of negotiating
    • Neither the substantive nor relational outcomes are very important to you
    • The desired ends are not worth the often-considerable time and effort of negotiation

    * Accommodating may be a good strategy option when such considerations as these are present:
    • The relational outcome is more important to you than the substantive outcome
    • There is a major goal of building or strengthening the relationship with the other side
    • You are willing to make a sacrifice in substantive outcome
    • There is a need for multiple negotiation episodes (which leads to the expectation that both parties will maintain some sort of balance, with some accommodations)

    * Competing is a win-lose strategy, the mirror image of accommodating. It is appropriate when there is an overpowering interest in achieving substantive outcomes, with little or no regard for the effect on the relationship.

    * Compromising should be seen as a settlement between the win-lose extremes of "I get" and "they get." However, it often represents a possibly-too-easy and premature end to the negotiation process.

    * Collaborating becomes the preferred option when both substance and relationship are important (and there is sufficient time available). Too often, collaboration is confused with compromise. Collaboration involves thorough and rigorous preparation, communication, creativity, and understanding to develop agreements that maximize joint gains.

  4. In practice, you often will use various strategies during a negotiation, just as you may use various conflict response modes during a single conflict. Many factors can enter into the selection of negotiating strategies, including: goals, context, relationships and amount of trust, previous history and outcomes, processes to be used, principles and standards, and assumptions. Remember that we talked earlier about four different types of goals: Content, Relational, Identity, and Process.

  5. Key elements in effective planning for a negotiation:
    • Define your interests (don't confuse with positions)
    • Define issues (usually are hidden ones, in addition to conspicuous ones)
    • Assemble issues and define the bargaining mix (a larger bargaining mix takes longer to negotiate, but opens up more opportunities for collaborative solutions)
    • Consult with your team and constituencies (and the other side, when appropriate)
    • Analyze the other party (gather information and make sense of it)
    • Prioritize interests and issues (your own and the others')
    • Set goals, target points, resistance points (understand and identify your own limits, recognizing trade-offs...)
    • Identify your BATNAs, possibly develop more and/or better ones
    • Develop starting points and supporting arguments (do your homework - research and organize information)

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Last modified June 26, 2010 Copyright 1998-2010 Rex Mitchell