Both sides can win argument

You're a negotiator whether you know it or not. You discuss a raise with your boss, a deadline date with your employee and a reasonable curfew with your teenager. Everyone wants to participate in decisions that affect them; fewer and fewer people will accept decisions dictated by someone else.

In fact, training programs that teach negotiating techniques are cropping up in many companies across the country. According to several recent surveys, it is one of the skills managers are trying to improve to position themselves for promotion, since authoritarian rule has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Because of this, you may be interested in a gem of a book, "Getting To Yes - Negotiation Agreement Without Giving In." It was written by two men who participate in the Harvard Negotiation Project, a research project that tackles negotiation problems and develops improved methods of negotiation and mediation for critical events such as the Middle East peace talks at Camp David in 1978.

Don't be intimidated by the fact that scholars at Harvard, MIT and Tufts developed the theory behind the book. It is short, sweet and easy reading. This technique can be applied to any interpersonal interaction to arrive at creative, workable solutions everyone can live with. Not bad.

The authors, Roger Fisher and William Ury, maintain that most people rely on "positional bargaining" to get what they want. Each side takes a position, argues for it, and makes concessions to reach a compromise.

The problem with positional bargaining is that the more you defend it against attack, the more committed you become to it, and the less attention you devote to the real underlying concerns of the parties.

It's like the two sisters who fight over an orange that both need for a recipe. In the end, they cut it in half only to find that one needed the juice and the other only needed the peel. Here are the key ideas that the authors outline:

·        Separate the people from the problem. Every good negotiator has two kinds of interests: an agreement that satisfies his or her needs and the maintenance of the relationship with the other side. In most cases, the relationship is an ongoing one and much more important than the actual outcome of the negotiation itself.

·        Focus on interests, not on positions. Unlike the two sisters, search for the "why" behind the problem. Make it clear that you are not asking for justification of his or her position but for an understanding of the needs, hopes, fears, or desires that it serves.

If you are trying to change a person's mind, the starting point is to figure out where that mind is set. Try to find out why the other party has not accepted your decision - what interests are in the way.

·        Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do. As valuable as it is to have many options, people involved in a negotiation rarely sense a need for them. In a dispute, people usually believe that they know the right answer - theirs.

The approach is to invent options without judging them, search for mutual gains, and invent ways to make their decisions easy.

·        Insist that the result be based on some objective standard. This does not mean insisting that the terms be based on the standard you select, but that some fair standard such as market value, expert opinion, custom or law determine the outcome. By discussing the criteria rather than what you will or will not do, neither party needs to "give in."

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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