How to Have a Friendly (But Firm) Negotiation Process

By Harvard Business Review
July 25, 2017

Here’s how to negotiate in order to produce a lasting relationship and an outcome that works for you.

We all want it both ways: to get what we want from a tough negotiation and to walk away with our relationship intact. The good news is that kind of outcome is possible. 

Make small talk. Chitchat can often provide crucial information about the other side’s interests that might help you later. It also helps establish a rapport, and sometimes even trust.

Don’t try to buy love. When an important business relationship is on the line, there’s a tendency to cave to the other side’s demands in order to avoid tension or confrontation. But conceding on price or substance because you don’t want to upset the other party is a losing scenario, even if you think you’ve temporarily saved the relationship. Instead, push back respectfully, that way you needn’t be seen as combative.

Be creative. Try dropping the word “concession” from your thinking, because it often helps to create a confrontational and antagonistic mindset. Instead, approach it as an act of joint problem-solving: What are the critical issues at hand, what are my interests and their interests, and what are some possible options

Stress “we” over “I." Highlight what you have in common. Using “we” rather than “I” signals to the other side that there are areas of agreement and that you envision a future working together.

Ask questions and listen. Great negotiators don’t simply present their demands; they ask careful questions designed to better understand the other side’s interests.

Walk in the other person’s shoes. Don’t assume that the other side’s positions are deliberate acts of provocation; they may have pressures of their own that aren’t immediately apparent. Preparation here can be very helpful. You may already know that the other side is under pressure because of supply issues or new leadership. Try to see the issue from their eyes.

Adapted from “How to Negotiate Nicely Without Being a Pushover,” at HBR.org.  

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