Negotiations: Four Steps Toward a More Constructive Approach

By Harvard Business Review
October 20, 2017

Building relationships, learning and collaboration are among the necessities for reaching the often sought but rarely achieved optimal agreement.

Professional negotiators and researchers alike hail the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, or “walk away” outcome) as a negotiator’s primary source of power.

BATNAs, however, are not designed to facilitate relationship building, exploration, creativity or collaboration, all of which most researchers and practitioners agree are necessary to reach the often sought for, but rarely achieved, optimal agreement.

Here are some practical steps to take toward a more constructive approach to negotiations:

Think mutual dependence, not just alternatives: Ascertaining why and how deeply one’s counterparty needs what you’re offering is central when it comes to relative power. You and your counterpart would do well to spend your efforts focusing on the power inherent in your mutual dependence.

RELATED: How to Have a Friendly (But Firm) Negotiation Process

Find power in your context, not your feelings: Power in a negotiation is NOT based on your subjective view of what you have to offer, but rather the objective reality of what you have to offer in relation to the need of the other party. Feelings of power are irrelevant. Focusing on mutual dependence can again be helpful here.

Focus on learning, not buying or selling: Your priorities during a negotiation should be learning as much as possible about the person and entity with which you are dealing and ascertaining as much as possible about their circumstances.

MORE: Find Other Articles Related to Finance for Physician Leaders.

Treat the unknown as a place of hidden potential, not a frightening minefield: Do your research, but don’t feel bound by the limitations of that information. The most emotionally challenging aspect of preparation involves embracing the unknown as a place of potential in the negotiation. The discovery of information on both sides of the table provides opportunities for creative solutions.

Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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