The seven elements of principled negotiation stem from the book "Getting to Yes," written by Roger Fisher and William Ury. The book highlights the benefits of principled negotiation, which is different from positional negotiation. While positional negotiation works on the basis of attempting to get the other side to accept your point of view, principled negotiation starts from the assumption that both sides have things that they want to accomplish and that a solution can be found that helps both sides to achieve their goals. Here are the steps in principled negotiation.
Understand Common Interests
The first step of a principled negotiation is to understand that both you and the other side have a certain set of interests, which is why both of you are at the negotiating table. Although you should know your own interests, understanding what the other side wants or needs will help you to leverage that knowledge to reach your desired outcome.
Weigh Different Options
Although you may have a preferred solution, there are likely a number of different outcomes that will work for you and for the other side. Find as many of them as possible and figure out which outcome is best. Remember to look at them from the other side's perspective to make sure that they are suitable. Creativity is a useful skill in finding additional options in a negotiation.
Find Best Alternatives
Fisher and Ury talk about a "BATNA", which is a "best alternative to a negotiated agreement." Do not go into a negotiation without having a "Plan B" – a way to get some semblance of what you need without going through a negotiation. Once you have a Plan B or BATNA, you can negotiate from a greater position of strength because you are able to compare any negotiated solution to it and leave the negotiation if it is not better than your alternative.
Legitimacy and Reasonableness
Success in negotiation depends, to a large extent, on your ability to persuade the other side to, at least to some extent, see the matter your way. One way to do this is to have legitimate standards that you can use to show the other party that you are being reasonable. Preparing these standards before you sit down at the negotiating table will give you the persuasive ammunition you need.
Communication and Active Listening
Know what you need to tell the other side and, equally important, how you need to tell it to them. This could include everything from how you talk to whether you use notes or slides. Although your communication style may vary based on the other side's style, there is one crucial basic skill that can help you to communicate effectively.
You should engage in active listening and demonstrate your listening by periodically restating what the other side says through the use of clarifying questions. An example of this would be if you were to say, "If I heard you correctly, you need to close this transaction by the end of the year no matter what. Is that correct?"
Engage in Reasonable, Principled Negotiation
The adage that people do business with people they like holds true in negotiation. Engaging in reasonable, principled negotiation will help to maintain a good relationship with the other side's negotiator. As that relationship grows in strength, you will be better able to negotiate with this person based on the store of goodwill that has been built.
Commitments to Negotiate
Obviously, a successful negotiation closes with both sides committing to act on the negotiated settlement. However, commitments are important throughout a negotiation and start with the simple commitment to negotiate. As the sides work together to commit on the time and place of the negotiation, the manner of it and who can do what in the negotiation, they build positive momentum toward a final settlement.
- "Getting to Yes"; Roger Fisher and William Ury; 1981
- Legal Vision: 7 Negotiation Elements We Can Learn From Harvard
- Harvard: Program on Negotiation
Solomon Poretsky has been writing since 1996 and has been published in a number of trade publications including the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." He holds a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, from Columbia University and has extensive experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology.