Using current negotiation models, people feel they are giving up more than they want in exchange for receiving less than they deserve. As part of standard practice, negotiation partners going into a negotiation calculate their bottom line – what they are willing to give up, and what they are willing to accept – and then fight, argue, cajole, or threaten when their parameters aren’t met. People have been killed for this. But there is another way.
In 1997, Bill Ury (author of Getting to Yes) and I had to read each other’s books (my book was Selling with Integrity) in preparation for working together for KPMG. A week before our introductory lunch meeting, I read his book where BATNA – Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement – originated, marked the areas I disagreed with in red, and sent the marked book back to Bill.
There was a lot of red: his book teaches how to get what you want (potentially win-lose) rather than how everyone can walk away satisfied (win-win) and I was quite pointed in my annoyance with win-lose. The next day I realized what an ass I was and called him, telling him not to open my envelope and I’d explain all when we met. But he had already received, reviewed, and agreed with my corrections!
We had a long chat comparing our models, concluding with a very interesting discussion about the different outcomes between a win-win and a win-lose negotiation. And net net, he agreed with me and we worked with KPMG using a win-win model.
Win-lose is an incongruity. Using benchmarks for ethics and integrity, if one person loses, everyone loses – hence there is only win-win or lose-lose. Yet in the typical negotiation process it’s hard to find a win when the ‘things’ being bartered are not ‘things’ at all but representations of unconscious, subjective beliefs and personal values without either negotiation partner understanding the underlying values these items represent to the other: i.e. a house in the country might represent a lifetime goal to one person, and just a place to live to another; a $1,000,000 settlement might illustrate payback for a lost, hard-won reputation to one person, and extortion to another.
It’s possible to take a negotiation beyond the ‘things’ being bartered, away from the personal and chunk up to find mutually shared values agreeable to both – and then find ‘things’ that represent them. So it might be initially hard to agree who should get ‘the house’, but it might be possible to agree that it’s important everyone needs a safe place to live.
FOCUS ON SHARED VALUES FIRST
- enter the negotiation with a list of somewhat generic high-level values that are of foundational importance, such as Being Safe; Fair Compensation;
- share lists and see where there is agreement. Where there is no agreement, continue chunking up higher until a set of mutually comfortable criteria are found. A chunk up from Fair Compensation might be ‘Compensation that Values Employees‘;
- list several possible equivalents that match each agreeable criterion. So once Compensation that Values Employees is agreed upon during a salary negotiation, each partner should offer several different ways it could be achieved, such as a higher salary, or extra holidays, or increased paid training days, or a highly sought-after office, or higher royalties;
- continue working backward – from agreement with high-level, foundational criteria, down to the details and choices that might fulfill that goal, with all parties in agreement. The more time you spend getting agreement on foundational criteria, the easier it will be to get into agreement.
Discussions over high level values are often more generic, and far less likely to set off tempers than arguments over ‘things’: if nothing else, it’s easier for negotiation partners to listen to each other without getting defensive. And once values are attended to and people feel heard they become more flexible in the ‘things’ they are willing to barter: once Compensation that Values Employees is agreed to, it’s possible to creatively design several choices for an employee to feel fairly valued without an employer stretching a tight budget.
Think about negotiations as a way to enhance relationships rather than a compromise situation or a way for someone to win. There is nothing to be won when someone loses.