This time of year, there’s lots of negotiating going on. Children asking for better presents, employees negotiating raises and vacation days, and so on. Really, any interaction between two people (other than a simple exchange of facts) is a type of negotiation – from a simple discussion of what to have to dinner to the more complex negotiations of salary, benefits and bonuses involved in a new job offer. Understanding how these interactions work, and how to place yourself in the best possible position, will lead you to more successful outcomes in your own negotiations.
To enhance my own abilities, I attended a conference session entitled “Negotiating Between Parties with Unequal Power”, presented by Beverly A. Caley, JD, CMPP, of Caley-Reidenbach Consulting, LLP. Part of the “High-Performance Freelancing” series, this session focused on individuals who have to negotiate with large organizations.
Probably the most useful take-home message from this session was that knowledge is power. The more prepared you are for a negotiation, and the better you understand the other side, and the better you will be able to respond to the their offers. By deciding ahead of time what you really need to get out the deal, what you want, and what would be nice to have, you can make sure that you get what is most important to you. You can also determine ahead of time what your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BANTA) is, so you know how hard you need to work to come to a successful agreement.
Performing due diligence, or doing background research on other party, you may be able to discern some of their needs, wants, and nice-to-haves. For example, if you know what salaries, bonuses and benefits have been offered to other recent hires at the same company, you will be in a much better position to negotiate your own starting package. (Online social networking sites such as LinkedIn can be a great source of names of recent hires at a particular company.)
A second great idea was that negotiations have a much better chance of success if everyone expects to arrive at a satisfactory agreement. When presented with an option that doesn’t match what you expected or wanted, keep a positive attitude, and answer “Yes, but….” instead of “No”, and telling the other party what you will need to make that proposal work. This small change keeps the negotiation moving forward, and keeps the participants focused on working out the details.
The classic negotiation story is of two chefs who are fighting over a single lemon, and finally to split it in half. Back in their own kitchens, one chef complains about the small amount of juice he can able to get from his half for lemonade, and the other complains about the small amount of rind she was able to get from her half for lemon pie. If they had each been clear about what they needed (juice vs. rind), they could each have had exactly what they wanted.
So next time you are negotiating with someone, take the time to really understand what you, and they, need. If their position doesn’t seem to make sense, put yourself in their shoes and see if you can identify any information gaps or other constraints that might be affecting their position. Hopefully with good preparation and clear communication, you can have both lemonade AND lemon pie.
This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants LLC. Lisa is a scientific communication consultant and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press.