Accommodate, Create.....Negotiate

The idea of the tough negotiator is well established in the folklore (mythology?) of business. The clever use of persuasion techniques and other "tricks", is all part of that story. Unfortunately, the story isn't quite so simple.

It assumes that negotiating really is a so-called "zero-sum game" - I win, you lose, in equal amounts, because the total amount of value to be gained is fixed. Obviously, we need to protect our own and our organisation's interests, but we don't always know the total amount available at the start of discussions. Only by talking with the other person(s) in the transaction (see "Shakespeare...." 25 February 2014) can we find out what else might be on offer. In other words, instead of only competing over a certain sized "pie", we might be able to create a bigger one; in economics it's called reaching the Pareto Efficient Frontier or, in more conventional language, a win-win situation, where both sides achieve higher absolute amounts of value for themselves.

There are some useful things we can say to set that process in motion. We hear "yes, but" on many occasions, but comments can be more constructive and accommodating, especially if we clearly identify the point we want to make, e.g.:
- "Can we just park X and also think about the following (Y and Z)?"
- "I think there's more to this - can we come back to what you said about X"?
- "If you can help me on X, I may be able to help you on Y"

There are many such phrases and, in any situation requiring specific communication skills (meeting, presenting, as well as negotiating), choice of language is important. It's like chess - no one wants to be beaten by a robot.


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