Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Thinking through when to accommodate and compromise, when to confront and challenge, and how

Posted in book recommendations, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on November 23, 2016

One of the most important and consequential skill sets that anyone can have, and in any social context – business included, is that of negotiating effectively. I have touched upon this point a number of times in this blog, mostly referring readers to a set of books that I have found useful for the details. I have found value in them in my own business practice and life, and have referred them to others, and do so again here:

• Ury, William. (1991) Getting to Yes: negotiating agreement without giving in. Penguin Books.
• Ury, William. (1993) Getting Past No: negotiating in difficult situations. Bantam Books.
• Ury, William. (1997) The Power of Positive No: how to say no and still get to yes. Random House.

As I just said, I usually leave the details of a discussion on how to negotiate better, to William Ury and his books. And I refer you to them for their discussion of best alternatives to negotiated agreements, and taking a more objective, less emotionally driven approach – and particularly when you and anyone you are attempting to negotiate with would see reason to be emotionally involved there. I usually refer to negotiations in general terms here, and to how they fit into and support larger initiatives, and without discussing how to negotiate in that. But I find myself breaking away from that pattern and that editorial decision here, with an explicitly how-to posting on negotiations best practices. And I do so because of recent experience where I found myself having to negotiate a path through very contentious issues, that definitely had the other party emotionally engaged.

Sometimes the best path forward when negotiating is to accommodate and compromise, and to raise points and demands that you can comfortably give on, in exchange for others that you would find more critically necessary to you. But sometimes you best path forward has to include direct confrontation too, and even direct challenge – and certainly if you find yourself negotiating with a party that sees any concession as a sign of weakness.

I am writing here about negotiating with people who would not read or agree with any book, or any approach to negotiations for that matter, that suggested that mutual agreement does not have to mean one side simply surrendering.

Uri in fact addresses the challenge of negotiating with people who do not actually want to negotiate, and certainly as anything like an equal in these interchanges. Ultimately, that is where the issues of and need for having a best alternative to negotiated agreements (a BATNA in Uri’s terminology) enters this narrative – a clear idea as to how to best proceed in meeting your needs and requirements if negotiations break down and fail outright and no agreement can be reached.

I am writing here about knowing your options and possibilities and I am writing here about setting and really understanding goals and priorities – and particularly about thinking through and knowing your priorities. And I am writing about knowing when you have to state that certainly points cannot be negotiated – that they are in fact ones that you would find essential, and that you understand that those who you are negotiating with have some set points that they cannot negotiate away from either. Then, negotiations mean “here is what I absolutely need. What do you absolutely need and what of this overall set of issues can we compromise on so both of us get our essentials agreed to?

Be ready to explain why your non-negotiables are in fact fixed points that you cannot simply set aside and give on. And be ready to offer compromise points that would specifically limit any down-side, that those on the other side of the negotiating table would face from agreeing to your key must-have points.

This means really understanding what the other side really wants and why, and what they can give on. Among other things, knowing the people you would negotiate with and what they could given on, can mean your knowing how best to present what you can’t given on in ways that fit into what they can. That is one of the most important points that I could make in this posting and it is a key take-away lesson from it.

• Frame and present your non-negotiables that you cannot give on, in terms of the points that the other side of the table can give on.

I am offering this thought piece as a brief note of a posting, but the points that I raise here can be very important, and certainly when you face negotiations that are not going to be simple or straightforward. Simple and straightforward, I add, are the rare exception when negotiating so the points that I raise here should always be at least prepared for – just as best alternatives to negotiated agreements should be.

You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.


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