Everyday Negotiation Preparations
Come with alternatives: Never enter a negotiation without having an alternative in mind that you can accept. Options spare you from buckling too quickly if your first choice is rejected, and it saves you from appearing desperate.
Research precedents: Be ready to report on past agreements; this approach will strengthen your hand.
Discover interests: Try to find out your opposite’s true interests. Often he or she will purposely cloak them, knowing that such intelligence bolsters your position. For example, if you knew your opponent had to meet a deadline, you could use that information to trade for something you wanted.
If the other party reveals what’s behind his or her demands, you may be able to skip over adversarial negotiations and quickly come to a win-win agreement.
Hypothesize: Since in most cases both you and the other party will be cautious about revealing information that will give the other side a leg up, consider using hypothetical scenarios to create a comfortable atmosphere. For example, ask, “What if you needed the delivery by…” or “If price wasn’t an issue, what would be?”
Probe: If you learn that price isn’t the only issue blocking the agreement, ask for more information about the other concerns. With that extra information, you may be able to come to a compromise.
Ask questions: In many instances you could consider responding to questions with a question. For example, if a prospective employee asks what salary you’re offering, respond with, “What salary range were you thinking of?” That’s another way to get your opposite to reveal more than he or she originally planned—giving you a small, but significant, advantage.
STANLEY ZAROWIN is a freelance writer in Zionsville, Indiana. Mr. Zarowin retired from the JofA in 2003. His e-mail address is email@example.com .