!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Negotiating the Ground Rules for Negotiation

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Negotiating the Ground Rules for Negotiation

As a follow-up to yesterday's post concerning how to handle people who lie when negotiating, here's a reminder of what Roger Fisher and William Ury have to say on the subject of dirty tricks in their classic book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.

In Chapter 8, "What If They Use Dirty Tricks? (Taming the Hard Bargainer)," Fisher and Ury argue that the key is to resisting dirty tricks is to negotiate fair ground rules.

There are various types of dirty tricks the other party can try:
  • Deliberate deception: phony facts (e.g., claiming that a used car has never been in an accident when that's not true), ambiguous authority to conclude a deal (so that it can turn out late in the game that the other party has to "see my manager for approval"), dubious intentions to follow through on the negotiated agreement (e.g., promising to make child support payments without actually intending to do so).

  • Psychological warfare, i.e., tactics that make you uncomfortable so that you're inclined to hurry through the negotiation: stressful situations (e.g., a room that is too hot or cold), personal attacks (e.g., making you wait past the appointed time for the meeting to start), good-cop/bad-cop routine, threats.

  • Positional pressure tactics, i.e., tactics "designed to structure the situation so that only one side can effectively make concessions": refusal to negotiate and/or insistance on preconditions, extreme demands, escalating demands (e.g., reopening issues that you thought had already been settled), lock-in tactics (e.g., a union leader making a public commitment to achieving a 10% pay raise for union members), falling back on a hardhearted partner (e.g., a spouse who supposedly won't go along with a proposed deal), a calculated delay, "take it or leave it."
Fisher and Ury lay out three steps for negotiating ground rules. When the other party seems to be using a dirty trick:
  1. Recognize the tactic.

  2. Raise the issue explicitly.

  3. Question the tactic's legitimacy and desirability, and negotiate to arrive at fair rules.
For the last step, Fisher and Ury prescribe the same method as for the negotiation proper, namely:
  • Separate the people from the problem. Avoid making the other side defensive because this may impede resolving the problem.

  • Focus on interests, not positions. Inquire about why the other side is using the tactic in question.

  • Invent options for mutual gain. Suggest an alternate approach that helps both sides.

  • Insist on using objective criteria. "Frame the principle behind each tactic as a proposed 'rule' for the game. 'Shall we alternate spilling coffee on one another day by day?' As a last resort turn to your BATNA (your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) and walk out."
As their closing thought, Fisher and Ury say, "Don't be a victim." Be firm in seeking agreement to ground rules consistent with good faith bargaining.