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The most common form of negotiation involves successively taking on and giving up positions. Positional bargaining is an inefficient means of reaching to an agreement and the agreements usually neglect the interest of the parties involved. It encourages stubbornness and so tends to harm the relationship between both the parties. A good agreement is one which is efficient, wise, fair and lasting. Wise agreements improve the relationship by satisfying the interests of both the parties. Principled negotiations provide a better way of reaching to an efficient and wise agreement.
The process of principled negotiation can be used effectively on almost any type of dispute and the four principles are:
Differences on perception, emotions and communication are the major sources of people problems. People don’t communicate clearly and they mix their emotions with the issues and their side’s positions. So separating the people from the problem will be helpful in addressing the issues without damaging the relationship. Each of the parties must allow the other side to express their emotions. Each side should try to make proposals which would be appealing to the other side. Each party should employ active listening and avoid blaming or attacking the other.
When the problems are defined in terms of the underlying interests, it is always possible to find a solution which satisfies both the parties. Identifying the underlying interests that led the parties to adopt their positions is the first step. Once after both the parties have identified their interests they must discuss them together and both parties should pay attention to the other side’s interest and take those into account and remain open to different proposals or positions.
Making a decision in the presence of your adversary narrows your vision and deciding an optimal solution while under pressure is relatively harder. To offset these barriers it is important to separate the invention process from the evaluation stage. Brainstorming for all possible solutions focusing on shared interests of both the parties in an informal atmosphere will help to overcome obstacles to generate options that creatively settle differences. Each side should try to make proposals that are appealing to the other side.
Some negotiators can get what they want simply by being stubborn. Objective criteria can be used to resolve the differences when interests of both the parties are directly opposed. Objective criteria should independent of each side’s mere desires and both legitimate and practical. Unbiased standards such as market value, expert opinion, scientific findings, professional standards, legal precedent etc… are the sources of objective criteria. Each party must keep an open mind and the issue should be approached as a shared search for objective criteria.
Negotiators try to protect themselves from a bad outcome or poor agreement is by establishing a worst acceptable outcome, or “bottom line,” to help them resist the pressures. The bottom line is always decided upon in advance of discussions, so the figure almost guaranteed to be arbitrary or unrealistic and too rigid. It inhibits imagination/inventiveness and undermines the incentive to create or generate options. So the weaker party should concentrate on assessing their best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) and identifying BATNA is the best alternative to the bottom line. The weaker party can have a better understanding of the negotiation context if they also try to estimate the other side’s BATNA.
There are three approaches to deal with opponents who are stuck in positional bargaining and seek only to maximize their own gains.
The best way to respond to such tricky tactics is to explicitly raise the issue in negotiations, and to engage in principled negotiation to establish procedural ground rules for the negotiation. To seek verification on the other side’s claim is the best way to protect against being deceived about the facts or intentions. It is very important not to make any personal attack and to be seen as calling the other party a liar.
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