Types of Negotiating Strategies

Learning OUtcomes

  • Compare various types of negotiating strategies

If someone is looking to become skilled in the art of negotiation, that person would not have to look very far to find some help. The business section of your local bookstore has a shelf that’s probably jammed with books promising to make you a better negotiator. There is no shortage of people who claim to have the best strategy, and each offers differing suggestions, tactics, and techniques to be used within the negotiation process that will help you get more out of your negotiations.

While there are slew of opinions and sources on the subject, we’ll focus on three popular texts:

  • Getting to Yes by William Ury and Roger Fisher
  • Getting More by Stuart Diamond
  • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss with Tahl Raz

Getting to Yes by William Ury and Roger Fisher

When it was first released, Getting to Yes in particular got everyone’s attention and changed the game for people trying to make a deal. The book was initially published in 1981, but with new editions published in 1991 and 2011 (both of which added Bruce Patton as a co-author) Getting to Yes remains among the most popular books on negotiation. Getting to Yes was written by William Ury and Roger Fisher, two Harvard University researchers and members of Harvard’s Negotiation Project.

This book, and the concept of principled negotiation that it introduced, was determined to change the way people make deals, and millions of readers flocked to it to digest its sage advice. In principled negotiation, one moves successfully through the process by determining which needs are fixed and which needs are flexible for the negotiators. It was meant to be a negotiation strategy by which agreements could be made without damaging business relations. There are five major points that one should consider in the negotiation process:

  1. Separate the people from the problem. This describes the way the parties should interact with each other throughout the negotiation process. Negotiators are only people, and they have personal interests in their positions. If the Party A attacks the position of Party B, it can feel as though he or she is attacking Party B personally. If parties can go into a negotiation committed to clear communication, and do their best to acknowledge the emotions that are attached to the negotiation process, there will be a better chance for amicable resolution.
  1. Focus on interests, not positions. This is an aspect to be considered throughout the negotiation process, starting with planning and preparation and revisited in clarification and justification. A party’s position is something he has decided upon. His interests are the reason why he’s made that particular decision. Each party should attempt to explain their interests clearly and have a full understanding of the other party’s interests.
  1. Invent options for mutual gain. It’s during this stage, that falls within the bargaining discussion part of the process, that parties should get together and try to generate as many possible options for resolution. Parties can focus on shared interests to generate as many win-win solutions as they can during the brainstorming sessions. Once all possible solutions are exhausted, evaluation of those proposed solutions can begin.
  1. Insist on using objective criteria. Using objective criteria can keep the discussion polite and the relationship preserved during the negotiation process. This objective criteria can be introduced during the ground rules stage, or at any point thereafter, and parties should agree to its use. Objective criteria can be statistics, past legal judgments, professional standards or other data that is legitimate and practical.
  1. Understand your “BATNA.” The BATNA – the best alternative to a negotiated agreement – is the most advantageous course of action a party can take if negotiations fail and an agreement can’t be made. A party should never accept a negotiated deal that leaves him or her worse off than his BATNA. The BATNA is a leverage point in negotiations, and without a clear idea of BATNA a party is negotiating blindly.

With these suggestions, Fisher and Ury made a huge impact on the art of negotiation. People didn’t look anymore to just get a “piece of the pie.” They wanted to “expand the pie” and keep relationships intact by applying these integrated bargaining techniques to their next negotiation opportunities.

Practice Question

Getting More by Stuart Diamond

Do Fisher and Ury provide the only way to negotiate? Of course not! Many books out there take Fisher and Ury as the starting place and work from there. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Wharton Law Professor Stuart Diamond was the associate director of the Harvard Negotiation Project (with which Fisher and Ury were affiliated), and he takes a different approach to negotiation strategy in his book Getting More.

In Getting More, which encompasses many of the lessons taught in his class at University of Pennsylvania, Diamond’s approach focuses on finding and valuing the perceptions and emotions of others rather than using the traditional tactics of power, logic, and leverage. “Think of yourself as the least important person in the negotiation,” a written quote on his website suggests. “Even with hard bargainers, it has to begin with their feelings and perceptions, their sensibilities.”

Getting More emphasizes valuing the trust aspect of negotiations, encouraging participants to be transparent and constructive, not manipulative. He even encourages parties to “make emotional payments,” that is, tapping into the other party’s emotional psyche with empathy or simply by valuing them. Getting More takes the idea of preserving a relationship during the bargaining process and escalates it to the next step by actually leveraging the personal connection.

This negotiations model has been adopted by U.S. Special Operations Command for the training of U.S. Special Forces, Green Berets, U.S. Navy Seals, the U.S. Marines and other units, and Google has used the book to train 12,000 of their employees worldwide. The book rivals Ury and Fisher’s Getting to Yes with its 1.5 million copies sold.

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss with Tahl Raz

Former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss took a different stance on the negotiation process in his recent book Never Split the Difference, where he promotes the idea of “tactical empathy.”

In Chris Voss’s negotiation strategy, by empathizing with the other party, the negotiator is able to win trust and bring that other party over to his side, where he then involves her in the solving of “her problem.” This is following Stuart Diamond’s book, valuing people by acknowledging their intelligence, after which the negotiator advances his own point of view by asking the other party’s opinion. The process relies simply on the idea that both parties understand each other’s point of view when it comes to this subject.

Chris Voss also provides some psychological techniques that help connect you, as the negotiator, to the other party. He suggests “mirroring” what the other party says by repeating their last three words before adding your own thoughts. Mirroring helps the other party feel more secure and heard. The negotiator can also help foster a level of security with the other party by giving them the chance to offer up a few “no” responses to requests. “Pushing too quickly for a yes can lead to mistrust,” he says. By asking questions that “bait the ‘no,’” Voss helps the other party feel in control. “Is this a bad time to talk?” he might ask. “No,” the other party might reply, “this is a good time.”

This differs from Diamond’s approach to negotiation in that Diamond is advocating for genuine personal connection to put the other party at ease, while Voss uses techniques and tactics that do the same without having to make a personal investment. But both strategies take Ury’s and Fisher’s recommendation of “separating the person from the problem” to a more thoughtful, purposeful level.

Cialdini’s Influence: The Power of Persuasion and Kerry Patterson’s Crucial Conversations are also popular reads on the subject and offer slightly different ways to hone your negotiation talents. Overall, it’s important to understand that each of these approaches to negotiation strategy has something to offer and, used correctly by the right kind of negotiator, the strategies can yield excellent results.


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