224. Getting to Yes: How to Negotiate When You’re The Weaker Party

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, Bruce PattonPublished in 2011 by Penguin Publishing, Roger Fisher‘s, William Ury‘s, and Bruce Patton‘s book Getting to Yes: Negotiating an agreement without giving in offers a principled negotiation method to win-win negotiations; especially when you’re the weaker party.

1/8. Don’t bargain over positions

Negotiations tend to be a blend of:

A basic premise of negotiations are that each party has a position – their ideal expectation of what they want out of the negotiation, and during the course of the negotiation parties concede to points and/or identify creative solutions to obtain their position until all parties agree to the deal.

Taking positions can be beneficial because it reveals what each party expects from the relationship which can then be managed, however the problem with ‘positions’ is that they can:

  • Stubbornly lock parties into an expectation as to what defines a ‘perfect’ deal, and any concession made by default renders the final agreement ‘less than perfect.’ No negotiator wants to inform their client or superior that they negotiated a ‘less than perfect’ deal.
  • Ignite an aggressive, competitive spirit, causing negotiators to focus on ‘winning’ and ‘beating their adversary’ rather than working out an agreement that meets their interests.
  • Narrow vision and prevent brainstorming of creative and innovative ideas solutions that neither party had previously thought of.
  • Damage the relationship over the long-term because the embittered party who feels they ‘lost’ will seek to recoup their losses at some point in the future.

Rather than focusing on positions, it is wiser and more constructive – especially if you are the weaker party – to conduct principled negotiations, whereby you:

  • Separate the other party from the problem you both are trying to resolve
  • Focus on each party’s underlying interests and needs behind the positions rather than the positions themselves.
  • Identify as many possibilities to meet underlying interests and needs as possible agreeing and conceding to any points
  • Insist that the final decision be based on objective criteria.

For more on understanding people’s interests, needs and wants, watch my lecture Managing Age, Cultural & Personality Differences, Jerks & Assholes.

Focusing on principled negotiation rather than positional negotiation:

  • Ensures all parties’ more important, underlying needs are met, thus providing a win-win situation.
  • Brings the final negotiated deal closer to pareto efficiency.
  • Builds a long-term reputation based on respect and collaboration.

CAUTION: Just because the other party appears to be transparent and collaborative with you does not mean he or she is. During distributive/integrative negotiations,

  • The negotiator’s dilemma occurs when a negotiator must choose between collaborating for mutual advantage on a particular issue (or the negotiation altogether), or stand firm and seek to obtain as much as possible.
  • Bad faith is when one or all parties deceptively appear to be negotiating and compromising for mutual gain, however secretively have no intention of following through with the deal and their promises made. For example, they may be appearing to negotiate with you for strategic diplomatic reasons or because they are simply buying time while another deal is being negotiated by another team.

For more on negotiation strategy, watch Robert Sapolsky‘s lecture Human Behavioral Biology: Where Game Theory & Evolution Collide.

5/8. Insist on using objective criteria

Looking at objective criteria in more detail, in forming their position, a party will obviously seek out information and sources that justify their position and benefit them. In essence, each party’s position comes down to the sources used to support their position.

For example, a positional negotiation approach from a human resources interviewer during a job interview would be to say “The salary for this position is 85,000€/year. Take it or leave it.” However a principled approach response from the job candidate would be to respond:

  • “What source(s) did you use to arrive at 85,000€/year?”
  • “If 85,000€/year is the starting salary for someone with less than 3 years experience, what is the salary for someone such as myself who has over 6 years experience?”
  • “How does the salary fit in to the overall compensation package?”
  • “Job positions similar to the one you are offering have salaries as high as 95,000€/year. Why is this job salary below industry average?”

When you are the weaker party in a negotiation, the quality of your objective criteria is your most powerful ally.

For more on negotiating your salary and compensation package, watch the lecture 20 Tips to Better Negotiate Your Job Offer & Compensation Package.

8/8. What if they use dirty tricks?

If during your negotiations you determine that the other party is negotiating in bad faith, or is using manipulative tactics to try to take advantage of you, you really are faced with a options:

  1. Tolerate their manipulative tactics and sign a deal with a person you now distrust
  2. Address the negotiator’s manipulative behavior in the hopes they will stop
  3. Walk away from the negotiation table and take your business elsewhere
  4. Ignore the manipulative strategy and counter them by challenging the sources they used to support their underlying argument, and then insist on using objective criteria to guide the final decision and any concessions made (discussed above)

For more on dealing with manipulative negotiators, watch the lectures Conducting Effective Negotiations When You HAVE TO Have The Deal and Common Mistakes, Underhanded Techniques & How to Improve, and read my newest book How to Shape Human Behavior 3rd Edition for Negotiators.