Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Sixth Principle of Negotiation

The sixth principle of negotiation is that you can't please or accommodate everyone. You will definitely have to say No in many situations, and you will have to be firm about it. The word No has great value in that it can be used to reverse or slow down the momentum of a negotiation. You may be willing to concede additional points to your adversary, but judicious use of the word No will help you to gain return concessions and will help you to minimize those items on which you have to yield. It also helps to create an image of you as a tough negotiator, and in negotiations image is very important.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

The old question of whether the glass is half full or half empty is usually taken as an indicator of whether the person who responds is an optimist or a pessimist. However, the image of that glass is taken at a particular point in time, and you really can't answer the question unless you have information from at least one more point in time. The question is a valid one and not just a trick if you know that at a prior point in time the glass had either more or less liquid in it. If the glass earlier had more liquid in it, then the glass is half empty because the liquid level went from more to less. If the glass earlier had a lower level of liquid than it now has, the glass is half full because the level went from less to more. When you make a decision, use all of the information you have, including facts from other points in time. To paraphrase Newton with a little bit of distortion, trends tend to continue unless something happens to make them change.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Fifth Principle of Negotiation

The fifth principle of negotiation is that when you are not sure what to decide on a particular point, the best tactic is to add something to the discussion which "puts the ball in the other party's court" and gives your opponent responsibility for the next decision. This approach gives you more time to reach the decision that was facing you, and it may also give you new and valuable information from your opponent's response to the new matter.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Is Charlie Brown Hopeless?

In the Peanuts comic strip Charlie Brown would always try to kick the football when Lucy held it for him, even though he knew that during every past attempt she had pulled the ball away so that he fell down when he missed the ball. I think this is a case of: Fool me once; shame on you!
Fool me twice; shame on me! Fool me over and over; shame on all the readers who laugh at me!
Charlie Brown is an incurable believer in the trustworthiness of others. He believes them when they say they will do something. When you make decisions that will have significant impact in the future, and you rely on others with whom you interact to implement those decisions, be sure that you really know and can trust them. A decision without reliable implementation is only wishful thinking.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Fourth Principle of Negotiation

The fourth principle of negotiation is that decisions proceed from the bottom to the top. For this reason, it may be useful to have some low priority points on which you are willing to give in to your opponent's viewpoint. They may mean little to you, but after you have relinquished something, it is reasonable for you to expect your adversary to offer you something in return. Not only are smaller points agreed before larger points, but also in formal team negotiations there is a "pecking order" for the personnel who participate on both sides. Junior personnel discuss minor matters and are authorized to agree upon them. More senior personnel are required in order to reach an agreement on the more important matters.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Just Say No?

Whenever you are considering alternate decision possibilities, remember that "Do Nothing" is always one of the viable alternatives. There are many occasions when after you consider the various options you will decide that you are better off doing nothing. However, when this occurs, you have made a conscious decision to maintain the status quo. This is totally different from just procrastinating about making the decision at all. "Do Nothing" as the result of conscious analysis is good. "Do Nothing" because you just don't want to think about it is not.

The Third Principle of Negotiation

The third principle of negotiation is that although you frequently will have to resolve conflicts by giving in to someone else's viewpoint, you should always try to get something back in return for your willingness to see things their way. This is usually an acceptable and expected trade procedure. Even when there may not be an item on the table that your opponent is willing to give up in exchange for your flexibility, you may be able to gain something by proposing that he or she commit to a future benefit for you. This is why so many sports team trade negotiations end up including "a player to be named later" or a future draft choice. It is easier to reach agreement in this way because neither party knows the true value of a future benefit.

Monday, January 7, 2008

New Hampshire Presidential Primary

One of the most interesting decision situations takes place tomorrow in New Hampshire. This is the first presidential primary election with individuals walking into a voting booth and casting a secret ballot. Each person who votes will have been subjected to many persuasive arguments from all the candidates as to the superiority of one and the inferiority of all the rest. Some will vote based on the arguments; some will vote based on the personal impression generated by a candidate; and some will monitor the polls and go with the front-runner in order to be on the winning side. In the back of his or her mind, each voter will know that a New Hampshire primary vote is weightier than individual votes in later states, because it helps to generate momentum for the winning candidate which may make him or her unstoppable later. This year the primary season is amazingly compacted. After she came in third in the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying, I'm in this all the way to February fifth.
Given the fact that the candidates expect the primary races to be all over in less than a month, the New Hampshire voter will indeed be an important indicator of the ultimate outcome. This is true regardless of comments about demographic distinctions between New Hampshire and other states. People get excited about a winner, and that excitement will carry forward for a period of time before it wanes. Given the short period of time between the New Hampshire primary and February fifth, it will be very difficult for other candidates to overcome the excitement generated by the New Hampshire winners in time to stage a successful comeback.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Second Principle of Negotiation

The second principle of negotiation is that you must make it very clear to your opponent which are your top priorities and how determined you are to achieve them. These goals should be reiterated and should seem to be inflexible for as long as possible. There is acting involved in such posturing, but the objective is to find out which party most desires a positive outcome to the negotiations. That party will usually show the first sign of flexibility. If no such flexibility is seen on either side, progress may have to be made as the result of setting a deadline or introducing a third party to mediate the process. A final alternative to inflexibility is to walk away from the negotiation process. If and only if your opponent believes that you are truly willing to stop the process, he may show flexibility and allow movement toward success of the negotiations.