In my last post, I reviewed the first two of my Five Golden Rules. Let’s now take a closer look at the remaining three:
Golden Rule Three: Employ “Fair” Objective Criteria
“I just want what’s fair and reasonable,” a friend said in the midst of his divorce. “That’s not too much to ask, is it?”
“Of course not,” I replied. “The key here, though, is how to determine what’s fair and reasonable. I suspect you have a very different perception of what’s ‘fair and reasonable’ than your soon-to-be-ex-wife. We need to ﬁgure out how to get her to accept your proposal as fair and reasonable. Not only to you, but to her, too.”
The quest for fairness and the perception of fairness serve as central elements in many negotiations. Fairness, in most instances, boils down to a matter of relatively objective standards and/or an independent process that ensures an acceptable, “fair and reasonable” result. If both sides can agree on an independent standard that is fair and reasonable, or on an independent process that inevitably will conclude with a fair outcome, the deal will likely be done. If not, it’s far more difﬁcult to reach agreement.
For example, ﬁnding and using an independent standard or process that favors your side, like market value—and then negotiating over what’s “fair”—will provide you with a distinct advantage. It also will help you keep that “reasonable” hat on your head—an important element for your reputation and success.
Golden Rule Four: Design an Offer-Concession Strategy
The most common question raised in my negotiation seminars is “When, if ever, should I make the ﬁrst offer?” The second most common question is “How far should I move for my next concession?” This Golden Rule takes the guesswork out of when, where, and how to make offers and concessions. No one wants to leave valuable items on the table gratuitously. The best way to avoid this is to ﬁrst design the right offer-concession strategy.
Doing this will require you to understand the psychological dynamics underlying concession behavior, as well as improve your ability to evaluate your counterpart’s “ﬂinch” point. It’s not an exact science, but you can learn to draw out and recognize certain signals.
Golden Rule Five: Control the Agenda
The ﬁnal Golden Rule seems self-explanatory. Of course you want to control the agenda. But it’s more complicated than it appears. For instance, trying to dictatorially impose a set agenda at the beginning of a negotiation can create lasting damage. Yet, it may be critical to address Issue A before Issue B. How should you do it?
And what about timing issues and deadlines—real and artiﬁcially imposed? Understanding when to use deadlines, how to effectively operate within them, and the psychological tendencies underlying them will give you a leg up in your negotiations. Effectively managing the negotiation process—overtly or covertly—is one of the most challenging elements, even for the most expert negotiators. This Golden Rule will arm you with the knowledge and tools to better navigate and control your negotiation agendas.