I am in the midst of a contentious multi-party negotiation and have found myself occasionally reminding my colleagues of the value of the relationship with the other parties. While this value might appear obvious, we sometimes lose sight of the long-term as we focus on our immediate deal.
Here is a way to consider the power of this relationship and some tips for how to preserve and strengthen it.
1. Consider all types of relationships
The strong relationship value is clear in negotiations involving formal, long-term relationships between the parties, like a salary negotiation or partnership deal. But what about one-shot, zero-sum negotiations (where one dollar more for one side is necessarily one dollar less for the other)? Is there a value to that relationship?
It depends. Sometimes it can be significant, especially in small communities where everyone knows everyone. Plus, in our increasingly interconnected world with online communities and social networks and media, our reputations travel at light speed even to those with whom we have no formal connections.
You never know when that person might have an impact – directly or through unknown others – on you and/or your career.
Keep in mind also two crucial elements of all relationships. One, relationship power is a matter of degree. It’s not all or nothing. It’s a spectrum. Every relationship has some value. The question is how much.
And two, there are many types of relationships, including family, personal, social, professional/business, situational, etc. Different relationships have different values to different people and require different approaches.
2. Tips to strengthen relationships
So how should you negotiate with those with whom you have a high relationship value versus low, understanding these strategies also exist on a spectrum?
- Share more information about your interests and needs, not less. Sometimes we tend to hold our cards close to our vests. Don’t.
- Aggressively probe your counterpart’s true needs and interests. Research has shown we often shy away from this in relationship situations as we feel it might be perceived negatively. Don’t. This is how you find the win-win in your deals.
- Creatively brainstorm options to satisfy your mutual interests with your counterparts. Brainstorming can enhance the relationship, as two or more heads here can be more powerful than one.
- Explicitly talk about the value of the relationship from your perspective. Then listen carefully to ensure it’s reciprocal.
- Downplay the leverage component in your negotiation, even if it’s strong. Leverage, which involves your walk away/Plan B/not doing the deal with your counterpart – and a future relationship with your counterpart – often don’t mix well.
- Rely on independent standards like market value, precedent and experts, especially when making offers or concessions. Tying your moves to these standards will help you keep a fair and reasonable hat on your head, and help your counterpart view you that way, too.
One final point. Sometimes people believe that just giving in or avoiding the negotiation completely will preserve and strengthen their relationships. After all, it eliminates the conflict. Sometimes this is true.
But not always. Simply conceding on a really important interest may create resentment and can fester, causing significant harm to long-term relationships.
Latz’s Lesson: Relationships come in many forms and have different values in different negotiations. Ignoring this in how you negotiate will lead to less successful negotiations – and to fewer relationships.
Published May 3, 2015 The Arizona Republic