The art of negotiation: A delicate balance
Negotiations are not just power struggles. The most beneficial agreements are obtained by also seeking ways to best respond to the interests of the other party. How can you manage this delicate balance?
Negotiations don’t have to be power struggles. Researchers have shown that the most beneficial negotiations are those that lead to creative solutions, different from initial expectations, which have been devised through interactions between both parties. However, adversarial negotiations are not helpful in identifying the best solutions to the problems to be solved. Betting exclusively on power struggles—or even deception—to gain advantage is generally a miscalculation in the long run, as the resulting tension undermine the relationship, depriving the parties of future mutually beneficial opportunities for cooperation or compromise.
So, negotiating well doesn’t mean getting your way at all costs, but rather obtaining satisfaction of both your own interests and those of the other party. This goal may seem unrealistic or even idealistic: defending your own interests is already difficult enough without having to worry about the needs of those on the other side! In fact, this mindset is the source of success for many delicate negotiations—be it in the field of business or of international relations.
Particularly well-known and often-analyzed examples are the Cuban missile crisis negotiations between the United States and the USSR, and the Camp David agreements between Israel and Egypt. Negotiators in each case managed to overcome deep, seemingly irreconcilable differences. They were able to do this by changing their perspective to see beyond their own interests and constraints, by putting themselves in the place of their opponents in order to propose satisfactory ways out of the crisis. They weren’t being naïve; each side acted in full cognizance of the balance of power, and endeavored to safeguard its own interests to the furthest extent possible. However, going beyond the logic of confrontation to work together toward a solution was also a decisive factor in their success. These “impossible negotiations” offer rich teachings for the business world, as well as many parallels that can be drawn upon to negotiate more effectively.
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