In negotiation, the two parties to the dispute are empowered: they have maximum control over the process and over the outcome.
Interest-Based Negotiation: William Ury and Roger Fisher talk about interest-based (also known as principled), or cooperative negotiation in their book Getting to Yes as a better way of reaching good agreements. This process can be used effectively on almost any type of conflict, whether the conflict is business or family related. The concept focuses on four points:
So interest-based negotiation involves trying to understand the other person’s viewpoint, actively listening to the other party, and thinking of each other as partners in negotiation rather than as adversaries. Explain your interests clearly and ask why the party holds the positions he or she does. Discuss these interests together looking forward to the desired solution rather than focusing on past events. Focus on shared interests. To invent options for mutual gain, brainstorm all possible solutions to the problem and then evaluate the ideas. Ask questions and reality test. And when interests are directly opposed, the parties should use objective criteria to resolve their differences.
Fisher and Ury also talk about having a BATNA at hand – the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. If negotiations fail, what do you do? The BATNA is the alternative course of action and the plan you are willing to execute if an agreement cannot be reached. Your BATNA gives you power while you are negotiating.
Positional Negotiation: Competitive or positional negotiation assumes that the purpose of bargaining is to obtain the best possible economic result, usually at the expense of the other side. The goal is to pay as little as possible if you are the defendant or to obtain as much as possible if you are the plaintiff. Negotiation is viewed as similar to litigation – someone must win and someone must lose.
The adversarial negotiation approach is a more aggressive competitive model. This approach may involve tactics such as: providing the other side with distorted facts that are beneficial to the competitor, asking for way more than you expect to get, using threats and ultimatums, applying time pressure, never saying yes to a first offer, flinching at proposals, withdrawing an offer, and using a decoy to draw attention away from the real issue. Theatrics are involved here.
What is wrong with positional negotiation? It does not tend to produce good results because the agreements reached tend to neglect the other party’s respective interests. Negotiators tend to focus on trying to “win” at the expense of generating better, long-lasting agreements and relationships.
Ellice Halpern, J.D., is a Virginia Supreme Court certified general and family mediator.