People often think of negotiation as something that is conducted by political leaders behind closed doors at international summits, or as a kind of antagonistic wheeling and dealing hashed out by corporate chiefs/bullies. These are certainly opportunities for negotiation, but far more negotiation takes place in the daily life of average people who are trying to reach collaborative agreement in the family unit, on the job, or as part of their activities as consumers. Taking a collaborative approach to negotiation increases the likelihood participants will buy in to the ultimate agreement. Treating other negotiators as partners means “we’re in this together.”

Negotiation may well be crucial in the making of history, but it is also a fundamental aspect of everyday life. The questions in this book originated from real people all around the world and cover a huge range of nor- mal human activity. In the real world, we are all negotiators. We negotiate daily with family and friends, at work, and in the daily business of life. Within this universal endeavor, however, there exist a multitude of possible styles and approaches, based on the particular people involved and what is being negotiated. Styles can vary depending on a broad range of factors, including cultural background, gender, and age. We also tend to view certain kinds of people as being more likely to have a particular, characteristic negotiation style—for example, certain well-known tactics probably come to mind when you think of used car salespeople or the bureaucrats at the local Motor Vehicles agency.

No matter who you are or what is at stake, when you negotiate, your choices will be guided by your answers to certain key questions, such as:

  • What do I need to learn to be well prepared to negotiate?
  • Who or what is most likely to solve the problem?
  • What information do I need from my negotiation partner that will help me know whether we’re heading in a favorable direction?
  • When is it time to walk away? What lines need to be crossed before I will do so? What are my dealbreakers—the issues that make it more appropriate to quit negotiating?
  • How can I be confident my negotiation partner will fulfill his or her promises? As you read through the book, you’ll find that there are many more questions you’ll need to ask yourself; the important thing is to be prepared to do so. The negotiation process is essentially a way to reach agreement by focusing on the interests of all parties. That said, understanding interests is not merely a matter of identifying your own or another party’s objectives (although it is that, too), but also of figuring out why achieving each objective is important. In Japan, good negotiators ask what are called the “Five Whys” to get to the heart of this very important issue. For example: Why is this objective important? What favorable results will it yield? If those results are achieved, what good will it do? What other ways of achieving these favorable results might be better? If there is one factor that is most likely to drive my/their decision, what is it? Although these questions can take many forms—as you can see, they don’t even need to begin with “why”—ultimately the aim here is to find out what, exactly, is driving the decisions of each negotiator. As you read the rest of the book, you’ll see that there are some important guiding principles you’ll need to keep top-of-mind: 

Introduction 15

  • Successful negotiation is a process that leads to an agreement each party will willingly fulfill.
  • Understanding one’s own interests is the first step in preparing for negotiation.
  • Never give away one of your interests without deriving a re- ward for doing so. What you give away is virtually impossible to get back.
  • Negotiation is not a competitive sport. If a party concludes that she has lost in a negotiation, she is more likely to avoid fulfilling her commitments and attempt to weasel out of the deal. Conversely, the “winning” negotiator may find that the presumptive gains from the negotiation are not achieved and the net result is failure for both parties.
  • Always look for your BATNA—your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. This will come into play when you’re deciding whether to continue negotiating or to walk away.
  • Use your information-gathering skills to understand the ZOPA—Zone of Possible Agreement, or the range of possible solutions that will yield an agreement. That way, you’re not limiting yourself by fixating on the one solution.

People refer to negotiation variously as an art, a science, a natural-born talent, or a skill that can be learned. The reality is that negotiation is all of the above and a lot more. No matter how adept you may be, you can always learn new skills—unless, of course, you are four years old and always get your way! To make this book easier to use as a reference, I’ve grouped all of the questions and answers under general topics. Because of the complex nature of some of the queries, however, very often an issue raised in one chapter will appear in another, as well. As often as possible, I’ve proffered multiple choices of strategies or tactics for handling the problem. Choosing among these options is a personal choice that each negotiator must make independently. People everywhere have an urgent need to represent themselves with creativity and consciousness in order to make their daily lives run more smoothly. It’s my hope that this book will do just that for you, too.

Sample questions from The Practical Negotiator

Question:  I was driving down the street then the car ahead of me suddenly braked. I slammed on my brakes a little to late and lightly bumped into the back bumper.  There is no damage to either car. The man insisted on taking my insurance information but did not ask for anything else (for example, my license), and he refused to give me his insurance information.  The police were not called and no report was made.  As I am a young female I felt quite intimidated by the whole thing.  I do not understand what to make of all this; as I said, there was no damage.  I live in Canada and he is from the United States.  What are your thoughts?

Question: My neighbor has been shining a 300-watt light on my house (it is his security light).  We asked him very nicely to please point the light down so it does not shine in our bedroom window.  He said no, so we ended up calling the zoning officer of our town, because it is illegal to shine a light outside your property line.  Now my neighbor barks his cars in front of my house out of spite and has pointed his light slightly upward again – sort of testing the limits.  What should be my next step?  This man is unapproachable and quick-tempered.

Question: One of our coworkers here has a bad BO (body odor) problem.  I would be easy if our HR department would handle it, but she is our HR department.  No one seems to know how to handle this or what to say so that her feelings are not hurt.  I don’t believe it’s an uncontrollable problem, as her hygiene leaves a lot to be desired.  Can you help?

Question: I formed a partnership with a friend (first mistake, I know, but too late now) basically advertising products for companies through several avenues. 

We got this idea from my partner’s brother, who was already in the business doing the same thing. We got into the business and it was very similar to his brother’s business in that we were advertising similar products, but as the business grew, we branched out to varied products while his brother still focused on this one type of product. 

Things really went well. We found a company with products no one else was advertising, so we started advertising these products and ended up doing very well with them, as we were the only company advertising their products. After a year of doing great my partner calls me and states he is going to split from me and join his brother because his brother is going to start branching out with more products to advertise, he is much better at it, will be more stable, have longevity, and be more profitable. 

So my partner left me with all the business at no charge, just a clean break, and we settled any payment from that day back. Well, within weeks of the split and as soon as they got their business up and running, they immediately started advertising the same products my old partner and I had found that no one else was advertising, competing directly against me in the same advertising avenues, which of course drove up costs and split sales in half for me. 
So my question is, is what he is doing really ethical? Taking a marketing plan for these products no one else was advertising for and advertising them with his new partner? I can see if another competitor started advertising these products, but what about an ex-partner who takes your ideas from your partnership and uses them with his new partnership?