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The Art of Negotiation

      Everyone negotiates, almost every day. While successful negotiators seem to practice an art more than a science, certain principles seem to be present which anyone can learn.

Two Basic Approaches 
"Win-lose" negotiations are most often over a single item and each party tries to get the best deal, to the detriment of the other. "Win-win" negotiations involve understanding each other's interests and finding solutions which will benefit both parties. While win-win is generally more satisfying and can be attempted in any situation, it is especially important in ongoing relationships. If the other side is taking a "win-lose" approach, you should do the same -- or encourage them to join you in a win-win approach. The following principles apply to both approaches: 

When the other side feels that you respect him or her, it reduces defensiveness and increases the sharing of useful information -- which can lead to an agreement. When people feel disrespect, they become more rigid and likely to hide information you need. 

People tend to be more generous toward those they like and trust. An attitude of friendliness and openness generally is more persuasive than an attitude of deception and manipulation. Being honest about the information you provide and showing interest in the other side's concerns can help. 

This is the most important step in many negotiations! You want to be as thoroughly informed as possible about the value of the item(s) you are negotiating -- both in general and to the other side. For example, if you know a car's market value is $20,000 you will be less likely to fall for an outrageous offer -- which many sales people make to pull you in their direction. 

Know your bottom line 
In most negotiations, there is a point beyond which you do not want to go; when you will use other alternatives. Generally, it helps to decide this in advance and not to disclose it at the start. You should also be aware that this may change with more information and new ideas. You may decide to go to court, although the outcome is often unpredictable -- and expensive! You may wish to consider mediation or arbitration instead. 

Cautious Disclosure 
It is fully appropriate and wise to start a negotiation without disclosing all of your information and your "bottom line." If the other side is using a "win-lose" approach and you disclose too much too soon, you will lose all of your bargaining power. If the other side is using a "win-win" approach, then you can work together to "expand the pie" of solutions. They will disclose more and more information and you can do the same, to build trust and create better solutions.  

Ask Questions 
Before stating a position or making proposals, it is very helpful to inquire about the other side's interests and concerns. This will help you understand what is important to the other side and may provide new ideas for mutual benefit. Ask clarifying questions to really understand the other's concerns in this negotiation. This will also help you determine their approach to negotiations: win-lose or win-win. You can then make more realistic proposals. 

Show your strength 
If necessary, let the other side know in detail how strong your point of view is -- by showing them financial information, legal precedents or your willingness to hold out or simply walk away. Try not to show weaknesses-such as an urgency to settle-unless you are working together on a win-win solution. 

Making Proposals 
It is customary and proper to ask for more at the start than you expect to receive in the final agreement. By proposing your ideal settlement, it lets the other understand your needs and allows you to show good faith later on by revising your offer after hearing their response. It helps to make a new proposal, rather than to criticize the one the other side made. By brainstorming a list of options together without criticizing them, an agreement may emerge which no one thought of before -- which everyone can live with. 
Write It Down 
Many potentially great agreements fall apart because everyone's memory of them was different. You should write it down so that both parties understand the exact terms -- who does what, when and where -- without mistaken assumptions. 


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