Integrative Negotiation Rule No. 2: Generate Alternatives

Looking for a way — once and for all — to drop your fear of “losing” a negotiation or not getting what you want from others?

As you approach any negotiation, choose to adopt (and maintain) an integrative mindset. (See Leadership Skills: Why You Want to Be an Integrative Negotiator for descriptions of distributive versus integrative approaches to negotiation.)

It’s a stretch, but it’s not as hard as you think.

Do this: establish absolute clarity about your own outcomes for any specific negotiation, and then generate lots of alternative ways to meet those interests.

For those of us who’ve been stuck in a distributive mindset, integrative negotiation can feel like a lot of trouble.

Here are three places to establish “hand holds” as you explore alternatives:

1. Know what you’ll do if you can’t make a deal. Some people call this your “walk-away” rule, others use the popular “best alternative to a negotiated agreement” (or “BATNA”).

It’s important to realize that any time you believe you absolutely must have a negotiated agreement with another party (for instance, only that specific car will meet your outcomes; only that title promotion will meet your desired outcomes; etc.) then you place yourself in a high need position. From this position, you’re likely to experience few choices, which gives you low power.

Note who placed you there. You.

To increase your power and reduce your need, you must increase your choices. The first way to do so is to envision what you’ll do if you can’t reach an agreement.

Here’s an example: Years ago, when my wife and I were house hunting for the first time, she fell in love with a house I wasn’t very keen on. To her dismay, I played tough bargainer with the realtor while we kept looking at other houses “just for ideas.”

Two weeks later, when we found a second house my wife could love, she transformed into a much more powerful negotiator — on both deals! (As it turned out, we bought the second house.)

Remember, when you are in high need you have low power. That’s a sign to generate alternatives.

2. Generate multiple ways your interests could be met before you actually enter into negotiations.

Once you know your BATNA, then the more options you generate that could satisfy your interests, the more likely one of those positions will also satisfy your negotiation partner. So make your list of alternative solutions as long as you can.

3. Generate additional alternatives together with your negotiation partner. Truly integrative negotiation is no more (and no less!) than joint problem-solving.

When you and your negotiation partner learn and honor each other’s interests and seriously explore alternatives that satisfy ALL interests, then you’re demonstrating integrative negotiation.

Note this: when a partner is operating from a distributive frame of mind (and doesn’t easily join you in mutual problem solving), consider focusing your attention on solving his/her problem first.

To do this, investigate your partner’s interests and generate alternatives that might meet them. You will likely find them ready to reciprocate which makes them a more integrative problem solver.

Get Started With This Week’s 5-Minute Stretch

Think through the last time you had to make a deal. Reflect on your feelings of need, choice, and power. Now, list the number of alternatives you explored — either individually or together with your negotiation partner.

I’ll bet you find a correlation. See if you can do better at least once this week.

What’s your best story about generating alternatives in a negotiation? I want to know.

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Collaboration, Teamwork on 01/31/2013 03:38 am
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