Centre Européen de la Négociation - Negotiation Skills Training - Consulting & Coaching

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What you won't read in How to negotiate successfully

When in 1981 I read Getting to yes for the first time, I immediately realised that what I was holding in my hand was a real methodological breakthrough that would go on to become a milestone. In fact, Fisher and Ury's book has revolutionised the art of negotiation in both theory and practice.

Three things struck me straight away:

1- the common sense of the principles set out, which were self-evident

2- the practical and pragmatic aspect of the method, which is a priori easy to implement

3- concepts that are easy to understand and accessible to as many people as possible

Having taught it for more than thirty years to thousands of professional negotiators from all sectors, including diplomats, and having acted as a consultant in situations as diverse as the end of a social conflict or the sale of a company, I have set out here the fruit of this experience in 10 key principles.

10 key principles of Harvard "principled negotiation

  • 1- Build confidence without overloading it

The sine qua non of successful negotiations is building trust with the people you are dealing with. Without it, there is no salvation. Sometimes small gestures of goodwill are enough to restore it and overcome decades of mistrust (see negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue). However, Fisher and Ury warn against one of the major risks involved: basing the agreement solely on trust and not on the merits of the case under discussion.

  • 2- Treat the person you are talking to as you would like to be treated

Always ask yourself before adopting a particular attitude: how would I react if the other person treated me like that? This will save you a lot of disappointment. Remember that everyone likes to be recognised and appreciated. So it's up to you to show the other person from the outset that not only are you trying to understand their point of view, but that you won't hesitate to take it into account. In negotiation, we reap what we sow.

  • 3- Understand that you can give in without helping yourself

All too often, at the start of negotiations, each party takes a more extreme position than is necessary, in order to keep some room for manoeuvre. When, in order to move the negotiation forward, one of them finally "gives in", the other understands that she has exaggerated her demand and that she is "in over her head". As a result, rather than softening her up, she'll get tougher. Hence the fundamental principle of "interest-based negotiation": rather than taking a stand against the other person's position, " look for the interests behind the positions" . In other words, don't focus on the request but on what is driving it. This will give you a better understanding of your customer's needs.

  • 4- Realising that you can help yourself without giving in

The corollary of the previous point is that, contrary to the generally accepted idea that you should never reveal your own interests on the pretext of weakening yourself, you should always identify them clearly and assert them (and not your positions). By revealing yourself first, the other person will be encouraged to follow suit. If you also show them your willingness to take theirs into account, you will discover together that although positions are always contradictory, the interests behind them are not necessarily. And that's where the miracle usually happens: the tension born of asserting interests unlocks creativity and leads to the emergence of a new, unexpected solution that is acceptable to both parties.

  • 5- Don't try to buy or sell the relationship

You have to stop conditioning a good relationship by demanding concessions from your contacts. You should also avoid trying to preserve it at all costs by making concessions yourself. Because the other person will never forget what you have taken away from him or her and will do anything to get it back. On the other hand, if it's you who gives in to them for nothing in return, they'll think they've been had and regret not having been even more demanding. In both cases, the relationship is damaged. Hence the principle advocated by Fisher and Ury: " deal separately with personal issues and the underlying problem"..

  • 6- Treat the relational problem before the rational problem

If the aim of the negotiation is to resolve a conflict between people, no matter how hard you try to resolve the problem, there will always be things left unsaid that will disrupt the process. The first thing to do is to adopt a conciliatory attitude that will calm the relationship. Apologising for one's share of responsibility or recalling past good relations can help achieve this. Result: a climate conducive to discussion and problem-solving.

  • 7- Explore other people's ideas before accepting or rejecting them

The fear of others seeing your ideas as commitments is a major obstacle to creativity. To overcome it, Fisher and Ury recommend " invent options before committing to them ". So, to show your openness, it is strongly recommended that you avoid making an immediate counter-proposal to a proposal made by the person you are talking to. Instead, welcome and listen to the other person's proposals. You can then tell them that you would like to list a multitude of ideas before selecting the one that suits you both. The likelihood of coming up with the right idea is greater if there are more ideas on the table.

  • 8- Avoid the negative reciprocity of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth".

Many people think that negotiation is a battle that inevitably involves a winner and a loser. When attacked, you defend yourself and counter-attack. When faced with anger, you raise your voice. From then on, it is very easy to fall into the trap of escalation and the negotiation descends into a destructive power struggle. Fisher and Ury recommend drawing inspiration from the martial arts. Instead of struggling to counter the strength of the opposing party, this involves using it by directing it towards the problem to be solved. Doing the opposite of what your counterpart is expecting will destabilise him in a positive sense and lead him to open up.

  • 9- Giving emotions a voice

In negotiation, emotions (yours and the other person's) can be the greatest obstacle to success. However, it is possible to turn them into powerful allies. But you still need to identify the fundamental needs that underlie them, both for yourself and for the people you are negotiating with. Aggression may be a sign of a lack of recognition of one's status or of a feeling of being excluded from a decision. In any case, you should neither vent nor hide your feelings, but express them while remaining responsible for them, i.e. never blame the other person. Expressing your emotions in this way is one of the most persuasive ways of getting the other person to listen to you.

  • 10- Prepare beforehand what you will do if the negotiation fails

Anticipating failure is certainly the most valuable "interest-based negotiation" tool for successful negotiations. However, it has proved to be the most difficult for French negotiators to integrate. It seems paradoxical to enter into a negotiation with a counterpart and then have to find solutions outside before even starting to negotiate with him. But in martial arts, the first technique you learn is to... fall. If you're less afraid of it, you're less stiff. As a result, you avoid hurting yourself when ... you fall. So you'll be much calmer if, before you even start, you have a way out, which we call MEilleure SOlution de REchange (MESORE): another flat to rent or buy, another customer, another supplier... The ease you feel will help you avoid the trap of trying to reach an agreement at any price and will increase your power in the eyes of the people you're dealing with. And don't forget: if you have the MESORE, your negotiations will never again be a failure. In fact, sometimes successful negotiation means failure, because any agreement on the table is worse than the solution you have on the table.

Interest-based negotiation": a constructive alternative to adversarialism

Yes, in an ongoing relationship, asserting your interests can go hand in hand with respect for the other person. Yes, negotiating effectively doesn't have to involve trickery, dirty tricks and bad faith. Yes, to negotiate successfully, it is better to sit side by side rather than face to face, because a showdown is not inevitable. But, above all, it is the authenticity with which these principles are put into practice that is the key to success.

See also

the European Negotiation Centre, quoted in Le Point.

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