Everyone has been involved in some type of negotiation. Whether it's buying a car, seeking a raise, or just deciding where to go on a family vacation, negotiations are part of many human interactions. Many people dread negotiations because they believe one person must "win" and the other "lose". Understanding negotiation approaches can help you better prepare for a negotiation. Let's look at three ways of approaching a negotiation and see what happens when they are used by negotiators.
Approaches to Negotiations
When thinking about negotiating, most people picture the hard approach, viewing negotiation as a battle of wills. Hard bargaining emphasizes results. Haggling in a market is the stereotypical image of hard bargaining.
In contrast, the soft approach focuses on preserving the relationship ahead of results. While both hard and soft negotiation styles focus on positions, the soft approach is the opposite of the hard approach in many regards. The couple in O. Henry’s "Gift of the Magi" are quintessential softies, sacrificing to accommodate each other.
Hard Approach to Negotiation
Soft Approach to Negotiation
Treat participants as adversaries
Suspicious of other negotiators
Use of threats
Focus on positions
Unwilling to concede
Treat participants as friends
Trusting of other participants
Focus on positions
Willing to concede
Pairing Negotiation Styles
The outcome of a negotiation is determined as much by the negotiators' tactics as by the results they hope to achieve. Different combinations of hard and soft approaches will yield different results, but in most cases will result in a scenario where at least one party loses out.
When hard negotiators butt heads, they try to drive the other to a bottom line. Typified by dickering over price, this will result in a win for both parties only if there is a common price that both are satisfied with. For this reason, many hard negotiations end with both parties walking away.
Soft negotiators are usually steamrollered by hard negotiators. They are quickly pushed to the hard negotiator's goal as they give ground in an effort to preserve good will. These negotiations almost always end in a win for the hard negotiator and a loss for the soft negotiator.
When two soft negotiators bargain, they can both win if they can cooperate effectively. However, their efforts to appease the other side may result in both negotiators agreeing to an outcome neither side really likes. In summary:
Hard vs. Hard: No guaranteed winner, often a lose-lose outcome.
Hard vs. Soft: Usually a win-lose outcome in favor of the hard negotiator.
Soft vs. Soft: No guaranteed winners, sometimes a lose-lose outcome.