Approaches to Negotiations

Negotiation Styles

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.

When thinking about negotiating agreements, 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
  • Confrontational
  • Focus on positions
  • Unwilling to concede
  • Treat participants as friends
  • Trusting of other participants
  • Extend offers
  • Non-confrontational
  • 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 Positional Bargaining vs. Hard Positional Bargaining: No guaranteed winner, often a lose-lose outcome.
  • Hard Positional Bargaining vs. Soft Positional Bargaining: Usually a win-lose outcome in favor of the hard negotiator.
  • Soft Positional Bargaining vs. Soft Positional Bargaining: No guaranteed winners, sometimes a lose-lose outcome.

Hard vs. Soft Scenarios
Hard vs. Soft Scenarios

Create a Negotiation Preparation Guide*

Positional Bargaining vs Principled Negotiation

In their seminal book, Getting to Yes, published in 1981, Harvard Professor Roger Fischer and Dr. William Ury proposed "principled negotiation" as a third way to approach negotiations. A principled negotiation seeks to divide the emotions of participants from the process of the negotiation. It frames negotiations as problems to be solved, rather than battles to be won.

Principled negotiation, also known as interest-based or integrative negotiation, is a process that focuses on the underlying interests and needs of parties involved rather than rigid positions. It differs significantly from positional bargaining, which involves staking firm positions and trying to persuade the other party to accept them. Instead, principled negotiation encourages active listening to understand the other side's interests, fostering mutual gain and building a foundation for a sustainable ongoing relationship.

A "Getting to Yes" summary would encapsulate the key principles and techniques of principled negotiation, emphasizing the importance of separating people from the problem, focusing on interests rather than positions, generating options for mutual gain, and using objective criteria to reach wise and fair agreements.

Principled negotiation follows four guidelines:

  • Separate people from the problem
  • Focus on interests instead of positions
  • Invent options for mutual gain
  • Insist on objective criteria
Typical vs Principled Negotiation
Typical vs Principled Negotiation

Create a Negotiation Preparation Guide*

Let's revisit one of the scenarios we looked at above and see how it is different if the participants engage in a principled negotiation:

A Principled Negotiation
A Principled Negotiation

Create a Negotiation Preparation Guide*

Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement

Unfortunately, not everyone will approach a negotiation in a principled manner. One participant may still come to the table with a hard approach, intending to win no matter what. In those situations, Fischer and Ury suggest using a mediator and being prepared with an alternative course of action, a BATNA, in case it is necessary to walk away from the negotiation. This concept of the BATNA is sometimes considered to be the fifth foundation principle of principled negotiations.

Elements of Principled Negotiation


Separate People from the Problem

In negotiations, emotions and personal attacks can cloud judgment and escalate conflicts. Principled negotiation emphasizes the importance of maintaining emotional involvement while addressing the issues constructively. By focusing on the problem rather than attacking the individuals involved, negotiators can express appreciation for the other side's interests while working towards wise outcomes.


Focus on Interests Instead of Positions

Unlike positional bargaining that centers on rigid positions, principled negotiation delves deeper to identify the underlying interests of all parties. By understanding the collective interests and shared concerns, negotiators can invent options for mutual gain. This brainstorming session leads to more promising ideas and a better understanding of each other's perspectives.


Invent Options for Mutual Gain

Principled negotiation encourages a creative exploration of possible solutions. By inventing options that meet the underlying interests of all parties, negotiators can develop objective criteria based on market value or professional standards. This ensures that the agreement reached is fair and satisfies both sides' needs.


Insist on Objective Criteria

In principled negotiation, objective criteria serve as a basis for evaluating proposed agreements. These criteria may include expert opinions, market standards, or comparable agreements. By relying on such criteria, negotiators can ensure that the agreement is both fair and acceptable to all parties.

Applying Principled Negotiation in Real Life

Negotiating in the Workplace:In most workplace negotiations, soft and hard negotiation styles are commonly encountered. By adopting the principles of principled negotiation, employees and employers can focus on the underlying interests and find win-win solutions. Instead of directly opposing positions, active listening and expressing appreciation for the other side's interests lead to more constructive and beneficial outcomes.

Negotiating in Personal Relationships: Personal relationships can be emotionally charged, making principled negotiation even more critical. Rather than getting caught up in single answers and strong emotions, applying the principles of mutual gain and inventing options can lead to wise agreements. By understanding unexpressed emotions and collective interests, parties can work towards resolving conflicts constructively.

Negotiating with Clients and Customers: In business negotiations, it's common to encounter hard bargaining tactics. However, by employing principled negotiation and understanding the clients' underlying interests, companies can build lasting relationships. By developing objective criteria based on market value and expert opinion, businesses can reach agreements that benefit all parties involved.

Your Turn

Use Storyboard That to sketch possible scenarios in any negotiation. It is invaluable for visualizing the likely outcomes of each side taking a hard, soft, or principled approach. To successfully prepare for a principled negotiation, you'll need to understand the motivations and goals of the other participant, as well as your (and their) likely BATNA.

A storyboard or two can illustrate and organize the extensive information involved in negotiations. A series of storyboards can keep parties' motivations and interests distinct from the positions they express. They are also a great way to illustrate a creative solution for your fellow negotiators, or to help imagine the suggestions of other principled negotiators.

Buy Getting to Yes on Amazon

Frequently Asked Questions about the Negotiation Process

What is the negotiation process, and how can I navigate it effectively?

The negotiation process involves discussions and interactions between parties to reach an agreement. It typically includes stages like preparation, information exchange, bargaining, and reaching a settlement. To navigate the process successfully, understanding the principles of principled negotiation is essential. Principled negotiation emphasizes focusing on interests, inventing options for mutual gain, and using objective criteria. By applying these strategies, negotiators can create positive and beneficial outcomes.

What is principled negotiation, and how does it differ from other negotiation styles?

Principled negotiation is an approach that emphasizes collaboration and seeking mutual gain in negotiations. Unlike other types of negotiation styles such as positional bargaining, soft and hard negotiation, or competitive tactics, principled negotiation focuses on identifying shared interests, understanding underlying needs, and fostering open communication. By avoiding fixed positions and embracing creative problem-solving, this approach aims to create win-win solutions that benefit all parties involved.

What is a good approach for how to do principled negotiation effectively in challenging situations?

Principled negotiation can be successfully executed by following specific strategies. Start by identifying each party's interests and understanding their motivations. Then, invent options for mutual gain by brainstorming creative solutions that address these interests. Use objective criteria like market value or professional standards to assess potential agreements fairly. Always maintain open communication and express appreciation for the other side's concerns to build trust and encourage collaboration, particularly in complex or emotionally charged negotiations.

Look for other articles in the Negotiation Resources section.
*(This Will Start a 2-Week Free Trial - No Credit Card Needed)
© 2024 - Clever Prototypes, LLC - All rights reserved.
StoryboardThat is a trademark of Clever Prototypes, LLC, and Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office