Principled Negotiation Essay

Principled negotiation is a problem solving, win/win approach to negotiation primarily developed by Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton as a part of the Harvard Negotiation Project at Harvard University . Principled negotiation attempts to advantage all parties by providing a method of negotiation that involves thinking creatively to generate as many options as possible that will satisfy both parties. This is different to a win/lose (or zero sum) approach in which one party’s gains are the other’s losses.

For many situations it is the creative application of the elements of principled negotiation that are critical if a potential agreement satisfactory to each side is to be achieved. The four key elements in principled negotiation are (Fisher et al. 1991):

1. Separating the people from the problem

Effective negotiators should be able to differentiate between issues related to people and the problem itself. People issues involve emotions, different perceptions and poor communication. For example, if one negotiator is angry then that anger needs to be addressed and should not interfere with solving the negotiation problem.

As a negotiator you may say ‘Jo, that point seems to have made you upset.’ In this situation you are addressing the emotion in order to differentiate it from the problem.

2. Focusing on interests rather than positions

Positions are often pre-determined, concrete and explicit. For example, one party’s position may be to accept a salary of no less than $40,000. The other party’s position may be to offer no more than $35,000. These positions will tend to get the parties locked in to a contest of will. A more flexible approach is to search for the interests, desires, motivations and needs that underlie the positions. For example, why does the person want $40,000? Are there other benefits or schemes that could provide an equivalent value to the person? Why will the other party not pay more than $35,000? Is there a possibility of incremental increase over a short period of time or salary plus other benefits

? Interests allow flexibility and define positions by determining the underlying needs, concerns and motivations of each party. The more interests that are found, the greater is the potential for developing options for mutual gain. 3. Developing options for mutual gain Developing options for mutual gain involves brainstorming ideas before committing to any one option. Brainstorm first, evaluate later. There are four main obstacles to the development of options:

(a) Premature judgement

Judgement hinders the imagination. The solution is to separate the act of inventing solutions from the act of judging or evaluating them.

(b) Searching for a single answer

There is usually no single answer to a negotiation problem. Rather, there is a set of alternatives that needs to be developed before deciding on the best or most appropriate option for mutual gain. Broaden the options on the table rather than look for a single answer.

(c) Thinking that ‘solving their problem is their problem’

Negotiation is a joint problem solving process, and so both parties should try to solve the problem together rather than concentrate only on their own gain or outcome.

(d) Assumption of a fixed pie

A fixed pie negotiation is where each party sees the situation as either/or: either I lose or I gain. Negotiation does not have to be that way: the more options there are on the table, the greater the potential for mutual gain. The four types of thinking involved in developing options are:

* problem identification and clarification
* analysis of what is wrong
* generation of ideas about what might be done
* specific actions for implementation
* Objective criteria

When there is a conflict of interest and a solution is difficult to find, negotiators may be able to research objective criteria. This is an alternative to using individual will as a negotiation tool. The use of individual will as a method leads to the belief that ‘This is a good outcome because I pressured the other person into agreeing with me. On the other hand, objective criteria lead to a fair agreement as the parties yield to principle not pressure. Examples of objective criteria are industry standards (for example an industry standard salary for a particular position); professional standards (for examples standards of conduct); and market value and equal treatment (equitable pay rates).

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