5 Approaches to Negotiation

5 Approaches to Negotiation

Negotiation is as human as walking on two feet. Almost every day involves one negotiation or another: negotiating with family members about their political stance, negotiating about project parameters at work and negotiating for the last croissant at Sunday brunch. Negotiation is critical to how people communicate — yet it is rare for anyone to study negotiation strategies, practice negotiation tactics or learn negotiation as a challenging skill.

To succeed in the higher levels of business, executives need to hone their negotiation strategies, which involves gaining as much knowledge and experience about negotiation as possible. To that end, here are the five most common approaches parties can take during a negotiation and how to navigate them to ensure everyone gets something they want.

1. Competition Approach

This approach goes by several recognizable names: distributive negotiation, claiming value, zero-sum and win-lose. People who use the competitive approach often have the perspective that the goal of negotiation is to dominate the other side — that only one side can win, and that one side’s interests always directly opposes the other’s. Competitive negotiators tend to use aggressive tactics like manipulation and withholding information in the hopes that they can maximize their interests while minimizing those of the other side.

This approach has the potential for extremely negative consequences, like alienating the other party forever. However, if one side can effectively influence the other’s belief and promote their interests as desirable or inevitable, this negotiation approach can result in success.

2. Avoidance Approach

Also called the lose-lose approach, avoidance involves one party effectively sabotaging negotiation. This tends to occur when a party feels that their interests are being threatened. Instead of communicating this fear or working toward a more optimal solution, that party strives to make the outcome unsuitable for everyone involved in the negotiation.

To prevent the avoidance approach from developing, both sides of the negotiation should commit to cooperation. Ignoring other parties’ needs is a good way to damage the relationship and irreparably disrupt the dialogue. The avoidance approach is best avoided for those looking to benefit from a negotiation.

3. Accommodation Approach

When one side uses the accommodation approach, they are deciding to minimize their interests and maximize those of the other party — in other words, they are accommodating the other side’s needs at the expense of their own. Though accommodation doesn’t immediately benefit the party who takes this approach, it can have lasting advantages, such as a strengthened relationship with the other side.

It isn’t wise to adopt the accommodating strategy with every negotiation, as it will consistently minimize one’s interests to a dangerous degree. However, when a relationship is particularly valuable and one would like to make a favorable impression on another party, being accommodating can be a useful tactic.

4. Collaboration Approach

Opposed to the competition approach, which involves one side claiming value, collaboration involves both sides working together to create value for one another. Often, this approach is called win-win because both sides end negotiations achieving their goals and furthering their interests.

Ideally, collaboration would be available in every negotiation but requires a few key details, such as a positive and collaborative attitude in both parties and sufficient resources available for the parties to divide. When both sides effectively share information and work together to solve problems, they are both much more likely to walk away feeling successful.

5. Compromise Approach

Some business leaders view the compromise approach as a type of win-win, but in truth, it is somewhere in between win-win and lose-lose. Compromise involves both parties settling for something less than their goals; neither side gets to maximize their outcome, but neither side’s interests are ignored, either. Sometimes, a compromise is the best result that negotiations can arrive at, perhaps due to limited resources or unaligned interests. Usually, agreements reached through compromise are revisited when resources become available or when one or both parties become frustrated by their unresolved goals.

Negotiations will always fall into one of these five categories, even if those negotiating aren’t aware of it. By learning more about negotiation strategies, business leaders and executives can gain control of their negotiations and more effectively work to walk away with what they want.

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