Negotiation Skills 101: Focusing on Interests
Whether it's with your wife, landlord, neighbor, friend, boss, employee, another lawyer, etc., we are involved in negotiations on a daily basis. And though some negotiations may carry more weight than others in your life, there's always room to better your negotiating skills.
Changing your mindset from a "positional" to an "interest" minded focus can greatly affect your overall success rate throughout the negotiation process. Most negotiating routinely involves one person's "position" over another person's. By this, I mean that one person wants to "win" a negotiation over their opponent. For example, negotiations usually entail hardball tactics between individuals who's egos get in the way of a successful outcome. Both sides want to be the "winner" and focus their efforts on the feeling of victory rather than trying to find a solution that benefits both parties.
By focusing on each parties "interests" rather than their egos, two people can reach amicable, successful resolutions where gains and concessions aren't paramount over the objective of reaching a successful goal where both sides get what they want.
"Focus on interests, not positions"
The first step is to identify what your interests are. Your next step is to ask yourself "why" you those interests are important to you. Once you identify the "whys", take it a step further and question why the "whys" are even of interest to you. Then repeat all those steps to determine what the interests of the other party are. And though many times you can assume what those interests are, it's a far better approach to simply ask the other party what his or her interests are. Once they tell you what their interests are, ask them why those interests are important. Once you get those responses, question those as well. The goal is to reach the core of each parties' interests and reasons behind those interests.
For example, an argument between a husband and wife in which the husband finds her yelling that he needs to be home for dinner every night by 7:00 pm is dissected, after careful inquiry by the husband, into her feelings that 1) she wants to feel appreciated, 2) she wants to spend more time with her husband, 3) she does not feel like a priority in her husband's life, etc. She then later explains that she hasn't felt appreciated lately, especially after she goes out of her way to do things for him like buy groceries, cook dinner, help with the kids' homework, etc. She also feels like the husband doesn't want to spend time with her and she thinks he prefers doing other things.
An unsuccessful argument or negotiation without carefully understanding what the wife's interests are would have the couple fighting back and forth over the exact time the husband needs to be home every night. Their egos and positions would get in the way where each party wants to be the winner. And even if the husband concedes after a long fight and agrees to be home by 7:00 pm every night, he feels defeated and unhappy with his wife. At the same time, the wife now has obtained her desired "goal" of getting the husband to be home by 7:00 pm only to discover that none of her underlying interests have been addressed or resolved--instead the couple eat silently at the dinner table and the relationship is further damaged.
A successful argument would have each side identify their underlying concerns and interest. Only then can the husband address her feelings and they can work together to find creative solutions to their problems. The husband suggests a vacation. She then suggests different activities the couple can partake in that they both enjoy doing. He's in charge of buying the groceries every other week and helps the kids with their studies. Once a week they agree to eat dinner at a restaurant that they pick on an alternating basis. Etc.
In conclusion, a shift in changing from a positional to an interest focused frame of mind can be the determinating factor in a more lucrative and successful negotiation.
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