Getting To Yes – Negotiating Agreements

We’ve had some recent posts about dealing with anger, but not all “conflict” results from anger. At times, we have to negotiate agreements at work, with loved ones, or in a legal situation. Traditional ideas about keeping yourself calm, maintaining respect, and being empathetic are important, but here are some specific strategies for reaching an agreement that everyone can walk away with and feel good about.

Negotiation isn’t always about compromise. It’s also not about winning and losing. You want to have a joint gain. Ask yourself why? Why would one point of view be more important than the other?

You want to develop a wise solution to a shared problem. This is most important when there are complex issues and you want to avoid an arbitrary outcome (i.e. someone else has to decide for you). It’s also important when you need to maintain a good working relationship with the other person or organization.

So, how can you maintain principled versus dirty tactics?

  • Don’t give in.
  • Don’t counter-attack.
  • Don’t lock into your position.
  • Ask yourself, what are your interests vs positions? And, ask the same of the other person.
  • Do you know the other person’s expectations?
  • Don’t get distracted by being offended
  • Model and encourage the behavior you want to see from the other person

If the conversation is particularly difficult, you don’t have to decide in the moment. Ask if you can think about it and get back to them. Decisions should be made on the basis of an independent standard versus who can do what to whom, i.e. threats.

Feeling frustrated? Remember:

We tend to get tired and argue when we feel attacked. The antidote? Don’t defend yourself or your position, welcome criticism, and ask questions. Making decisions based on standards and merits are better than an arbitrary solution. And, negotiation is independent of trust – It’s ok to ask and verify, you just need to do it in the right way. Here are some examples:

  • Let me ask some questions to see if my facts are right.
  • Let me see if I understand you correctly.
  • Please correct me if I’m wrong.
  • I (we) appreciate what you’ve done for me (us).
  • My (our) concern is fairness.
  • Let me show you where I have trouble understanding your reasons.
  • One fair solution might be.…does that sounds fair to you?
  • If we agree…if not, then let’s get an independent recommendation.

It can be difficult to maintain a sense of principled negotiation, especially when things aren’t going the way you would have hoped. Keep in mind the following questions to keep yourself on course:

  • How would you feel if a transcript of the interaction was in the news – would you look like a villain or hero?
  • How would you feel about yourself later?

Interesting in talking about more ideas like these? Reach out to

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We know it's not always easy to ask for help.
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We know it's not always easy to ask for help. But sometimes talking with a compassionate, insightful professional can provide answers and clarity.