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The Truth About Negotiations: If You Have Only One Hour to Prepare…

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Negotiation does not just occur in used car lots, boardrooms, or lawyers’ offices. You negotiate every day: with your spouse to split up household tasks, with your colleagues regarding who will take a client’s call, with your young kids to determine the best time for bed. Any time meeting your goals requires the cooperation of others, you must negotiate.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Sometimes you have significant time to prepare for a negotiation. But other times you get blindsided: You get a call from an old friend with a “hot” business opportunity. Or you receive a disturbing email from a colleague claiming resources you believe to be yours. Or your nanny or assistant threatens to leave unless you give her a raise and a three-week vacation. In all these situations, you may feel there’s no time to prepare for negotiation.

But even if you’ve got only an hour—or just moments—to prepare, there are several crucial steps you have to take.

  1. Identify your key goals.
  2. Brainstorm your options.
  3. Plan your opening move.

Get in touch with your goals

Negotiators are often quick to stake out a position. A position is a demand, such as, “I want a bonus check!” The danger in stating a position is that it can lead the other party to stake out a position, such as, “No way; I’m not paying you a bonus!”

Conversely, negotiators who move past positions to focus on their interests usually achieve their goals. A real goal reflects a negotiator’s interests and answers the “why” question. Take the case of two colleagues negotiating who gets the more spacious office in a suite. It would be easy for both colleagues to say, “I want the bigger office.” That is a demand. If the colleagues articulate why they desire the bigger office, they are getting closer to stating their goals. For example, one colleague might want the larger office because it would allow her to have team meetings that are currently impossible to schedule in a conference room, and she is under pressure to deliver on a deadline. The other colleague might want the office to impress important clients.

People’s demands may be incompatible, but their goals might be compatible or at least complementary. For example, if the two colleagues articulate their goals, they might create an arrangement in which they share the big office, reserving it for meetings with clients.

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