How to Negotiate in Difficult Situations and Still Get What You Want
Sometimes getting what you want or need is a matter of saying the right things to the right people at the right time. We usually think of negotiation as a means to secure a desirable salary, settle a conflict, or close a deal. Negotiation is more than just getting what you want.
Negotiation is a nuanced art form with many possible outcomes. In some forms of negotiation, there is no clear winner. When you understand different types of negotiations, you can work to find the best possible solutions for your situation. You will also be able to identify which negotiation strategies are being used so that you can redirect outcomes that may not be favorable.
When you know how to negotiate, you gain a competitive edge.
Studies suggest that about 87% of people dislike going through the salary negotiation process.1 There’s also a gender gap in negotiations–31% of women say that they are uncomfortable with salary negotiations, and 23% of men dislike the process.2 Disdain for the negotiation process is one of the many factors that contributes to the gender pay gap.3Learning how to come up with solutions that work for all parties is a gift that translates into greater success for all people involved in the process.
Can you identify the negotiation technique?
As much as we may feel like we are imposing on others when we enter into a negotiation, being forthright about your needs up front can save you a lot of heartache and loss. Ideally, all of our solutions would be win-win, but if you’ve ever gotten the raw end of a deal, you know that this is not how all negotiations work. There are several possible outcomes for any negotiation.4
⦁ Win-win: co-create for the result so that both parties can benefit from it
The most desirable negotiations provide positive outcomes for all groups involved. In a win-win negotiation, parties collaborate and co-create desirable results. For this collaborative approach to work, both parties must have the intention of creating something that works best for everyone involved. When you see a win-win outcome, it is almost always because both parties shared information openly and worked together to overcome obstacles. When you have to negotiate for a salary at a new job, hopefully the intention is to create value for you and the business. You want to be compensated so that you can perform effectively, and they want to give you a fair amount so that you will be satisfied in your job.
⦁ Win-lose: one gains more than the other because of limited resources
A win-lose result is almost guaranteed when there are a fixed number of resources and two parties are forced to compete for them. This type of negotiation is often referred to as “zero-sum” since there are a finite amount of resources available, and one party’s gain directly translates into a loss for the other party. Persuasion and manipulation, withholding information, and threatening with force are a few of the markers of a win-lose situation. To visualize how a win-lose result looks in the real world, think of dividing a pizza between two people. The fairest distribution would be to divide the pizza in half. If one person takes an additional slice, the other person is guaranteed to get less. The dining partners have engaged in a form of win-lose negotiation.
⦁ Lose-lose: both lose but one tries to lose less compared to the other one
When two negotiating parties are unable to reach a reasonable agreement, they may work to undermine the needs of one another. The outcomes of this type of arrangement are never good. Unfortunately, we often see this type of interaction during divorce proceedings. Since both parties may come to the negotiations feeling hurt, the chances of one or both parties actively working to cause harm to each other are high. This is not to say that all divorces lead to lose-lose negotiations–only that emotional factors and complex personal matters could make a positive outcome more difficult.5
Multi-party: more than one party is involved in making a decision
Multi-party negotiations are among the most complex.6 They typically involve several large entities with varied interests. We see these types of agreements play out throughout history and in the news today. The Geneva Conventions7 and the Paris Climate Agreement8 are two famous examples of multi-party negotiations.
These complex negotiations are not limited to multi-national agreements, however. When relatives negotiate to settle a contested estate after a family member has passed away, legal representation may be called in to ensure that the needs, desires, and perspectives of all parties are considered while respecting the wishes of the deceased individual.9 When multiple parties are involved, it can be difficult to give everyone what they want, but it is still possible to have a positive outcome.
Five killer tips to have a successful negotiation
⦁ Establish your goals and write them down.
Think about what aspects of the deal are non-negotiable and what you could give up if you needed to compromise.10 In the course of negotiation, you can keep yourself from getting too far off-track by referring to your original intention.
Having a clear grasp on what you hope to accomplish is a good practice for any type of negotiation, but it is critical when you are dealing with emotional issues. Remember that lose-lose outcomes are predicated on having a negative view of the opponent. When an opponent makes an unreasonable demand, pause and revisit your goals before you react.
⦁ Understand your opponent’s position.
You can make a more compelling argument and increase the chances of having a win-win outcome if you grasp your opponent’s position. Sometimes you’ll have to read between the lines to do this. Take time to listen to their needs and try to cooperate with them so that both of you come out ahead. The bullish, take-no-prisoners negotiation model is no longer the preferred means of striking a deal.11 “You get more flies with honey,” as the old saying goes.
When you ask for a raise, listen to the rationale that your boss provides for countering your offer. Maybe your boss thinks you are a great employee, but bad economic conditions are affecting the company’s profit margins. Since your boss has indicated that there are finite resources available, you are entering a win-lose negotiation. You may decide that you will need to find a new job based on this information. You could also negotiate for a slightly lower raise and ask to follow up with your boss in a few months. Either way, by understanding the other person’s position, you can come up with a solution that maximizes a positive outcome, even though one of you will have to make a concession.
⦁ Do your research and identify the approach to use.
Regardless of the negotiating environment, understand the precedents for what you are asking and how cultural differences could influence outcomes.
In salary negotiations, this means that you’ll need to know what someone with your qualifications makes in the position in question. Most of this information can be found online through sites like Glassdoor.
Doing your research can prevent you from asking for something that might seem inappropriate or rude to a foreign entity. What cultural values can you bring into the negotiation?12 Company culture can also influence your approach. If you know that the boss values humility, don’t start the conversation by bragging about all of your accomplishments. Research can help you set the tone for how you will interact with the other person.
⦁ Aim high (or low), but be reasonable.
Use research to inform the baseline of your negotiation. When you make your case, ask for more than you expect to get, so that you and your opponent have room to maneuver. If you ask for the moon, though, you can come off looking unprofessional.
Imagine you are interested in buying a house listed for $300,000. After doing some research on the market and assessing the property, you determine that it needs $20,000 in repairs before it is livable. The seller has already likely set the list price high. You can make a counter offer of $250,000 citing the repair needs and other factors from your research. The homeowner may accept the $250,000, or they may counter again. All of this is great because you are in a dialogue with one another. If both parties are honest, then this could be a win-win situation. If you asked to have the $300,000 home for $50,000, there would be no negotiation because you were unreasonable.13
⦁ Focus on the problem.
Staying on message is essential when you enter into any type of negotiation. In business, it is a good idea not to take things too personally, and in your personal life, sometimes conflict resolution requires a degree of objectivity.14
During a multi-party negotiation, it is easy to become so entangled in various needs that you forget why you are negotiating in the first place. For example, if you are working with two other businesses to fix the asphalt in your shared parking lot, you can enter a minefield of conflicting interests. Maybe most of the problem area is located in front of one business, but it was caused by a tree that another business owner feels is essential for aesthetic purposes. Pursue a collaborative tone in these interactions so that you can all come to a mutually beneficial agreement.
You can’t win if you don’t play.
For many of us, the idea of asking for more in a salary negotiation, a business deal, or in personal disputes can feel daunting. If you never have the courage to speak up, you’ll remain at a disadvantage. Meekness in business and in life is almost never rewarded. There are ways to assert your needs respectfully so that all parties experience some benefit. Give negotiation a try. You may surprise yourself with the results of your efforts.
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io
 Forbes: Why Negotiators Still Aren’t ‘Getting To Yes’
 Career Geek: Understand Salary Negotiation By Understanding These Negotiation Statistics
 Monster: How Salary Negotiation Contributes to the Wage Gap
 Management Study HQ: Approaches to Negotiation
 Divorce Magazine.com: Emotional Issues and Negotiation Skills
 Simplicible: 7 Types of Negotiation and 1 Big Myth
 Wikipedia: Geneva Conventions
 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: The Paris Agreement
 Instructables: How to Divide the Estate Happily and Fairly
 Ed Broddow: Keynotes and Seminars on Negotiation: Ten Tips for Negotiating in 2017
 Forbes: 7 Negotiation Tips for Success
 Negotiation Space: How well do you understand the other party?
 Nightingale Conant: Ask for more than you expect to get
 Negotiation Space: Focus on what is important