Using Negotiation Strategies to Achieve Your Goals at the Bargaining Table

Negotiation strategies are the tactics a negotiator uses to achieve his or her goals at the bargaining table. Reframing negotiations as a mutually beneficial endeavor rather than a win-lose battle can make it easier to use negotiation tactics.

Experts recommend preparing for negotiation by learning as much about the decision-maker and their positions. In addition, familiarizing yourself with the culture where you are negotiating can help ease communication.

Collaborative Style

If both parties care about the relationship and outcome of a negotiation, they will work together to identify a solution that fully satisfies all of their concerns. Negotiators with this style are high in both assertiveness and cooperativeness, and they value creating optimal long-term outcomes over efficiency and leaving value on the table.

Inventing new options is a key skill in collaborative style. In the Sinai example above, inventing an alternative solution to the original problem allowed both sides to meet halfway and agree to a compromise. Similarly, innovating alternatives to the other party’s position helps negotiators move away from positional bargaining and toward a mutually beneficial solution.

As a general counsel for Kentucky State University, Lisa Lang negotiates with state and federal government officials, community leaders, employees and other faculty members. She believes a win-win approach to negotiations creates an atmosphere of collaboration and trust, and encourages her colleagues to consider a collaborative approach when possible.

Compromise Style

Negotiators who use the compromise style seek a solution that involves both parties giving up some of their initial positions. The goal is for each party to walk away feeling as if they got something out of the negotiation.

This style may be beneficial in some situations. However, this type of negotiation only solves part of the conflict and can leave each party feeling unsatisfied in the long run.

Individuals that use the compromising style prioritize maintaining their relationship with the other party, rather than focusing on the substance of the agreement. This style is lower in both assertiveness and cooperativeness than the collaboration or competitive styles.

The competitive negotiation style is the classic “I win, you lose” model. It considers the outcome more important than the relationship. This negotiation style is higher in both assertiveness and cooperativeness than other styles, but is lower in the thinking-feeling dyad. Individuals who employ the competitive style are often abrasive negotiators.

Separation of Issues

Keeping the people out of the negotiation and focusing on issues, goals and interests can lead to more efficient negotiations. Having well thought out, clear communication, appropriate emotions and a forward-looking outlook on the problem can also make negotiations go more smoothly.

Negotiators need to understand their own and the other person’s “batna” or maximum, or what they are willing to accept in a deal. Skilled negotiators know that if they overstate their batna, the other person may think that it is not worth the effort to continue negotiations.

The “insist” negotiation strategy can be used when a negotiator believes that obtaining the goal is more important than maintaining the relationship. This often leads to a rigid negotiating position and lack of movement. It can also cause a breakdown in communication and prevent the two parties from finding mutually acceptable solutions to the problem. Separating the issues can avoid these problems. It may be helpful to unbundle the negotiating topics into an optimum, minimum and target goal for each item.

Language Barrier

Language barrier is one of the most common types of negotiation barriers. It refers to the problem of encoding and decoding information into words and ideas. The result is misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and a lack of understanding of each other’s ideas. It also results in conflict, frustration, offense, violence and a loss of time, effort and money.

Culture strongly influences personal style and communication during negotiations. For example, an American negotiator may have a more formal style of negotiation and address counterparts by titles, while a German negotiator has an informal style of negotiation and often uses first names. Another cultural difference involves showing emotions during negotiations. In America, expressing emotions is common in negotiations, while in other countries this is considered rude and inappropriate.

Studies in experimental economics have demonstrated that the way a negotiator frames a bargaining interaction affects the outcome of the negotiation. Negotiators can use different strategies to frame their interactions, such as distributive and integrative strategies.