Strategies for negotiating

Understanding the other party's interests and tactics is integral to good negotiating. Choosing a strategy that best responds to their interests and tactics will help you achieve the best outcome.

Matching the strategy to the situation

Some of the different strategies for negotiation include:

  • problem solving – both parties committing to examining and discussing issues closely when entering into long-term agreements that warrant careful scrutiny
  • contending – persuading your negotiating party to concede to your outcome if you're bargaining in one-off negotiations or over major 'wins'
  • yielding – conceding a point that is not vital to you but is important to the other party; valuable in ongoing negotiations
  • compromising – both parties forgoing their ideal outcomes, settling for an outcome that is moderately satisfactory to each participant
  • inaction – buying time to think about the proposal, gather more information or decide your next tactics.

Your chosen strategy will depend on who you are negotiating with and the type of relationship you have with them. For example, what level of cooperation and common interest exists between you, and how will each party behave during the negotiation? It will also depend on what you are negotiating, and the time frame and setting you are negotiating in.

How to approach a negotiation

As well as choosing a strategy, you may wish to consider your approach to the issue being negotiated. There are 3 key approaches to negotiations: hard, soft and principled negotiation. Many experts consider the third option – principled negotiation – to be best practice:

  • The hard approach involves contending by using extremely competitive bargaining.
  • The soft approach involves yielding, where one party tries hard to meet the interests of the other party and forgoes their own interests.
  • Principled negotiation focuses on achieving a lasting, win-win outcome by:
    • separating the people from the problem
    • focusing on interests not positions
    • generating a variety of options before settling on an agreement
    • basing the agreement on objective criteria.

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