The Negotiator Magazine

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During the Information Exchange, questioners must listen carefully for verbal leaks that inferentially disclose important information. For example, someone may initially indicate that they "have to have Item 1," they would "really like to get Item 2," and they "want Item 3." Item 1 is critical, because they have to have it. Item 2 is important - they really wish to obtain it - but it is not essential. Item 3 is only desirable. They would trade it for an important or critical term. What if someone indicates that they are not inclined to go above or below X or they don't wish to move? These leaks would suggest that they would actually do so if the listener gives them time to do so. This is like the negotiator who gets near the end of an interaction and says she doesn't have much more room or isn't inclined to move further - both of which indicate her actual willingness to make additional concessions.

What information is this side willing to disclose and how should they divulge it? If important information is voluntarily disclosed, it tends to be devalued by opponents who assume it is self-serving. Negotiators who want opponents to value their information should make them work to obtain it by divulging these items slowly in response to adversary questions. The more the questioners have to work to obtain this information, the more they value what they hear.

What should bargainers do when asked about areas they would prefer not to disclose? They can use blocking techniques similar to those used by politicians on talk shows to avoid the need to answer sensitive inquiries. First, they can simply ignore the question and focus on what they would like to discuss. If they can get the other participant caught up in the area they are addressing, he may forget to restate the original question. Second, if they are asked a two or three part question, they can focus on the part they like and ignore the other parts. Third, they can over or under answer a question. In response to a specific inquiry, they can provide a general answer, and in response to an expansive question, they can provide a narrow reply. Fourth, they can misinterpret the inquiry and answer their reframed question. For example, if asked about Item 1, they can indicate that they understand that the other side is concerned about Item 2 and then address Item 2. They can finally rule the question out of bounds and refuse to answer it. This is appropriate when someone asks about confidential information they have no right to obtain. The person asked such a question should not hesitate to suggest that she will not discuss such a confidential area and ask the other side what else they would like to talk about.

During the Information Exchange, participants should try to discover what items each side prefers to obtain. A common error made by less proficient negotiators is to assume a fixed pie to be divided by the parties. In most cases, especially multiple item exchanges, the parties value the items differently. One side may desire some terms not particularly valued by the other side, and vice versa. These items should be given to the party that wants to get them. Even when both sides may want the same items, their preferences may differ. As a result, Side A may really need Items 1, 2, and 3, while Side B may have to get Items 4, 5, and 6. If Side B gives Side A the former terms and Side A gives Side B the latter terms, both can gain simultaneously. There will then be some items that both sides value equally. These are the distributive terms the parties will fight over. In the end, some will go to Side A and some will go to Side B. By looking for ways to expand the pie and simultaneously enhancing the returns to both sides, negotiators improve their own situations.

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