The Negotiator Magazine

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Another very important matter to consider when negotiating is that "wants" are not "needs." What a person "wants" and what they "need" are two separate things. I may "want" a newspaper because I "need" to know what is happening in the world. I may "want" a pair of glasses because I "need" vision or "want" to use a drill motor because I "need" to make holes in something. In more than forty years of conducting seminars, consulting and writing on the subject of negotiating, I'm still amazed how many negotiators don't understand the difference between the two.

When negotiating if you want to separate the two for purposes of greater understanding, I advise you simply ask this question: "Now that you have told me what you want what do you really need?" It is absolutely amazing how individuals will immediately move away from what they said they wanted into areas of more important need. Negotiators as a general rule will always start from the position of what they "want" and are willing to settle for what the truly "need."

Negotiations end with a contract or hand-shake

Another myth is that negotiations end when individuals shake hands or sign agreements and contracts. In many situations, that's when "post-negotiations" begin ... that's a period when people don't comply with the terms and conditions of the settlement and we have to sit down with them to discuss the reasons for their non-compliance. This seems to occur more often with labor-management negotiations.

Aggressive negotiator superiority

A myth I discovered very early in my career was the belief that a very aggressive negotiator tended to be the most productive. In reality, the overly aggressive negotiator is not as productive simply because of human nature. "The tougher the tactics ... the tougher the resistance!" Those negotiators who attempt to use force, intimidation, manipulation, etc. seem to bring out the greatest resistance and the least amount of cooperation and support from others. In my early days of negotiating with sub-contractors in the Aero Space

Industry I had a boss who was able to handle a curmudgeon at the negotiating table with his wit and charm. Afterwards, he told me "a little bit of sugar goes a long way in a negotiation." The only time I truly saw an overly aggressive negotiator succeed was a large powerfully built man who engaged in an arm wrestling contest that decided which side would win the last piece of pie in the negotiation.

Preparation certainties

And then there is the myth concerning preparation. Although there is no substitute for being well prepared before a negotiation, it does not necessarily insure the outcome. The principle reason for this is because preparation is only the foundation, not the goal itself. On several occasions I've confidently entered into negotiations with the belief that "all the bases had been covered." And nothing had been left to chance. In other words, there could not possibly be any surprises ... and yet there were. Afterwards we realized our preparation efforts were not at fault, it was assumptions and perceptions we made. Furthermore, what a negotiator works on very diligently during the preparation phase is the questions they will ask, and when they will ask them. But sometimes we fail to realize some questions may open a "hornet's nest" and people respond in a very angry and defensive manner to something they believed was inappropriate or long ago buried. Also, in your preparation don't assume that someone on the other side who was very cooperative and helpful in a previous negotiation will play the same role. I can't tell you how many "Dr. Jekyll" and "Mr. Hyde" persons I've meet.

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March 2005