The Negotiator Magazine

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M is for Modest Diffidence

When you sound absolutely certain of a position, you take on an air of superiority which can antagonize others. If you introduce a touch of modest diffidence, you sound more open to negotiation.
This is how Benjamin Franklin used this tactic: "I develop the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest diffidence, never using, when I advanced anything that may possibly be disputed, the words "certainly", "undoubtedly" or any other that give the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say "I conceive..." or "I apprehend a thing to be so and so..." "for such and such reasons", or "I imagine it to be so...", or "it is so, if I am not mistaken." This habit I believe has been of great advantage to me when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinion and persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time engaged in promoting."

N is for Needs Not Positions

Throughout the first half of a power negotiation, your aim is to take a position and defend it. In the second half, when you are trying to reach agreement, your aim is to uncover the real needs of the other side behind their public position. It is meeting both sides’ needs that ensures a settlement, not battling against respective positions which only leads to stalemate.
Notice the difference between Position, Interests, and Needs in this situation.
Position: I demand that you stop your children playing football near my garden otherwise I'll have to call the police.
Interests: I have dahlias growing in my garden which I don't want damaged.
Needs: The dahlias are ready to bloom for next week's show. After that it doesn't matter.

O is for Obligation

One of the oldest of power tactics in trade is "obligation". This is the technique of putting people in you debt with generous acts.
One businessman visiting China for the first time fell victim to obligation. For the first four days of his visit he was wined and dined, chauffeured to all the tourist spots, given anything he wanted. His hosts even put a fax at his disposal when the fax machine in the hotel failed to work. At last on the morning of departure, and with time running out, they got down to business. The Chinese negotiators, with subtle reminders of what gracious hosts they had been, extracted everything they wanted from the hapless businessman.


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July 2006