The Negotiator Magazine

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If issues become entangled, you must sort them out and keep everything in perspective.

“A” is “A”.  “A.1” is “A.1”.  Once issues intertwine it’s easier for your adversaries to carve away at your essential elements without your recognizing it. Allowing this to continue will help establish an environment within which your opponent is better able to confuse, frustrate and bedazzle you.  

Take a new tack

If you are aware of your bottom line as your ultimate destination, realize there may be a number of ways you can get there. What works for you may not work for your opponent. Finding ways to achieve a mutual goal are what negotiations are about. There are usually many mechanisms to achieve a goal in a way which preserves both sides’ interests while reaching something akin to status quo. Giving and getting to the point of deciding what both parties are willing to settle for in exchange of something of value can be challenging; but if your bottom line is one which is fair to both and achievable by your adversary, your odds of getting there improve greatly. 

Acknowledge progress

In the course of sometimes heated and passionate volley, it’s easy to loose sight of where you’ve been. Stop after each ‘forward charge’ and recount what you’ve gained and lost. Regroup and commit to writing where you stand. Commemorate cooperative actions by taking a moment to briefly recap and acknowledge everyone on moving forward. Then, begin again on your next point. Doing so slowly whittles away contested items reducing the bulk of contention to the essence of impasse. 

Though negotiation can be analyzed, disassembled and modeled, it remains very much an artful and intuitive process. Every step of the way, each minor obstacle negotiated and small advances through major issues must be acknowledged and marked as a reverse

bearing in your direction forward. It’s important to honor the distance you and your opponent cover together toward ultimate solution. This is part of giving credit where credit is earned and is an excellent, lasting means of building good faith and momentum toward resolution. 

The good-will you build in working through objections and concessions can set the stage for shifting your opposition into a valuable position of advocacy. 

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June 2006