The Negotiator Magazine

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Negotiators who pay proper attention to the interests they're pursuing should have a better capacity to develop a clear sense of the best way to go forward in spite of a troubled history - or even because of past problems. If a supplier has a history of late delivery or failure to fulfill promised specifications, the customer may not want to spend time pursuing an abject apology- but the customer may recognize the importance of taking into account those issues when negotiating about future performance.
While George Orwell's view of how authoritarian governments deal with historical truth may ring true on the world's political stage, negotiators who are getting on with business should use what they've learned from the past to make sure that negotiations yield better future results.

Thus, in negotiation, the past is the past - whether agreed-upon or not. Negotiation is about what comes next; how we're going to reach an agreement that serves our interests in the future. Being aware of the past is sensible, but getting hung up on the past can escalate conflict. Focusing on the future, on one's interests going forward, can make the negotiation process far more productive.


Steven P. Cohen, President of The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc. of Boston, Massachusetts (USA) (www.negotiationskills.com), is author of Negotiating Skills for Managers (McGraw-Hill).

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January 2007