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Twenty definitions of, and seventy five preconditions for, successful negotiation


In this feature, TrainingZONE author Andrew Gibbons offers some tools to understand and improve negotiation.

These are the result of a negotiation activity I use a lot, that requires small groups to firstly define using flip charts, 'successful negotiation' then identify the seven most significant preconditions for successful negotiation. Then the two groups negotiate to determine without modification, which definition is best, and which six preconditions from the fourteen. Thus it generates plenty of very useful content, and the learning value is enhanced via the process of real negotiation to agree - not always possible! – on the one definition and six preconditions.

Twenty selected definitions of successful negotiation:

1. To achieve mutual agreement.

2. Coming to an agreed resolution through a process of effective communication and review of positions, using your available power and influence.

3. All parties feel part, and have ownership of the outcome.

4. The process of reaching a sustainable agreement by both parties.

5. To have a win/win or no deal situation.

6. Reaching a situation that is mutually satisfactory for all parties concerned in a way that is as painless as possible.

7. Achieving what you set out to do.

8. Where both parties can achieve what they want.

9. That you end up with an outcome that both parties feel comfortable with and able to own.

10. Successful negotiating is when people can communicate calmly and willingly together to achieve a main goal or resolve a problem, and come up an agreeable solution.

11. Reaching a situation that is mutually satisfactory for all parties concerned in a way that is as 'painless' as possible.

12. A process which leaves both parties feeling that they have gained more than they have given.

13. The process of searching for an agreement that satisfies various parties.

14. Short term, to get what you want, but longer term to get most of what you want whilst the other 'person' also feels the outcome is acceptable – win/nearly win.

15. Negotiation is where all parties reach a successful and desired climax, having achieved their individual objectives.

16. Reaching a conclusion acceptable to all whilst maximising your return.

17. Successful negotiation results in an outcome all parties can live with, and feel they have contributed towards.

18. The active resolution of a difficult situation or opposing views, where the outcome is accepted and mutually agreed by all parties.

19. Successful negotiation is where a 'win/win' situation is achieved.

20. An agreement that will stand the test of time because both sides feel comfortable with the result.

Some pre-conditions for successful negotiation – some near duplication as these come from many groups' thoughts

1. Adequate uninterrupted time.

2. Communication – willingness to participate.

3. Clear objectives by each party.

4. Flexibility / reasonableness.

5. Mutual respect/understanding of the other party's position.

6. There must be perceived differences between the parties who are to negotiate.

7. An explanation of all positions and objectives.

8. An agreement about the process of negotiation.

9. There will be a periodic review of key stages of the negotiation.

10. Having an awareness of key issues prior to the negotiation.

11. Being prepared to be flexible whilst maintaining your boundaries.

12. Being prepared to use your power and influence.

13. Respect the other person’s point of view.

14. Listen and confirm what is being said.

15. Body language must be positive and open.

16. Allow time for reflection and listening so it is not rushed.

17. Maintain focus and direction – know what you want as an outcome.

18. Be willing to compromise, whilst knowing what cannot be conceded.

19. A thorough knowledge of the situation, and of relevant history of related events.

20. Knowledge of restrictions and limiting factors ground rules and barriers.

21. Awareness of alternatives to negotiated agreement – including walk away and third party.

22. Know objectives/goals – good planning.

23. All parties willing to negotiate – flexible.

24. Good communications – calm and assertive – listen.

25. Correct use of words and language.

26. The desire by all parties to resolve the conflict.

27. Careful not to undersell yourself.

28. Define the issue/common ground.

29. Willingness to meet.

30. Getting the right people involved in the negotiation – i.e. those with the appropriate authority.

31. Personal attributes of negotiator.

32. Explore what alternatives will be if negotiation will take place.

33. Trying to understand the other persons’ perception of the situation.

34. Need to know what you want to achieve.

35. Need to be realistic and know limitations.

36. Both parties wish to resolve the situation.

37. An understanding and appreciation of the opposing viewpoints.

38. Acceptable means of implementing results of the negotiation.

39. Representatives are in a position to negotiate.

40. Willing to accept change to a degree.

41. Controlling your feelings.

42. Asserting yourself without offending.

43. Decide the best person to negotiate with, to get a result.

44. Have a clear understanding and knowledge of what you are negotiating for.

45. Do not presume anything, clarify first.

46. Know when and on what to concede.

47. Don't settle for less than you want unless absolutely necessary (don’t undersell).

48. Take time out to consider.

49. Don't take things personally – try to be detached.

50. Each party must have something the others want.

51. Knowing the results of failure.

52. Restraint in the use of power.

53. Good information and briefing on both sides.

54. Ensure both/all parties have the opportunity to communicate their standpoint/point of view to the others.

55. Creative/innovative solutions, and the ability to think about problems in a different way.

56. Exploit and build on the areas of agreement.

57. Ensure agreements are summarised and finalised.

58. Have a clear idea of your fall-back position.

59. Knowing the result of a failure to negotiate.

60. Define what the issue is.

61. Select the most appropriate location and venue – away from other distractions.

62. Controlled behaviour and body language.

63. To enter into negotiations with an openness and willingness for movement.

64. Stating outcomes and follow-on actions so that all parties are clear on agreements.

65. All should be able to ask questions, to clarify matters, and to be heard in full without interruption.

66. To feel comfortable with detaching yourself physically from the negotiations if required to think things through.

67. To have at hand as many facts as possible.

68. To be able to 'warn' without appearing to threaten.

69. To be able not to gloat at the end if it goes the way you wanted.

70. To know your hot buttons, and not reactive unhelpfully if these are pressed.

71. Honesty and fairness.

72. Self-control: non-aggressive body language.

73. Full understanding of all outcomes.

74. The ability to avoid reacting instinctively, without thought to proposals, suggestions, or even abuse.

75. Tolerance of others' views – even, or especially those very different to your own.

This item was provided by Andrew Gibbons - click here for more materials by this author.


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