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Begin the Negotiation

As the negotiation session opens, professionals should ask questions about the substance of the negotiation. Then, they should listen carefully to what their counterparts share. While listening, professionals should avoid reacting to what they hear and should simply absorb the information. In additional to listening, professionals should also set a good example by sharing information. They should share their ideas in consumable chunks and watch out for situations where people could misunderstand one another.

A working relationship should be built early in the negotiation. To keep the relationship separate from the negotiation itself, professionals must do the following:

*Deal with the relationship head-on. If any concerns were raised in preparation, professionals should diagnose them and explore possible solutions.

*Separate relationship issues from the substance of the negotiation. Any relationship issues should be identified and addressed so they do not conflict with the negotiation process itself.

*Work unconditionally to grow the relationship. Regardless of existing issues in the relationship, professionals should work to make the relationship stronger. They should set the stage for a collaborative approach from the beginning by being respectful, well prepared, and ready to listen.

Create and Refine the Options

The relationship building that begins during the negotiation helps negotiators create and refine their options. Professionals must confirm their counterparts’ interests and must also carefully share their own interests. Not all interests should be put on the table, but enough information should be shared to make a counterpart feel comfortable following suit.

Once ideas have been generated, professionals should evaluate them. Standards should be used to narrow options and support good solutions. When one party advocates an option that the other party does not believe is fair, standards should be used to support the argument against it. If counterparts bring conflicting standards, they should discuss which data is appropriate for the situation. By applying standards and iterating and refining the options, professionals will arrive at a few workable solutions.

Select the Right Outcome

When a few solutions are left on the table, professionals must move toward a final agreement. They should evaluate the remaining solutions against the best alternative identified in the preparation.

Professionals should assess their strong options against the following three criteria to narrow them down further:

1. It is operational and sufficient. Professionals should make sure that the timeline, terms, and conditions in the given option are realistic and detailed enough to be implemented.

2. There is authority to commit to it. Professionals should not make agreements they are not allowed to make.

3. It can be sold internally to key stakeholders. Professionals should test the solution with the right people before they make any commitments, keeping in mind that those people may have concerns or ideas that have not been considered.

With the solutions evaluated, many professionals may feel confident that they are getting close to finalizing the negotiation, but some negotiators will find things taking a turn for the worse. In those situations, they must adapt their approach.

Adapt the Approach

Many negotiators are frustrated by the fact that they cannot control what the other party does. In these cases, it is important for professionals to be flexible. The following are ways to stay flexible:

*Role play. When professionals find themselves in the middle of a negotiation and they are not sure which direction to go, they can practice with someone else before going back into the negotiation room.

*Become a fly on the wall. Throughout the negotiation, a professional can step out of the action to look at what is happening. Stepping out is helpful because it allows a professional to avoid getting stuck in a narrow view of the situation.

*Take an occasional break. If negotiators are not sure what to do next, are frustrated and need to calm down, or need to consult with colleagues, they should ask for a break.

*Conduct frequent reviews and make midcourse corrections. A smart negotiator can take a more complete step back at certain points to review what is happening in the negotiation. At each step back, negotiators should ask themselves what is working and what could be done differently.

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