Each day you will find yourself negotiating with people, regardless of whether or not these negotiations fall within your personal or professional life.

With this in mind you may find the following tips and tools effective in preparing for and participating in any negotiation you are entering.

You have a lot of scope for creating the best possible environment for effective negotiations. Prior to any negotiation, preparation is key. You can prepare well in the following ways:

  • Work to identify clearly all the issues that need to be discussed
  • Identify your overall interests and desired satisfactions in the context of this negotiation
  • Identify your bottom limit
  • Put yourself into the shoes of the other party and identify the possible interests and desired satisfactions of the other party;
  • With the needs, goals and objectives of both yourself and the other party in mind, identify some creative options that may meet both sets of interests
  • Identify the consequences if an agreement is not reached through initial negotiations
  • Seek and ensure that you have all relevant information
  • Ensure that the other party has all relevant information which will enable them to prepare and to make informed decisions,
  • Engage any independent expert advice (if necessary) which may be useful
  • Prepare a summary of the issues to give to the other party and to anyone attending the negotiation
  • Prepare a statement of agreed facts with the involvement of the other party (where appropriate)
  • Establish with your group the role that each of you will play in the negotiation

During Negotiations

Think of your role and the role of the other party like this – you are predominantly problem solvers who are aiming to reach consensus. You may even contemplate a meeting structure like the following,

  1. One party will explain his or her perspective/objective
  2. The other party can then ask some questions
  3. The other party will then explain its perspective/objective
  4. The first party can then ask clarifying questions
  5. There is then general discussion of the problem using an agenda of issues agreed to by the parties
  6. There is opportunity for the parties to separate and discuss the issues raised privately
  7. There are further separate and joint meetings until a solution is found.
  8. Finally an agreement may be written down and signed by both people (where appropriate).

During the negotiations (whatever format they may take) you can greatly enhance the chance of an agreement being reached in the following ways:

  • Focus the negotiations on needs, wishes and interests– not just on rights or likelihood of success in court,
  • Listen for the other side’s needs and objectives,
  • Suggest options for settlement that meet both sides’ objectives,
  • Ensure all points are covered adequately in any agreement reached and all necessary obligations are considered,
  • Use conciliatory not adversarial language,
  • Show that you understand the other side’s point of view by asking clarifying questions, summarising their key points and acknowledging what they are saying,
  • Be prepared to listen, understand and acknowledge the other person’s perspective of the problem.

General Points

The people who know most about the problem should be at the negotiation. This is true of any negotiation, whether it is about which DVD to hire, or which business plan to implement.