The Best Negotiators Plan to Think on Their Feet

Source: Michael Wheeler, Harvard Business Review, HBR Blog Network, June 24, 2014

…Master negotiators understand the importance of agility. The late Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. diplomat who brokered peace in the former Yugoslavia, likened negotiation to jazz. “It’s improvisation on a theme,” he said. “You know where you want to go, but you don’t know how to get there. It’s nonlinear.”

But improvising is not making it up as you go along. Quite the opposite. Improvising requires deliberate learning, adapting, and influencing as you negotiate. You want to learn how much room there is for agreement (if any), and whether you can create opportunities for mutual gain. You’re also exploring how best to engage your counterpart: should you offer carrots or is this a case for brandishing a stick?

Having tentative answers to such questions is important before you start. Equally important, though, is treating them as assumptions that must be tested, refined, or perhaps discarded altogether. And the less you know, the more provisional your strategy must be. You’d better have a Plan B, in case things don’t pan out as you had hoped….
Related:
Win Over an Opponent by Asking for Advice
Source: Katie Liljenquist and Adam Galinsky, Harvard Business Review, HBR Blog Network, June 27, 2014

What do an inflated surgical bill, a fuming real-estate developer, and a dreaded performance appraisal have in common? All can be mitigated with one simple gesture: a request for advice.