Often it is the relatively small details of an agreement that can cause the most consternation in negotiation. When viewed in light of the big picture, these details can be of minor importance, but while in the heat of the action they can become points of contention capable of derailing the process altogether, especially if these points are left unresolved and the two parties have to come back to the negotiating table again in the future. Tufts University Fletcher School of Diplomacy professor and Program on Negotiation faculty member Jeswald Salacuse recently described four such scenarios in his article “The Endgame” for the Winter 2012 edition of Tufts Magazine.
Professor Salacuse emphasizes that having good negotiation skills while in the midst of battle is important, but of equal importance is the ability to execute a good endgame. Professor Salacuse offers four methods to close the deal:
- Set a deadline.
- Not all issues have to be decided immediately.
- Invite an influential third-party.
- Solicit the opinions of an expert.
Setting a deadline for negotiations places pressure on participants to conclude some sort of agreement. Without a time constraint, negotiators can endlessly haggle over items of differing levels of importance which can lead the negotiations down unproductive paths. Placing a time constraint forces negotiators to decide on items of importance in a systematic fashion, and you may be able to close the deal if you are able to postpone deciding some issues.
Inviting and influential third-party to your negotiation can also impact the process in a positive way. If this actor is seen as trustworthy and her authority is considered legitimate by both sides then conclusions she helps negotiators reach will be more readily accepted than if the two sides only exchange volleys in their attempts to create value for their side. Lastly if an influential third-party is not available then the parties can bring in an expert. Like an influential third-party, an expert can help shed light on the current negotiation in addition to bringing legitimacy to the process.