People often think that distributive bargaining strategies require adversarial bargaining, such as making tough demands, threats, or bluffs.
Research suggests that negotiators with an adversarial bargaining style often fare worse than negotiators with a collaborative approach. Still, there are negotiators who prefer to play hardball and approach negotiation purely as a competition where you either win or lose.
Remember, though, the more you know about the issues at stake, your counterpart’s interests and constraints, and your own preferences and limitations, the better positioned you will be to successfully deploy distributive bargaining strategies and claim value in your next negotiation. The most effective bargainers in a distributive negotiation are often those who spent a lot of time preparing to negotiate.
Adopt a gain frame. Try to identify any benefits that may accompany the burdens you anticipate, and encourage your counterpart to do the same.
Think multiple steps ahead. Instead of taking a tough stance, top negotiators educate their counterparts about what aspects of their offers are most palatable and think about what they might ask for in return for concessions.
Keep talking. When talks have reached an impasse, try building trust and goodwill by proposing that you negotiate relatively minor issues first.
Lastly, never underestimate the power of your BATNA. Negotiators should always determine their best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or BATNA—what they’ll do if they don’t achieve their goals in the current negotiation.
In multi-issue business negotiations, research suggests that the advantage goes to negotiators with a reputation for collaboration rather than competition. In a series of studies by Catherine H. Tinsley and Kathleen O’Connor, participants were told they would be negotiating with someone who had either a tough reputation, a cooperative reputation, or an unknown reputation. Although … Read More
In the summer of 2016, Illinois became the only U.S. state in the past 80 years to go an entire year without a full operating budget, according to Reuters. It reached that dubious milestone thanks to an epic negotiation impasse between Republican governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled state legislature. The story of the negotiation … Read More
In the business world, some negotiators always seem to get what they want, while others more often tend to come up short. What might make some people better negotiators than others? The answer may be in part that people bring different negotiation styles and strategies to the bargaining table, based on their different personalities, experiences, … Read More
Parties can often reach a better agreement through integrative negotiation—that is, by identifying interests where they have different preferences and making tradeoffs among them. If you care more about what movie you see tonight, but your friend cares more about where you have dinner, for example, you can each get your preference on the issue … Read More
Wise negotiators recognize the value of both collaborating and competing at the bargaining table. They look for ways to increase the pie of value for all parties, often by identifying differences across issues and making tradeoffs. And they also rely on distributive bargaining strategies to try to claim as much of that larger pie for … Read More
Multiparty negotiations can be incredibly challenging. Just ask the negotiators from over 170 countries who managed to reach agreement on October 15 on a legally binding accord to combat climate change.
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Increasingly, business negotiators recognize that the most effective bargainers are skilled at both creating value and claiming value—that is, they both collaborate and compete. The following 10 negotiation skills will help you succeed at integrative negotiation.
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Everything good comes in threes, they say. For storytellers, this means understanding that readers and listeners find a sequence of three things to be memorable, satisfying, and compelling—whether it’s three bears, three little pigs, or three kings. For professional negotiators, sequences of three can be rewarding as well. The following examples of good negotiation skills … Read More
In 2017, all eyes were on Washington as a president with a reputation as a dealmaker entered the White House. The following negotiations from the past year, both inside and outside of politics, caught our eye due to the broader lessons they offer business negotiators.
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“It’s going to be so easy,” Donald Trump said this past October, referring to his plan to immediately repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if elected president. But, once in office, President Trump found healthcare reform to be much more difficult than he’d expected.
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In negotiation, we sometimes become so focused on what we’re trying to achieve at the bargaining table that we fail to adequately account for how the deal could look to observers. As two recent deals that the U.S. government reached with Iran show, it’s important for professional negotiators to consider the optics.
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The practice of using alcohol to grease the wheels has a long and storied role in famous negotiations. In recent decades, shared drinks during adversarial bargaining helped lead to breakthroughs in conflicts in Serbia and Northern Ireland, for example.
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Understanding how to arrange the meeting space is a key aspect of preparing for negotiation. In this video, Professor Guhan Subramanian discusses a real world example of how seating arrangements can influence a negotiator’s success. This discussion was held at the 3 day executive education workshop for senior executives at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.
Guhan Subramanian is the Professor of Law and Business at the Harvard Law School and Professor of Business Law at the Harvard Business School.