What is a Beneficial Agreement?
Some negotiation experts would have you believe that a mutually beneficial agreement is one in which each side grabs as much as it can from a finite pot of resources and calls it a day.
At the Program on Negotiation, we urge you to aim higher by combining such competitive value-claiming with collaborative value creation. Not because it’s the “nice” thing to do, but because it’s been proven to be the best path to a truly mutually beneficial agreement.
Negotiators often fail to reach a mutually beneficial agreement because they bring a win-lose mindset to the negotiation table. The assumption of a fixed pie triggers competitive behavior that bypasses opportunities for collaboration and leaves parties entrenched in an impasse.
Rather than working together to increase the size of the overall pie, negotiators end up haggling over a small pie, reducing the chance of creating a beneficial agreement that increases the value for everyone at the table.
To do this, you have to establish a relationship with your counterpart and through this discover the zone of possible agreement with her (ZOPA). When you know the areas of agreement where you and your counterpart are in alignment (and those areas on which you diverge), a skilled negotiator can craft a mutually beneficial agreement that most closely approximates her own and her counterpart’s needs while building a bargaining relationship with her counterpart.
Rather than antagonistic, the negotiation process becomes a value-creating, integrative situation in which each side gets a “fair share” of the pool of resources.
In the end, remember that situations that appear to be zero-sum rarely are.
The key to value creation and a beneficial agreement? Bringing a degree of optimism about the chances of expanding the pie to every negotiation.
Discover how to boost your power at the bargaining table in this free special report, Dealmaking: Secrets of Successful Dealmaking in Business Negotiations, from Harvard Law School.
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