What is Principled Negotiation?
Principled negotiation, as described in the bestselling negotiation book Getting to Yes, encourages us to share and explore the deeper interests underlying our stated positions.
When negotiators disagree about an issue, consulting objective criteria can be a lot more productive than adversarial bargaining. This “principled negotiation” involves drawing on principles and objective criteria to settle differences rather than making opinion-based arguments.
When you discuss your area of disagreement through the lens of independent standards, you sidestep the common temptation to defend your own position and tear down the other party’s. In the process, you increase your odds of coming together—both in the short term and during the life of any agreement you reach.
There are four main elements of principled negotiation:
1. Separate the people from the problem. In principled negotiation, negotiators work to deal with emotions and personality issues separately from the issues at stake.
2. Focus on interests, not positions. Look beyond hard-and-fast positions to try to identify underlying interests—basic needs, wants, and motivations.
3. Invent options for mutual gain. In principled negotiation, negotiators devote significant time to brainstorming a wide range of possible options before choosing the best one.
4. Insist on using objective criteria. It’s common in negotiation for parties to argue back and forth about whose “facts” are correct. This type of argument is likely to end in either impasse or an inefficient compromise.
The more you bring standards of fairness, efficiency, or scientific merit to bear on your particular problem, the more likely you are to produce a final package that is wise and fair.
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