The Seven Pillars of Negotiation Wisdom

By Lain Chroust Ehmann

No two negotiations are the same. The parties, the issues and the stakes involved vary, and each deal must be approached uniquely. To help you organize your thinking about a negotiation, Steven P. Cohen of the Negotiation Skills Company, author of Negotiating Skills for Managers has identified the Seven Pillars of Negotiational Wisdom. Each time you negotiate, says Cohen, consider how each of these elements affects the process and how each is prioritized.

Relationship. You may find yourself negotiating with the same individuals over and over. As a result, it’s important to take a wider view of each negotiation and see how it plays into the long-term relationship. It may be worth losing the battle to win the war. “Treat each negotiation as an episode in an ongoing relationship,” suggests Cohen.

Interests. You need to understand your own interests so your decisions don’t undercut them, but you also need to understand as much as you can about the other parties’ interests. By doing so you can increase your ability to influence those parties by showing them how you’ve incorporated their interests in your proposals.

Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). The BATNA is the balance of power between the negotiating parties, says Cohen. If you have a strong BATNA, you have greater power to influence the outcome of the negotiation. If you understand the relative BATNAs, you’ll understand whether negotiation is a good way to resolve the issues you face. You also will know what choices you can make when determining negotiation partners and what information might trigger you to walk away from an unpromising negotiation, explains Cohen.

Creativity. If your negotiating partner has a limited scope and can’t see alternatives to his or her initial proposal, creativity may become the top priority in the negotiation process.

Fairness. How other negotiating partners perceive your behavior and what they believe about the fairness of the process can determine whether they’re committed to the end results.

Commitment. No matter how favorable an outcome may seem, a negotiation is only successful when it yields an agreement to which all parties are committed.

Communication. “Information is the fundamental asset in negotiation. Communication is how information moves from one party to others. Paying attention to other parties shows not only respect, but also can yield information crucial to your decision making,” reminds Cohen.