In many things in life, the response we get is coloured by our own approach. If you start out aggressive – you’ll almost certainly get aggression back. Start out co-operative – you’ll get co-operation back.

That’s especially true when it comes to a negotiation. If both sides are adversarial there’ll be little trust between the two parties. The difficulty is if one side decides to be co-operative, there’s a danger the other side will use this apparent sign of weakness to their advantage.

Co-operative negotiating has the advantage of being a more efficient style of negotiation, however certain rules have to be followed by both parties for it to work.

Let's look at the two styles of bargaining and their features:

Adversarial negotiating

  • Each side takes up a position and defends it
  • Opening bids are set at unrealistic levels; too high or too low, in order to give room for manoeuvre
  • Movement is small or non-existent until later on in the negotiation
  • Tactics are used to gain short term advantage
  • Too much emphasis is placed on trust
  • Information is withheld, or misrepresented
  • Neither side asks enough questions, or explores alternatives in sufficient depth

The outcome is often ‘win-lose’, or ‘lose-lose’, and the more aggressive negotiator usually does best. The problem with it is the style does not encourage long term, mutually beneficial relationships. If somebody thinks they've 'lost' – they'll remember that.

Co-operative negotiating

  • Each side recognises and respects the other has needs and feelings and accepts implicit rules
  • Objective measures are taken of what is fair and reasonable
  • Trust is not an issue as either side is willing to share information
  • This style is friendly, but not soft. There is a willingness to trade concessions
  • There is a clear, communicable negotiating strategy
  • Creative ways of problem solving are explored
  • Both sides ask questions and explore alternatives, rather than taking up fixed positions

The negotiating style encourages long term, mutually profitable relationships. Trust has been built, and that will underpin the relationship going forwards.

Guess the negotiation style that’s most likely to get the outcomes you want and lead to a successful ongoing business relationship!

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