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Prepare a Negotiation not a Presentation

By Steve Altman

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Most people agree that preparation is important to the success of any negotiation and we put a good deal of time into it. It is nice that something so important is one of the few things under our control. But I find that the time invested is often misplaced. In fact, in a study by Neil Rackham of the characteristics of “skilled negotiators” he found that both skilled and average negotiators spent about the same time preparing, but they used their time differently focusing on different issues. For example, skilled negotiators place more emphasis on aspects such as strategizing, considering a broader range of outcomes and options, and exploring common ground. (See The Behavior of Successful Negotiators, Huthwaite, 1976, 1982, 1990). In my experience supervising litigation for 25 years and mediating over 1000 matters, lawyers and laymen spend most of their time preparing a presentation – that is, what they will say to the other side in order to persuade them that they are wrong. This focus often results in only persuading one’s self to the point of overconfidence. While people may also think about what their opening offer will be, there are a host of other issues that require thoughtful consideration if you are going to negotiate successfully.

In this article I want to direct your attention to additional subjects for preparation and how to develop these subjects to produce more fruitful negotiations. This is not to say that arguing one’s case is not important. But it should not necessarily be the primary focus or the default activity at the expense of studying opportunities for agreement, options to create value, sources of leverage, and the creation of a dialogue that will engage the other side in meaningful discussion.

Prepare a Negotiation not a Presentation By Steve Altman


Copyright ©2014 Stephen Altman
Copyright ©   2014  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  August 2014