The fourth chapter of Done Deal: Insights from Interviews with the World's Best Negotiators by Michael Benoliel, Ed.D with Linda Cashdan, opens with a quote by former Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, "Nine-tenths of the serious controversies which arise in life result from . . . one man not knowing the facts which to the other man seem important, or otherwise failing to appreciate his point of view." There is a lot to this quote and the idea that a negotiator, to be successful, must know the needs of the other party.
Sometimes during negotiation seminars it may appear that your interests are fundamentally incompatible with those of the other side. Regardless if some interests really do coincide, becoming biased or trapped into the thinking that they are not will most likely result in a failure to reach agreement.
Successful negotiators not only seek out areas that lead to agreements, but strive to overcome areas of incompatibility once identified. Negotiating from both sides of the table, or knowing what the other party needs, assists in accomplishing this.
During my opening statements in negotiation seminars I often remind the parties that they came to the mediation looking for something, and that it is the people at the table who have the ability to give them what they came for. I explain that while it may be helpful or persuasive in negotiation seminars to say a person's a liar and try to discredit them, for mediation purposes it's sometimes helpful to remember that the people sitting at the table with them are the people who have what they came for.
This is the same for all negotiation seminars; you are looking for something only the other side can provide. As I wrote in the column on BATNAs, the only reason to negotiate is to produce an agreement better than you can obtain without negotiating.
Therefore, the negotiator must be able to bridge substantive differences in order to accommodate the needs of both parties to structure proposals and finally agreements. In order to do this, and I'll repeat myself here, the successful negotiator must know the needs of the other party.
While this idea seems fairly simple and uncomplicated, in practice, it can be just the opposite. Often during negotiation seminars it is difficult to step outside yourself, and your issues, to focus on those of your counterpart. It is quite easy to ignore your opponent's point of view entirely. I specifically use the term "opponent" because that is how many negotiators view those they are negotiating with rather than a partner in a collaborative process toward mutual benefit. And while this latter view is the ideal, it is certainly a bit optimistic and maybe unrealistic for every negotiation. However it can be a goal to strive toward.
Getting back to my main point, according to Benoliel, there is substantial academic research supporting the notion that negotiators tend to ignore even readily available information about the other side.
Because understanding the issues of your counterparts on the other side of the negotiation table is so important, the successful negotiator should work toward developing the mindset that will enable the learning and addressing of those issues in negotiation seminars. One way to do this in your preparation stages is to mentally bargain from both sides of the table. You can think of it like preparing for a debate without knowing what side you will be chosen to represent.
You prepare cases for both sides. While negotiating, mentally bargain for both sides. Doing this will help you explore their issues and positions and help your understanding. Doing this can assist you with creating win-win situations from our negotiation seminars.
There is more than one side in negotiation seminars, and to pursue your goals successfully, you need to enter the negotiations with a clear sense of your own objectives and bottom line and an understanding of your counterpart's reality as well. Learn their goals, their interests, and their constraints. Try to determine what their BATNA may be. Mentally sit on their side of the table for a while and determine that you are going to work with, and not against, the other side. Do this and accomplishing your goals through successful negotiation seminars will be much easier.