When and How to Open a Negotiation
If you are starting a negotiation, who should open first, and how you should open?
There is a myth that says that the person who opens in a negotiation is often disadvantaged. So, no one really wants to open.
This is a myth that is not necessarily true, and can actually work against you if you were sort of defensive and didn’t want to open.
You can sort of divide negotiations up into roughly four categories:
Some negotiations are not conflict, and involve create a relationship that you want to be beneficial for both parties, so you’d approach those situations completely differently to a high conflict situation.
A competitive situation is more like your typical conflict. There probably isn’t a relationship that you need to recover from this situation, so you can go harder in a negotiation.
A balanced situation may have conflict or a misunderstanding, but conflict with a person that you have a relationship with. So, you really don’t want to ruin a relationship there, but the outcome of the conflict is equally as important to you.
Then on the flip side, you’ve got the more positive negotiation situations which would be more like a cooperation. You’re growing a relationship and moving some kind of arrangement forward, like a new business arrangement or joint venture.
The final situation is like a coordination between two people – there’s a benefit to you for things to go well, but is also not really an ongoing relationship that you need to save. You could think of a simple situation like negotiating moving through an intersection with other drivers, when the traffic lights aren’t working.
When would you open in each of these scenarios? And if you did, how would you open?
For the first two situations involving conflict, your competitive or your balanced situations, be more reluctant to open, unless you have a lot of information and you’re very prepared. With the competitive conflict situation, you would open aggressively. With the balanced one, where the relationship is a factor, open more optimistically or generously to build trust.
For a cooperative situation, always open first! You should always be the one to go first and you should be quite generous in your opening in that sort of situation. The reason being is that you’re going to build trust and rapport very quickly. And the other thing is, the rule of reciprocity works. If you’re generous, you’re automatically going to get a lot of generosity back, if it’s the kind of relationship you want to build.
In a coordination situation, where you’re not building a relationship, and there’s just something out of this transaction that you want, but it’s also not conflict, definitely open. But open it more in a conflict solving sort of way, so you would put out the issues and suggest, “Look, this is the problem we have to solve. How do you think that we solve it?” So, you start creating the kind of environment where you’re working cooperatively together, but also engaging the other person to make them feel like they have some sense of control or power in the situation.
So, there you go
Four different potential situations that you might find yourself in and different styles of opening for each. While competitive conflict situations are more likely to use a mediation service, for those less familiar with negotiating in a balanced or cooperation situation a mediator facilitating and guiding the process could also be very beneficial and save time.