10 Key Lessons on Negotiation - Part 2

by Dr David Venter

This article follows on from '10 Key Lessons from the World of Negotiation' - Part 1.

This article follows on 10 Key Lessons from the World of Negotiation - Part 1 .


Negotiation is not merely an act of joint problem solving. Although it undoubtedly does assist in removing a problem from the negotiation table, this is a rather restricted view of what negotiation can achieve. By defining negotiation as joint problem-solving it is assigned an inward focus towards the removal of the problem and therefore is past or present related. When negotiation is, however framed as opportunity finding the primary focus becomes outward and therefore future orientated. The problem is then the stimulus for jointly exploring a wide array of opportunities that will not only remove the problem from the table, but also unveil new possibilities than can be jointly exploited. From the opportunity finding perspective negotiation becomes an innovative interaction that is targeted beyond the mere removal of a problem.


  • Labelling negotiation as a mere problem-solving tool negates its potential to transcend the problem and use it as the stimulus for developing new value-adding agreements
  • Thinking of negotiation as an opportunity-finding tool compels negotiators to resist premature thought closure and think outside the paradigms they generally operate within.
  • Whereas problem-solving tends to deal with what has been (past) or what is (present), opportunity-finding is orientated towards what has yet to happen (future)
  • Negotiation is not about fixing the past or the present; it is primarily about where and how we will be living tomorrow.


With the possible exception of the purchase or sale of a home, negotiation is a process. In most business dealings, the parties very seldom only negotiate once. There tends to be an element of continuity in their negotiation e.g. when they appraise staff performance, enter into future contracts, negotiate salaries and wages etc. What this in essence means is that negotiators consistently need to be aware that they should always negotiate in a manner that will not negatively influence future negotiations. Although in a particular negotiation it may seem quite beneficial to victimise the other party, it always needs to be borne in mind that this party will then be highly likely to seek revenge at the next negotiation. The gain achieved by disregarding the fact that the parties will in future again negotiate rapidly becomes a liability.

For genuine Win More! Negotiation to take place it is essential that negotiators at all times remain aware of the impact their negotiation strategies and tactics have on the relationship between the negotiating parties. This precludes negotiators from victimising the other party, as they then appreciate that such action is very likely to result in that party distrusting them and in future becoming an aggressor to reclaim that taken from them unfairly .


  • Most negotiations are a process and should therefore be treated as such.
  • Victims become aggressors
  • To regularly ask the following key question to prevent victimisation, "What can WE become TOGETHER ?"
  • Negotiation is not about the past or present, it is about how and where the parties will in future work together to create added value.


The more information a negotiator has about the issue at hand and the parties with whom he/ she will be negotiating, the stronger the power base of that negotiator. There is a very strong correlation between the availability of good information and negotiating power. To enter a negotiation without having done the necessary research is foolish.

Research has strongly demonstrated that 75 percent of the utterances of good negotiators are in the form of questions that primarily elicit information. The reasoning of these negotiators being that questions invite participation, involve the other party and obtain information, whereas statement often achieve the very opposite. Furthermore, questions demonstrate a willingness to listen to the other party's views, and therefore create a climate in which the other party feels sufficiently secure to share its interests and be attentive to the interests of its counterpart.


  • In formation is power in any negotiation!
  • Negotiators that are willing to spend time researching the information they are likely to need in a negotiation can approach a negotiation far more confidently than when they try to gather key information on the fly.
  • Questioning is the key to obtaining crucial information and demonstrating a willingness to interact.
  • Adopting a questioning approach prevents premature thought closure and challenges assumptions that may exist.
  • Questions enable the common ground that exists between the parties to be identified and established.
  • Questions are the most effective tools to move negotiation along.
  • If it is not possible to ask a question, remain silent and wait for the other party to fill this uncomfortable vacuum.
  • Immediately follow up observations and assertions with a question.


Negotiators need to be aware that decision-makers are inclined to treat the prospect of gains differently from the prospect of losses . When asked to consider potential gains they are inclined to be risk-averse, rather opting for a guaranteed outcome, whereas they tend to be risk-seeking when weighing potential losses. The way negotiators frame their questions is therefore crucial, as significant losses tend to look much larger than significant gains.

What this means in practice is that negotiators need to be very sensitive to the possibility that a negative frame (potential loss) could encourage risky/destructive behaviour on the part of the other party, whereas a positive frame (potential gain) could motivate the other party to opt for a mutually beneficial outcome. This is, however, unfortunately not as simple as it may seem, as there is a strong body of evidence which suggests that most persons tend to be more strongly motivated by loss than by gain. Negotiators would therefore be foolhardy if they did not only tell the other party what it stands to gain by working together, but also what it stands to lose.


  • Framing a negotiation in terms of gain minimises the possibility of the other party embarking on risky and potentially destructive behaviour (think of wage negotiations).
  • Getting the other party to stand in your shoes will motivate them to see the negotiation trough your frame (lens) and could therefore change their attitude.
  • Questions are an excellent tool to achieve a common frame for the negotiation.
  • Counter negative frames by providing as many options as possible for the other party to consider, thereby moving that party from decision-making towards choosing between suggested alternatives.
  • Be very careful to not over-react to negatively framed objectives early in a negotiation, rather focus on recognising and rewarding positive behaviour as a means of countering negatively framed objectives.


In our ever more hectic business world, negotiators often forget that importance of establishing their credibility and nurturing a trust relationship. They tend to be heavily content orientated and thus pay scant attention to the contextual aspects of a negotiation. Their immediate aim is to get their teeth into the meat of the negotiation, forgetting that this is only meaningfully possible within an enabling climate that inspires the other party to cooperate.

For a negotiation to meet the acid test of any negotiation, namely that the agreement arrived at will hold, it is essential that negotiators first start out by establishing their credibility, then building the relationship, and only thereafter getting into the nuts and bolts of the negotiation. This creates a framework within which the other party feels sufficiently secure to step out of its position and open itself to a joint opportunity finding interaction.

When parties doubt each other's credibility and do not trust each other, they will not tolerate the inevitable degree of vulnerability that creative negotiation requires. They will then tend to be heavily loss orientated, very defensive and prone to thought closure.

The basic human rule of reciprocity dictates that negotiators wishing to move the other party from its preconceived position must first show to that party their willingness to be expose their position, thereby establishing the trust need for that party to move outside its stated position.


  • Trust involves saying what you mean and ding what you say.
  • Trust removes the fear of being victimised.
  • Visibility builds trust.
  • Credibility is the foundation of effective persuasion.
  • An up-front hard sell approach more often than not only provides the other party a target to shoot at.

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8 of 8 people found the following comment useful:

very useful - 2007 Dec 18
Commentator: Suzanne (Australia - South Australia)

"These are great tips, thank you."

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