The Skill and Power of Positive Negotiating
By Candace Paris
Negotiating effectively is an interpersonal skill that is critical for both on-the-job and lifelong success.
Even everyday interactions with others can involve negotiation. A simple discussion between two friends about where to meet for lunch can turn subtly competitive and take on a winner-loser structure. Much higher stakes are involved in work-related negotiating, such as a discussion of salary and benefits, not to mention organization-wide or department discussions and planning.
Positive negotiation leads to a better outcome for all involved. This style of negotiating was first introduced in the 1981 best-selling book “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury. Many people are now familiar with the basic concept. However, familiarity does not equal mastery. In order to effectively use the technique, some practice is necessary in addition to gaining a solid understanding of the framework.
John F. Malone Jr., a senior level executive with over 25 years of experience, specializes in helping to build and transform companies and groups that are undergoing some kind of transition. An experienced presenter and enthusiastic proponent of positive negotiation, he describes the approach he will take in his upcoming PDC workshop.
Q. What is positive negotiation?
John F. Malone Jr.: Positive negotiation, also known by a number of other names including win-win, is basically interest space negotiation. The emphasis is not on the position of each party so much as it is on discovering what is behind the position. Most people set up barriers, so an understanding of relationships and communication is key to identifying the interests of each of the parties involved. Once interests are clarified, some tradeoffs may be required, but they are not the main focus in this kind of negotiation process.
Q. Why should businesses and professionals consider learning more about this approach?
Malone: Positive negotiation has the potential to increase the worth of your deals. It makes it possible not only to keep good relations with the other side but also sometimes even to expand the available pie. It improves communication and is valid for many aspects of work and everyday life, not just business deals.
Q. Why do you think positive negotiation is growing in popularity?
Malone: It has been steadily growing in popularity, especially in the last decade. There are many offshoots, including versions used in law schools (which means lawyers are getting trained in different ways from the traditional emphasis on advocacy) and with businesses. Dispute resolution, which is basically the same thing as positive negotiation, is even taught in some middle and grade schools. It’s popular because it’s universally applicable.
Q. What will people get from your course at PDC?
Malone: In this three-hour class, participants will learn about the art and science of positive negotiation. They will receive an outline to follow and a bibliography of helpful books. We will also examine case studies illustrating positive negotiation in action. Especially important, everyone will have time to practice the skills in a carefully controlled setting. Participants will leave the class prepared to use the technique effectively in everyday life as well as on the job.
Q. Can you elaborate a little on the art and science of positive negotiation?
Malone: The basic framework is a set of clear-cut, well-established guidelines, which you could call the science. But the art of it comes in because situations aren’t cut and dried. Human beings vary, so there must be flexibility. A successful negotiator must be open and curious and able to respond successfully to a changing environment and to a variety of environments.
Q. Who would benefit most from learning about positive negotiation?
Malone: It’s good for anyone and is very helpful both on the job and in everyday life. It will help people to see their own side and that of others, which means they will have more positive conversations. We all negotiate; we all have interactions. I have personally found that it has changed the way I look at all interactions. I even watch the news differently. It shows when a politician or leader has had this training. Learning to be an effective negotiator is an important professional and life skill.
“The Art & Science of Positive Negotiation” will be taught on Friday, March 10, from 9:oo AM to 12:00 PM at the Career Source Career Center, 186 Alewife Brook Parkway, 3rd Floor, Cambridge. Cost is $59.00. For information or to register, visit www.pdcboston.org. Registration is being set up. If registration is not available check our web site at a later time.
Candace Paris, a writer and editor specializing in nonprofit communications, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.