Negotiation: Different Approaches to Negotiation and Agreements

Negotiation: Different Approaches to Negotiation and Agreements
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Introduction to Negotiation

Gerard I. Nierenberg, American author and lawyer, recognized the role of negotiation in resolving disputes in personal, business and international relations. In the 1960s he had published The Art of Negotiating, a primer on the different approaches a negotiation can take. His philosophy toward the “everyone wins” thinking versus the “winner takes all” ideology gave everyone pause.

Positional Bargaining


As a negotiation strategy, positional bargaining can be considered a type of haggling. Each party holds a position that in the beginning represents a fixed idea. Brad Spangler, who wrote “Positional Bargaining” for the Conflict Research Consortium, uses the scenario of a negotiation between a vendor who sells rugs and a shopper who wants to buy one. It is the dramatization of a back-and-forth price wrangling where they each start at their own extreme position, until they meet somewhere in the middle.

Good or Bad?

Positional bargaining is an instinctual strategy and effective for defending a position—in fact, children often do it in games. The downside to this type of bargaining is the intractability of the situation as the negotiators continue to restate their positions and leave little time for underlying interests like a need-based premise or other legitimate factor. It also fosters the “you against me” principle, and may not result in a win-win outcome for one or the other. To highlight what may be wrong with this type of negotiation Spangler says that when two nations dispute over water rights, for example, the fact that they have other issues about religion or immigration tends to polarize the sides further and nothing is achieved. In other words, the issues are broader than positional bargaining can handle.

Interest-Based Bargaining


The opposite of position bargaining, integrative or interest-based negotiation, sometimes called mutual gains bargaining, fosters a collaboration of sorts for developing a mutually beneficial agreement. Obviously the parties hold desires and needs when they come to the table so the potential for trade-offs across other issues can make for a satisfactory outcome. Their problems aren’t fixed so the give-and-take, tit-for-tat, on a variety of problems can transpire. The key is identifying the interests of both parties.

An example of this could be two hunters each wanting a freshly killed deer. They of course can cut the creature in half, an ungainly proposition. However, if they discuss their needs, they may find that the hunter in the orange cap wants the deer hide, while the other hunter in the camo-hat is in it for the meat; you have a win-win negotiation based on needs and interests. They get exactly what they want instead of half of what was proposed with positional bargaining.

Key to Success

Consider POINT OF VIEW: analyze the potential consequences of the agreement you are advocating from the POV of the other side.

Remember that psychologist Abraham Maslow talked about a “hierarchy of needs” in his A Theory of Human Motivation: everyone needs friendship and love, security, and physical needs. If you can take care of the basic needs of both sides, then agreement will be easier—a list of each side’s interests as they become apparent, will help.

Feelings, Oh-oh-oh Feelings

For a Resolution of Conflict there are two different approaches to negotiation: Cooperative or Competitive.

Cooperative. Spangler says that “A cooperative approach aligns with the process of interest-based or integrative bargaining, which leads parties to seek win-win solutions.”

Competitive approaches line up with the process for distributive bargaining, which can result in win-lose outcomes. A competitive approach to conflict tends to increase animosity and distrust between parties and is generally considered destructive.

The best way to deal is to incorporate both cooperation and competition. Know what is possible, but still seek to advance individual interests. The balance between these two is known as “The Negotiator’s Dilemma.”

Personality and Conflict Style: Personality and assertiveness for one’s goals, and, cooperativeness in pursuit of mutual goals, has been mapped out according to style and level of aggressiveness: There is a competing style, an accommodating style, an avoidance style, a collaborating style and a compromising style. Which are you?



Prepare: Anticipate the objections of the other party in preparation for addressing them.

Delivery: Be assertive in terms of stating what it is you want honestly.

Practice: Role play your end; use storytelling to present your case.

Be Detailed: Negotiate for a perk or lesser benefit.

Reflect**:** Leave room for silence—do not try to fill in the pregnant pause.

Invest**:** Consider relationships and cultural differences.

Reference & Resource

Spangler, Brad. “Positional Bargaining” Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Lax, David and James K. Sebenius, The Manager as Negotiator: Bargaining for Cooperation and Competitive Gain. The Free Press, 1986.

Maslow, Abraham H. Hierarchy of Needs: A Theory of Human Motivation, Amazon Digital, 2011.

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This post is part of the series: Negotiation Techniques and Tips

This series of articles present the best grouping of negotiation approaches and techniques, including historical negotiation cases, along with how to facilitate group decision-making and tips on taking cultural differences into account.

  1. Different Approaches to Negotiation