Nearly everyone employs negotiation skills in everyday life - for example: when deciding as a family where to go on holidays, when agreeing a work plan and setting the allocation of tasks with on colleagues, or when discussing plans with friends and relatives. Negotiation is a basic way of getting what you want from someone else, usually using verbal communication. We all negotiate every day – with a vendor at the market, with our friends or relatives in deciding what to eat or where and how to travel. American authors Roger Fisher and William Ury developed a model of business negotiation in 1981 that has become extremely popular. Essentially, they propose four principles of negotiation (Fisher and Ury, 1981):
- Separate the people from the problem. The relationship (the “people”) is separate from any substantive conflict (the “problem”) you have. By disentangling the relationship from the problem, you reduce the possibility of miscommunication and emotions negatively affecting the negotiation. You want to establish good working relationships in negotiation.
- Focus on interests not positions. Interests are underlying needs, desires, concerns, wants, values, or fears. Interests motivate people, but often individuals will state a position. For example, many countries have a position that “we will not negotiate with terrorists.” This is a position, but the underlying interests probably relate to concerns and fears about personal security. In conflict, individuals and groups often state only one position. It is usually difficult to negotiate compromises on positions. Behind positions are multiple interests, and focusing on interests allows negotiators more room to generate solutions acceptable to all parties.
- Invent options for mutual gain. This requires creativity and the commitment to brainstorm options that will be acceptable to both parties. In brainstorming, negotiators need to separate the stage of evaluating options from the stage of generating options. Both parties need to broaden the number of possible options and not search for just one option. Both parties also need to think about options that will satisfy the interests of the other side.
- Insist on using objective or mutually acceptable criteria. Often it is possible to identify several relevant standards or criteria by which parties can evaluate the fairness or acceptability of a negotiated agreement. Negotiators can brainstorm criteria or standards in the same way as they brainstorm options.