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Five Keys To Successful Outcomes


Dr. Mark Fotohabadi is a hands-on serial entrepreneur (Publisher of ADR Times) and pragmatic educator (CSUF Business School).

Negotiation is a part of everyday life. Even when we don’t realize it, we are constantly negotiating for our needs, feelings and desires. We negotiate about what to eat, where to live, what movie to watch and how to afford college for our children. Life is a constant stream of small negotiations.

For some, however, negotiation is a more formal process. Lawyers and other professionals may spend a significant amount of time negotiating for their clients daily. Even those with a formal background in negotiation, however, may not have been given adequate training or know enough about the technique to be effective at it.

To help you become a more effective negotiator in professional and everyday life, here’s a five-part framework that can be easily remembered by the acronym POWER.

1. Practice and build good habits.

The first aspect of becoming a good negotiator is to develop and practice good habits. This includes learning more about techniques and best practices that can help improve your skills, whether it’s formal training or reading about new tactics. You’d be surprised how few people actually do this, and it can lead to a lack of confidence in negotiating skills.

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Running through hypotheticals and different situations can help improve your skills and anticipate solutions. Again, while there are people who are skilled negotiators naturally, many people need training to be truly successful.

2. Organize a successful negotiation strategy.

When thinking about a specific negotiation, it’s important to organize a successful strategy before the negotiation begins. This involves planning for specific scenarios and understanding the other party.

Each person in the negotiation will have a specific range of acceptable outcomes. This is their ZOPA, or zone of possible agreement. Not only is it important for the parties to understand their own ZOPA, but it is also important to understand the ZOPA of the opposing party. Doing so will allow you to determine if there is a positive or negative ZOPA, which will determine whether or not the parties will be able to settle.

Preparing for all scenarios can help set you up for success.

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3. Work through the issues methodically.

This is the working part of the negotiation. Here, the parties are evaluating what the other party’s ZOPA is and whether or not they line up with their own ideas.

They will also need to start weighing whether the possibilities are better than their best alternative to a negotiated agreement. If a party can get a better deal somewhere else, they will likely leave the room. Understanding when this is the case is important. It’s important to weigh the alternatives and know whether an agreement is truly the best choice.

If multiple issues need to be addressed or multiple interests lie within the situation, it can be helpful to develop a plan for how to deal with each issue methodically.

4. Expand options for success.

Separating issues and interests may not always be the best option. In addition to working through individual offers and making concessions to move each other closer to an agreement, a valuable skill of a great mediator is the ability to enhance any proposal by expanding the options available for settlement. This means carefully considering the interests or special considerations that are driving the demands of the other party.

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By identifying these interests in advance, you can strategically add value to the negotiation without adding more money. This is called integrative bargaining, and it can help to create a solution where everyone is happy and feels confident in their agreement.

5. Record the finalized agreement.

The final key step in negotiating is recording everything in a written agreement. This is crucial to ensuring that the agreement is followed and that everyone agrees on the specifics. The parties will rely on the recorded agreement moving forward, whether it is through a continuing relationship or not.

Establishing successful methods for resolving negotiations will help parties walk away feeling confident in their agreement and may even look forward to continuing to work together down the road. By working through these steps, even the most novice of negotiators can achieve effective results in future negotiations to come.


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