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The 4 Critical Phases of Negotiation

Everything in life has stages that come to us at the perfect time. Similarly, to reach our goals there are some steps to be followed. For instance, if you want to reach to the ceiling, you climb the ladder, step by step, being very careful each step of the way. These steps are the stages that each one of us face during negotiation. We have to be careful in order to win the negotiation, and as always, practice makes perfect – and practice makes you look and perform more professionally. Below are the four phases that will help you make it through a negotiation in the workplace.

It is important to gather information about the other person’s likes, dislikes, tactics, strategies and the style of negotiating.

The Preparation Phase:

In sports, we examine and observe the methods and tactics used by the opponent team. This prepares us and helps us know what to do in various scenarios. It gives us time to formulate our strategies in order keep the upper hand in the game. Before negotiating, it is no different. It is important to gather information about the other person’s likes, dislikes, tactics, strategies and the style of negotiating. Moreover, we often underestimate the importance of the environment during negotiation. For example, you could choose a place that gives positive vibes to help the negotiation feel calm and relaxed.

Sidenote: Consider cross-cultural communication and learn how to interact with people from different cultures. Their beliefs, methods, and ways of making decisions might differ. Be prepared to understand the tactics which are inherent in a given culture.

The Shadow Phase:

“The shadow negotiation occurs before a negotiation takes place yet impacts decision-making and can serve as a blocking or avoidance mechanism” (Kolb & Williams). It focuses on “how” is the discussion going to take place rather than “what” will take place. In other words, how will negotiators negotiate with each other?

The shadow negotiation can be used in situations where the power is unequal. Say, negotiating with the boss or between high and the lower level management. The solution to this is to create value and make it noticeable to the employer. Show you are worth negotiating with and offer value that will benefit everyone. This can be done only if you have researched and followed the preparation phase. Have a solution that benefits both sides and think about how to get there. Consider that company XYZ is hiring and person A has been selected for the job. While discussing salary, A’s priority is to have 15 paid vacation days, whereas XYZ has offered only 10 days paid vacation. The path to reach a win-win solution is to follow the phases and show that you are important to the company and have the company’s interests in mind. Since, A’s priority is not a higher salary, A can negotiate more vacation and less salary. This is a compromise that offsets the cost for the company. If A can argue that they will be more productive without high risk costs, A will likely get what they want.

The Negotiation:

It is important to have Win & Win rather than Win & Lose mind set. The best negotiation is the one that benefits both the parties. To do so, you need to separate people from the problem. This will remove the chance of personal problems and past histories which will benefit both the parties throughout the phase. In addition, focus on interest, not the positions. Since, you have already gained the information about the other person’s interests, likes, and dislikes, try to focus on that. It is worth discussing the topic that is disliked by the other party. This will help to maintain good and positive vibes. Lastly, be prepared with your BATNA (Best alternative to a negotiated agreement) and invent options for mutual gain. Make sure to put in 200% to end the negotiation with mutual gain. This will help to maintain your relationship which might benefit in long-term.

In addition, do not hesitate to take your time to think over an offer. Most of the time while discussing salary, a tactic used by the interviewer is that they throw a number at you knowing you are not ready, and the interviewee panics and for a moment everything blanks out. Now, you might think that you should accept the offer at that very meeting because you have no other choice. However, the best thing to do is not to panic followed by asking for some time to think about the offer. The situation remains calm and the discussions made will most likely be correct.

Assess and Evaluate:

This phase occurs after the negotiation has taken place. Here, you take time to think about what has happened and you observe and understand the do’s and the don’ts. Based on your priorities, you assess and evaluate the offers. Whether the negotiation resulted in Win & Win or Win & Lose, it is beneficial to rethink about the whole scenario and take the key points from it. This can help in any future negotiation and will continuously improve and make you a better negotiator.

Kolb, D. M., & Williams, J. (2000). The shadow negotiation: How women can master the hidden agendas that determine bargaining success. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Seerat Shabir

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