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    Negotiating for Success: Preparing for Successful Negotiation

    Case Study Synopsis: A negotiation that secured a women’s health care program

    How did they do that?  Roberta Jacobs, M.D., Ph.D., MPH, has just returned from meeting with her department chair for her annual review.  She directs an elective residency rotation in Women’s Health for the Department of Internal Medicine, and, while her division director had been very supportive of the program, her chair relayed the suggestion that she increase her efforts in activities that provided better funding for her time.  Roberta knew exactly what that meant:  the time had come to seek independent support for the Women’s Health Program.  She needed to procure either grant support or contributions from the departments whose residents rotated through the program.
    Read the full Case Discussion

    Skills of Negotiation: Preparing for negotiation by considering interests and standards, generating alternatives, and using of leverage

    In the January 2005 issue, Faculty Vitae addressed the four basic stages of negotiation:  preparation, exchanging information, bargaining, and obtaining commitment.  This lesson discusses fundamental skills of negotiation that have a key role in the first stage of negotiation, preparation, and that position you to be more effective as you move through the remaining stages of negotiation.

    As you prepare, it is important to understand why the party you’re negotiating with would not agree with your position and to discover the other party’s goals.  You stand a greater chance of meeting your interests if you minimize the other party’s objections and if you can align your interests with the other party’s goals.  As you prepare for negotiation, keep the following terms and phrases in mind from the perspective of your role in the discussions and from the perspective of the other parties:

    • Positions are generally the concrete action or item you want.  Focusing on position rather than interests can lead to a “line in the sand” approach in which both parties end up with only sand.
    • Interests are intangible motivations that lead you to take a particular position—your needs, desires, concerns, fears, and aspirations.  Interests are often revealed when one explores the true underlying motives of each party.  The more interests are known, the more options can be considered in negotiation.  Effective negotiation considers shared interests as well as those in conflict.
    • Options are all of the many possibilities for structuring the agreement. The most creative options are those that satisfy the interests of both parties.  They solve a problem or enhance an opportunity.  Sometimes this opportunity is one that neither party was aware of until the brainstorming of possible approaches to addressing mutual interests began.  Options include the original ideas as well as all new possibilities considered for addressing the problem.
    • BATNA, the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement, is the alternative you have identified as your fallback position; it is an option you can take if unable to reach an agreement in the negotiation.  The better your BATNA, the better your leverage.

    Tips for exploring the other party’s interests

    1. Identify the decision maker.
    2. Identify how it may serve the other party’s interests to help you achieve your goals.
    3. Determine why the other party might say “no.”
    4. Determine low-cost options to remove the other party’s objections.

    Identifying the other party’s standards and goals helps you to frame your needs in ways consistent with those goals. This works in two ways. First, as we have a need to appear to be consistent (the “consistency principle”), articulating your goals in ways consistent with the other party’s goals or prior statements is an effective means of meeting his/her need to be consistent. Second, you gain leverage by identifying standards and norms that the other party finds relevant and articulating your approach in ways that advance those standards or norms. Standards provide a common measure of fairness of the potential agreements. Standards that the other party finds legitimate form a basis by which you may cast your needs and resolve differences. Examples of fair terms/standards (from Getting to Yes) include market value, precedent, scientific judgment, professional requirements, cost and efficiency, legal opinions, moral codes, and expectations of reciprocity.

    Tips for using standards and norms in negotiation

    1. Survey applicable standards and norms and identify those viewed as legitimate by the other party.
    2. Prepare supporting data and arguments regarding those standards and norms.
    3. Be prepared for the arguments the other side will make.

    Leverage is a dynamic balance of needs and fears of all parties negotiating, the perception of power, or ability to deliver or remove options from the negotiation.  It need not be based on facts alone; rather, leverage is often based on the parties’ perceptions of the circumstance.  Leverage can be positive, based on disclosed wants.  Indeed, “every time the other party says, ‘I want’ in a negotiation, you should hear the pleasant sound of a weight dropping on your side of the leverage scales.”  Leverage may also be negative, or threat-based.  Leverage is a situational advantage and is always relative to what the other party needs or has to give and can change as the conditions and players change.

    How can you evaluate the changing dynamics of leverage?  Shell offers a checklist:

    1. Which side has the most to lose from no deal?
    2. For whom is time a factor?
    3. Can I improve my alternatives or make the other party’s worse?
    4. Can I gain control over something the other party needs?
    5. Can I commit the other party to norms that favor my result?
    6. Can I form a coalition to improve my position?

    Move on to review these concepts in action by reading the case about the new program and clinic


    • Fisher R, Ury, W. (1991). Getting to Yes. New York: Penguin Books.
    • Ury, W.  (1993). Getting Past No. New York: Bantam Books.
    • Shell, G.R. (1999). Bargaining for Advantage. New York: Penguin Books.
    • Golde, C. Be Honorable and Strategic, from The Academic Scientists’ Toolkit in Science, Next Wave on the World Wide Web.
    • Negotiating for Success: Basic Stages