What is Negotiation?

We use a broad definition: you are negotiating anytime you are trying to influence someone else in order to help you achieve your goals. Our view is that when you can achieve your goals without anyone else’s permission, participation, resources, or support, you do so. For example, the act of brushing your teeth in the morning does not in itself require negotiation; however, if you share a bathroom with other people you may well have to negotiate with them for access to your toothbrush.

But I don’t negotiate on behalf of my company or organization…

Given the definition above, we can practically guarantee that you are negotiating at multiple points during the day even if your job description does not include the word “negotiate.”

Is negotiation different from conflict management?

Negotiation is a broad term that describes two or more people engaging with each other in order to build agreements, or address disputes and conflicts. The term ‘conflict management’ is sometimes used to describe engagement with broad, multi-party, multi-issue, repeating or seemingly intractable conflict situations.

Isn’t it true that people are either born with the ability to negotiate or not?

It’s certainly true that we each have varying degrees of “natural” skill in negotiation. It is also true that everyone can improve at negotiating, no matter how basic or advanced their skills. Remember, even Olympic athletes have coaches.

My main problem is that the people I’m dealing with are completely unreasonable and possibly crazy. Can you fix them?

In a word, no. After all, you are reading this website, not them. However, we can work with you to diagnose your situation and identify potential levers of influence. Through this process, we can coach you away from the view that the problem is entirely external, out “there,” with other people. The simple reality is that you are the only person you can control, and you have more power than you may think to shift the dynamic with others.

I am not sure the Western interest-based negotiation model applies in my country or culture…

This is a valid concern, and we invite you to explore and test where it fits and makes sense, and where it may not. In our experience, we have found the 7-Element negotiation framework to be universally helpful for identifying the moving pieces in any negotiation, anywhere, on any topic in the world. As a diagnostic tool, it is quite robust. That being said, there are clearly differences in the kinds of norms and behaviors one might encounter in one cultural context versus another.