All of us at some time or another will negotiate. Knowing when to negotiate and when to settle can be difficult decisions to make when a conflict arises. Deciding may require complex evaluations of competing interests and uncertain predictions about the future. Moreover, these decisions are made when emotions are high.
The underlying question in any negotiation is, “can I do better?” To improve your negotiation skills, there are five points to consider.
- Priorities. What are your main objectives? For example, you may get a great deal of satisfaction from ridding yourself from a “lazy” practice partner. A partner who is not putting in the time to build the practice. However, upon deeper reflection, your main goal may be in achieving financial reserves for lean times. That goal might be best achieved if you sit down and negotiate to eventually make a deal, even if it is not the best deal you can conceive of. Nonetheless, it is a deal that attains your objective.
- Alternatives. What choices do you have if you do not negotiate? And of those choices, which one will satisfy your objective? An alternative to accepting your partner’s proposed deal is likely to be a lawsuit. If you think you can win or at least get a better deal, you might turn down the offer. But, at what cost to you?
- Costs. What do you give up; i.e., what is the cost to you? Every negotiation has a cost component. If you enter into a lawsuit, it will clearly cost you time and money. Another cost may be the loss of referrals or cause conflicts between you and other colleagues. Can you afford those possibilities in light of your primary objective? Some course of action other than negotiation may get you to realize your objective more quickly. For instance, a settlement will always require you to give up something you feel you deserve. But there are things to gain.
- Benefits. What will you profit from negotiating? You might not have enough information to answer that question until you actually begin negotiations. However, it is sometimes more prudent to start negotiations with the understanding of stopping once you realize that the other party cannot or will not give you the benefits you are seeking.
- Likelihood for execution. The intent of any negotiation is not just striking a deal but also a change in the other side’s conduct. Thus, what is the prospect that the other side will honor the agreement reached?
As to the question of whether or not to negotiate and when, it usually always results in an “It depends” answer. Nonetheless, negotiations that are successful; i.e., where the deal lasts, are those where both parties win. In street talk, a “win–win“ situation is reached; otherwise you’ll find yourself back at the negotiation table.