Who Really Wins in “Win-Win” Negotiations? | Negotiation

Win-win sounds attractive, but would it work for you?

Win-win sounds attractive, but would it work for you?
Image Credit: PRODennis Skley

In the world of negotiating, there are a number of books that everyone knows about. One such book is the justifiably famous “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” book. Just about everyone has heard about this one and most of us have actually read it at one time or another. However, as we move though a day and prepare for our next , do we ever take any time to think about win-win negotiating? Sure we recognize the name, but would any of us actually know how to go about using this technique?

What is Win-Win?

If we go all the way back in time to the early 1980's, the world of negotiating looked much different than it does today. Negotiators were being taught that when they entered into a negotiation, their goal was to get the best deal at all costs. We were being taught negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that were designed to allow us to walk away with the deal that we wanted with little or no regard for what the other side got.

This approach to negotiating often didn't work. Especially if the other side had something that we really wanted, they could dig their feet in and all of a sudden what we wanted to get out of the negotiation started to look like it was going to be harder and harder to get. In the negotiating books that were published during this era, a different approach was proposed. The authors suggested that we adopt a collaborative spirit when it came to negotiating. The result of this was that people came to believe that win-win negotiation is an improvement on the dominant win-lose mindset.

As good as this idea was, there was still an issue. What happened is that “win-win” became a catchphrase. The result of this was that confusion grew about what exactly it entailed. In win-win negotiation, are both sides supposed to divide resources evenly? If one party has more to offer, shouldn't they get the bigger piece of the overall pie? How could a powerful party justify a 50-50 split to its management? Was competing really so bad, anyway? The real question was can it still be a win-win negotiation if you're trying to gain as much as possible for yourself?

How Can You Use Win-Win?

The answer to this question is a definite yes. What we need to realize is that when we are using win-win negotiation, we are not required to split resources right down the middle with a sole focus on being “fair.” Win-win also doesn't mean automatically making a concession just because the other party made one. Perhaps most importantly (and most misunderstood) it doesn't mean that you should try to avoid conflict and tension at all cost.

If win-win does not mean all of these things, then what does it mean? Win-win negotiation involves working to get the best deal possible for yourself while also working to ensure that your counterpart is satisfied. It means making offers that are good for them and great for you. We also have to be able to think creatively about how you can get more of what you want by helping the other side get what he or she wants.

Finding your way to a win-win negotiation often involves reaching mutual gains by trading off their differing preferences to create value. When we are negotiating with someone, we may view the world very differently than they do. Of course both sides may have different interests and priorities. Both may also have different beliefs about how the future is going to turn out. Finally, both sides may have a different attitude about time. As negotiators, we need to capitalize on differences like these and negotiate assertively in order to move into win-win territory.

What All Of This Means For You

Back in the day, negotiators engaged in what was thought of as a win-lose principled negotiation. Each negotiator would try to get the best deal possible for themselves and would not worry about what the other side was able to get. However, this all changed in the 1980s when several books came out proposing a new way to look at negotiating.

This new approach was called “win-win” negotiating. This technique encouraged negotiators to get the best deal possible for yourself while also working to ensure that your counterpart is satisfied. This changed how negotiations were done. We need to understand that during a negotiation we will have to trade off differing preferences in order to reach a deal with the other side. We can have many differences with the other side, but we can capitalize on these and still reach a deal with the other side that will meet both of our needs.

Negotiating has come a long way over the past few decades. What we now need to spend time thinking about as negotiators is not only the type of deal that we want, but also the type of deal that will meet the other side's needs. When we negotiate, we need to be looking for a win-win deal for both sides.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: How can you determine what the other side would like to get out of a negotiation?

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What We'll Be Talking About Next Time

As a negotiator, our goal is always to find a way to reach a deal with the other side. We spend a lot of time using all of our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to reach a common understanding that will allow a deal to be agreed to. However, once both sides have found the agreement that is needed with which to create a deal, now comes the hard part. We have to write everything down and get both sides to sign the agreement. How hard could that be? It turns out that it's actually quite difficult and there are three common things that can go wrong.

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