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Sottile On Negotiating

Q&A Interview With John

Grad Student's Forward
Q&A Interview With John
Student's Wrap-Up
Article: The Bottom Line

Questions & Answers

Q. What in your opinion are the important qualifications, characteristics and qualities needed to be an effective negotiator?

A. Professional in approach and preparation... 

Excellent listener... Focused thinker... Concise speaker... Creative and interactive... Sincere in dealings... Empathetic... Respectful of other side's position... Understanding of human nature... Resolute in purpose... Respected by other side... Feared by other side... Firm in consequences... Calm under attack  *Versatile... Willing to accept direction from a higher source... Willing to rely on expert opinions to form positions... And many more

Q. Please define a successful negotiation.

A. A successful negotiation is one where both parties obtain what they sought and if not, that they are satisfied with what they gave up.

Q. Do you approach each negotiation in the same way, or does the situation determine your strategy?

A. I think of negotiations as "pre-negotiation" and "negotiation". I generally approach the pre-negotiation in the same way by assessing positions of strength, deadlines and most importantly, information gathering-- especially from the other party. This is easier to do prior to the start of the official negotiation, especially the less friendly ones.  Once the negotiation begins I use whatever tools, moves or devices necessary to secure my position.

Q. Of the following variables, which do you feel most critically affect the success a negotiator experiences?  [  ] Preparation/Planning  [  ] Attitude  [  ] Techniques [  ] Communication.

A. Here's what my systems approach makes answering difficult. All critically affect a negotiation's outcome, but for different reasons. Preparation and planning iclassify as information gathering about yourself and the others. Not just knowing facts, but limits to which you can push or be pushed before polarizing the process to a destructive degree. For example, I think negotiations get very easy when a party truly knows what they believe is a good deal-- regardless of the other side's position or trades.

Q. Today ethics and morals are receiving a lot of attention in the business world. What motivates unethical conduct, ethical conduct during the negotiation process?

A. Ethics and morals are not common among people--hence bargaining parties. It would be nice to think that there is an ethical standard and moral one, but thinking across the board from the smallest to the largest negotiators I can not see it. I think unethical conduct, which in this case I'll define as conduct different from the other party's ethics, occurs in cases of desperation-- much as in normal life.  Also where the stakes are very, very high and the consequence of losing unthinkable, unethical conduct is possible. I think ethical conduct is based on both parties trusting and respecting the other.

Q. How important is trust and open communication in the bargaining process? Is honesty the best policy, or the worst? Example: Do you want the other side to know what your wants and needs are (real position) or do you prefer to keep them off guard?

A. Trust is a two way street and one would be a fool to trust the other side immediately. Trust is a delicate process of I'll show a little if you do. One-sided openess is stupid and dangerous. One should work to establish trust that can be measured and demonstrated. Even when trust is established, I would never disclose all my position, but I would be clear on what I absolutely must not have. Remember, I think that all negotiators hate to be taken (giving up more than is necessary). Hence I like to tell them what is absolute and then let the negotiating tension take over.

Q. Does a negotiator's reputation have a significant impact on the process? What about personality or appearance?

A. I think that reputation is important in an indirect way. If the other side knows you to be tough, direct, and fair, they will prepare for you in that way and vice versa. However, I think that in meeting a negotiator cold turkey, it's like a batter facing a pitcher for the first time. One develops a sense about the other's ability to deliver what you can hit or whether adjustments will be necessary. If you know the minimums of "must haves", and the actions which will follow if you don't have them, then who is on the other side of the table is of little consequence. Regarding appearance and personality, we all like to identify with others, but it is not important to me. I respect the person's knowledge, style and toughness / fairness. That's all I try to focus on.

Q. The distributive bargaining approach is a win/lose concept. The integrative approach a win/win. Which type of approach do you most often use? When is one better than the other?

A. The type of approach is dependent upon the reason for negotiating. I use the distributive approach in one time events. Continuing from distributive to integrative has to do with what I foresee as my long-term benefit. Remember win/win can be a win/lose looked at thru rose-colored glasses, since winning and losing are relative terms and are based upon perceptions of the involved people.. Overall, mystyle is to structure win/win situations. I like to leave the other side happy in their transaction. I also think that I can be fairly creative in solutions so as to truly findwin/win situations.

Q. To be an effective negotiator, do you have to be a good listener?

A. Absolutely, you must be a good listener of verbal and observer of non-verbal behavior. Good communication is based on a good transmitter and receiver. Without good "radar", a negotiator will lose possible weaknesses or desires on the other side. Also, good listening will help to clarify the other's objectives in the bargaining, making it easier to address.

Q. Are you the often cooperative or competitive when you bargain? Does the situation determine your approach?

A. I'd like to think that I'm both. Clearly the situation, especially mine, determines my posture. When I'm not in a position to bargain, I can be most cooperative. I try to remain that way even when I have the upper hand.  There does come a time when I get competitive, that's when I perceive the other side is asking far more than is fair at the moment.

Q. Power plays a major role in the bargaining process.  Of the six sources of power, which forms do you most often find yourself using?

*Informational  *Reward  *Coercive  *Legitimate  *Expert  *Referent

A. Frankly, I use them all and usually in combination. I like to structure a bargaining scenario where the other side sees all of my powers right up the front. I don't play "I gotcha" with some held back power. I call it "parading the troops." It makes the other side think immediately and it sets the tone. If the other side "dares" then you must be willing to use that power. You should never show or put on the table a power which you will not be willing to use.

Q. Some people love bargaining, considering it a game of fun. How do you view the process?

A. I don't like it if it is one dimensional. I do like it if there are a number of dimensions to the process and creativity can be added to structure the outcome.

Q. Besides the issues, what other factors influence you approach to bargaining? (tangibles/intangibles)

A. I try to evaluate risks from several angles before negotiating, set a few guidelines, don't risk a lot for a little, don't risk more than I can afford to lose. I also determine how much I really care about the outcome. I like to pick battles where there is at least a slight chance of winning, and I define in such cases just what will be a win.  Improving one's position even though not winning overall canbe a negotiation win. I measure the temperament of my opponent, even if supposedly a friend, and attempt to determine what hidden factors may pressure him/her to make an unexpected move. I think about my reputation as negotiator and how I will enhance it through the process.

Q. Time is often a critical factor influencing the bargaining process. The side without a time deadline usually has more power. How do you deal with this?

A. I think that time is always a factor, since it creates a focus for conclusion or else something such as a break off of negotiations can occur. There are many ways to handle deadlines. A few are: I might attempt to sell the other side on all the progress to date and expose their time constraint as can be powerful. I might just let the deadline pass to see what they could or would deliver and that I could handle whatever this sent my way I would achieve a position of strength. Regardless of their style, there is a reason for them to be at the table, even if only to sway public opinion. That's exactly what happened with the Russians and the mid-range missile walk out.

Q. Describe yourself as a negotiator.

A. As a negotiator I want people to know that I am reasonable, empathetic, creative, yet resolute on my threats.  I like to think that I am high reason high predictable, but that doesn't constrain me to be one dimensional. I have too much self pride to be considered fickle or unreasonable and so I must use devices to achieve my goals of being reasonable, empathetic, creative, firm and resolute.

Q. Does intimidation play a big role in the bargaining process? Should it?

A. Yes it does and I like to use it. there is no judge or jury and a strong show of strength always helps to keep reasonable people reasonable. Intimidation forces each party to reevaluate their positions at all times. Even in some of my easiest negotiations I like to let the other side know that there are lines which can't be crossed without paying a price. Intimidation has its place in both win/win orwin/lose, however slight.

Q. When all else is said, are the issue the number onepriority, or do they often become secondary to the process or the participants?

A. I think that the issues are both a part of the process and not a part. One must know their position prior to the negotiation. There is a part of any discourse where further definition of an issue modifies one's understanding of the other side, that's ok. If however it changes a deeper belief or cause, I'd say that the negotiation process has deepened to a behavior modification level which can happen(terrorist/hostages).  If the issues have been first clearly defined on both sides, then the process becomes more important.

     *Pushing yet keeping matters cool

     *Allowing the other side time to accept one's view rather than forcing it

     *Reveal the other side's shortcomings without offending them.

Q. Would you like to comment on any issue you feel is important which has not been addressed.

A. In all I found answering separate questions difficult because I view a negotiation as a system process which defies being broken apart. In being a system it isimperative to discover all common grounds and maximize them using the range of powers, attitudes, behaviors, etc., and minimize the negatives relegating them to zero where possible. That leaves the middle ground, and that is where it gets to be fun.  Some people are motivated by what they can gain, others by what they lose. In entering any negotiating arena, I believe that it is imperative to know what the other side is, for it helps to determine much of the tactics to follow. I carry into the negotiation the prime rule of the military-- "control the battlefield". As a corollary, know what resources are needed to control it. Implicit in these statements is that one knows where the battlefield is. In open negotiations where two parties want a resolution this is simple: where the negotiation is based on distrust, it's much more difficult so you have to test and test. The greatest fear of any negotiation is that one side will give up more than they had to. Therefore each side gives very reluctantly. Where both parties have equal stakes, the giving amounts to trading. Where one side has stronger position, which is often the case, the giving is less than one for one. It can be much worse if the weaker side allows the other side to know their true position.