Gold Star Negotiations: Interest Over Position

Gold Star Negotiations: Interest Over Position

From buying new equipment to countering your child’s request to stay up another 20 minutes, everyone negotiates. This series is designed to provide helpful tips and tricks to use and watch out for when negotiating. See more articles in this series.


Negotiating on Position

Negotiating over position is the most commonly thought of method when negotiating. You think your bull is worth top dollar, and a buyer thinks it is not worth a cent more than low market value. You have taken your high price position, they have taken their low price position, and the haggling begins. Sometimes a “middle” ground is found, but sometimes no agreement is found at all. There is a certain entertainment factor for some people in this process. While some individuals are really good at negotiating over position, it is challenging for the rest of us. The good news is there is an alternative.

Negotiating on Interest

When you negotiate on interest, a unique situation develops. What was once a battle of how to divide the pie becomes a creative environment where value can be discovered and exchanged. The difficult part is changing your thought process. When you negotiate on interest, it is important not only to understand what your interests are, but also the other side’s interest. During the negotiation, you will find yourself doing more active listening and investigation than actual talking. Here is an example straight from my Harvard University course to demonstrate.

Renting out an Apartment

You are the owner of a four-story apartment building with a working elevator. You currently have only one apartment available to rent out, and it is on the second floor. One day someone calls to inquire about available units asking if you have any fourth floor units available. Based on positional negotiations you would say no, and that would end the conversation. You though are someone who focuses on the interests. So you ask a question, “It sounds like a fourth floor apartment is important to you. What kind of criteria are you looking for in the fourth floor unit?” 

What was a deadlock under positional is now an active listening exercise as you try to discover what about the fourth floor apartment was desirable. The potential renter starts discussing about how safety is a concern, and the road noise in their last apartment was horrible. You now have discovered the interest in the fourth floor. Maybe your apartments have sound-deadening windows and insulation throughout. Your apartment also has both exterior security locks as well as interior locks for each unit. By listening for the interests, you can now state that while you don’t have a fourth floor unit available, you do have a second floor unit that has premium sound deadening windows and insulation, and both the building and unit have security features.

Interest over Position

The purpose behind every negotiation is to discover a positive agreement. If you limit yourself to positional negations you have limited your ability to come to those agreements. Instead, focus on the interests. Use open-ended questions and active listening to discover what those interests are, and then look for ways to meet those interests to come to an agreement.

Please feel free to call or email me with questions. Have fun discovering interests.

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