How Do You Approach Negotiations?

Are you a reluctant negotiator? Many people are. We often shy away from negotiations because we view them as competitive, confrontational and full of conflict. Besides, who wants to risk looking greedy and self-interested? But the truth is that you negotiate every day in ways both big and small. Every time you work with your team on a project, make a decision about how tasks will be distributed, or settle in where your family will go over the summer holidays, you are negotiating.

Thus, whether you realize it or not, you already have the skills to negotiate; but by thinking about it differently, you can increase your willingness and your confidence heading into negotiations. Researchers have found that it is not the assertive, dominant individual who succeeds in negotiations. In fact, aggressive approaches to negotiation are often met with reluctance and resistance. To understand what skills are most valuable in today’s world, the act of negotiating itself needs to be reframed in our minds.

If you view negotiations as a competition, a few things will happen. First, if competing for resources at the expense of others is not an attractive prospect for you, you will avoid them. Second, you will risk losing value in the negotiation. That’s right. When you see the negotiation as a competition, you are blinded to potential sources of value and hence succumb to what is called the “fixed pie” bias. This bias happens when you view every potential gain as something you must take from your counterpart — your win is their loss.

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Marie-Hélène Budworth, PhD
Marie-Hélène Budworth, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Human Resource Management at York University. Much of her research focuses on understanding how people learn, acquire knowledge, make choices, and negotiate with one another in order to succeed.