There seem to be unlimited ways to present the concept of ‘negotiation’ or ‘getting to yes’. Are there steps we can take when we want to bring an idea forward for ourselves or our department or project? The following are concepts that could be helpful as you propose an idea or try to negotiate a new policy or use of a different process at work. (Note: These suggestions could also be applied in personal relationships!)
1. Separate the people from the problem. This is the most important step – to truly set aside any emotional connection related to people and focus on the issues or item which needs to be addressed. Focus on discussing each other’s perceptions of the issue, repeatedly stating “what I see” as a way of helping to bring both parties into the practice of objectivity.
2. Focus on the interests and not the position. By understanding the goals, desires, and possible fears of the other person, one can discuss what is in it for them. A good listener will hear what is being said and respond accordingly. If you act like you are ‘in their shoes’, it is be easier to discern what their needs are and what they may not be saying. Be open to letting go of your position on the issue so that you can hear what is truly being said from the other person’s point of view.
3. Invent options for mutual gain. Presenting a ‘win-win’ scenario or proposal requires both creativity and discipline. By brainstorming, you can identify the possible scenarios acceptable to both parties. Remember to diagnose and clearly define the problem first so you can be specific about the actions to address it. The more details that are defined about the issue or problem, the easier it will be to create the ideal solution(s).
4. Insist on using objective criteria. For true success in a negotiation, there needs to be a measurable outcome; what will happen, by when, and who will do what. Without such an outcome, the conversation is just talk and not a negotiation of a new idea or practice. If one focuses on these outcome objectives, then a fair agreement can be reached.
This article was adapted from the book; Getting to Yes - Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury.
For further ideas about building a stronger relationship with your supervisor and how to feel more comfortable with negotiating with someone you report to, feel free to read this great article about managing up.