managemnet company management Me vs. We: 3 Strategies for Negotiating in Relationships

Me vs. We: 3 Strategies for Negotiating in Relationships

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Me vs. Us: 3 Strategies for Negotiating Relationships

Me vs Us

NEgotations can take on a life of their own. That’s because you’re planning how to negotiate alone, but you’re negotiating within a relationship—whether that relationship is professional or personal. Deciding consciously how you approach the negotiation is an important part of your preparation. It may sound silly or unnecessary, but clearly communicating your goals to yourself will influence how successful the negotiation will be.

Depending on your tone, the context of the negotiation, and how you frame it, the interaction will be competition or together.

Is your stance competitive or collaborative?

If you go into a negotiation with the intention of winning regardless of the other party, you will negotiate competition. Your communication is limited because you don’t want to give the other side an advantage by providing information; your actions will continue to favor your side, your flexibility to move from your positions to needs will be reduced, and you will not build trust. All of this will be influenced by your competitive orientation. You win, and the other party loses.

On the other hand, if you intend to win with another party, you have one together framing the negotiation. You will encourage open communication, share information to strengthen the other party, work to build trust, and take actions that will bring you closer to reaching mutually beneficial results. This approach will lay the foundation for a healthy, long-term negotiating relationship.

Create healthier negotiations

You may be wondering: Whose responsibility is it to make this a healthier and more profitable negotiation? The short answer is that we all have some responsibility, but we may not know it.

For example, let’s say you’re negotiating with a senior colleague about an upcoming deadline. You may believe that you don’t have enough power in the relationship to do anything but accommodate your partner’s request. But I would resist that idea; while you don’t hold all the power to make the final decision, there are ways you can influence it.

Regardless of your initial intentions and if the negotiation goes the way you planned, you can influence the next steps and the direction you want the negotiation to take.

For example, if your partner asks, “I need this on my desk by the weekend,” you can still answer a question to find out more information. You might say, “I hear what you’re saying about wanting results by the end of the week. I want to know more about what is driving the quick change and how I can make the necessary changes to accommodate you.

This technique slows down the pace of the negotiation and makes you feel confident that you are in control of the process and outcomes.

If you feel pressured to produce results before you feel comfortable delivering them, you’ll want to learn more about deadline urgency. Some of the results may be needed before others, so you can divide the work and focus on the most urgent needs first and deliver the rest later.

These actions allow you to be an active participant in the negotiation and parsing of critical information from others. Your willingness to listen to the other party, understand their needs and make adjustments makes you their negotiating partner, not an adversary.

Try these three negotiation strategies

Here are three tips to consider when emphasizing the “we” in your negotiation partnership:

  1. Identify the relationship you want to have with your negotiating partner, for this negotiation and going forward. Often, we focus on our immediate needs and what we want from a specific negotiation without considering the long-term impact. Taking the “long view” allows you to build better relationships while producing mutually beneficial outcomes.
  2. Listen to your negotiation partner—and watch for nonverbal cues. Listen for expressed thoughts and watch for matching nonverbal gestures, including facial expressions, body movements, and tone of voice. Check that everything is aligned. If not, probe carefully to identify real needs that may not have been verbalized.
  3. Take the initiative. Make offers in response to overt and covert expressed needs. These offers (or modifications of previous offers) must directly satisfy the needs of the other party, and your generous gesture will be seen in that light.


Leading Forum

Beth Fisher-Yoshida, Ph.D., CCS, is a global expert and teacher in negotiation and communication. He is the director of Columbia University’s Master of Science program in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, a negotiation consultant for the United Nations, and the CEO of the consulting agency Fisher Yoshida International. His new book, New Story, New Power: A Woman’s Guide to Negotiation, helping women of all ages make successful negotiations a reality. Learn more at


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