The Art of Win-Win Negotiations

The Art of Win / Win Negotiations !!! by Leslie Choudhury

Ever heard someone say that they ‘gave away the store’? Despite our best intentions, we sometimes give away too much  to arrive at an agreement. Even when we go into our talks with high motivations and a grandiose, exuberant spirit of cooperation, we have to be wary and dip our toes cautiously into the waters to make sure we aren’t about to be devoured by piranha.
Today, many of us have heard the concept of win-win negotiations but do we know what that really means? All too common, most negotiators fail to understand that this term represents both parties achieving a satisfactory negotiated settlement.

“Negotiation needs to start with the assumption that both parties want more to agree than to disagree and there is a meeting point.” – Leslie Choudhury

Yes, win-win is less about the process, less about the “how” of getting there, and more about the destination. How best to get you a win-win outcome, whilst keeping your eyes fixed on that elusive win-win negotiation outcome or goal. Steven Covey’s  quote: “Begin with the End in Mind!” is very appropriate.
The Win-Win Concept

The true meaning of a win-win settlement is a negotiated agreement where the agreement reached cannot be improved further by any discussions. Win-Win does not mean absolute equal outcomes but acceptable so each party walks away with perceived value. So your outcome cannot be improved for your benefit, and similarly, the agreement for the other party cannot be improved further for their benefit either. By definition, there is no value left on the table and all creative options have been thoroughly explored and exploited. It’s what both parties can live with.

What does not constitute a win-win deal?
Many people falsely delude themselves into believing they have a win-win approach and settlement when they adopt many of the strategies described below. However, if we put their agreement under our microscope and look closer, they may have wasted their efforts. Positional and tactical negotiators love less experienced negotiators who do not fully understand win-win. Why? Inexperienced negotiators make for easy targets to be shot down, simply due to their lack of understanding of the win-win concept.

What pitfalls can lead you, your company or team to miss the rich rewards promised by a win-win settlement? (see 1-4). What should we then focus on? (see 5-8).

1. Cookie-Cut Approach
People are not the same, they are motivated differently. We cannot approach each negotiation identically. It’s fine to have a positive mindset going into the talks, but we must be realistic that we do not get bogged down into ‘the end justifies the means’ mentality by sacrificing resources or funds to get that agreement. I do not advocate a win-win in all situations. Where win-win would be an inappropriate commercial strategy to employ would include:
(a) Hostile or die-hard positional negotiation counterparties who only look at you through win-lose lenses.
(b) When you’re negotiating the purchase of a widely available commodity type product or service that makes neither a strategic impact upon your business, nor carries a large price tag.
(c) For business negotiations – either there is no room to manoeuvre (company policy) and/or one party has all the power or options. Neither works.

2. Compromise
Many negotiators falsely believe that compromise is a positive approach to gain a win-win deal. This is plainly incorrect. If you look at the definition of the word ‘compromise’, it means ‘A settlement of a dispute in which two or more parties agree to accept something less than they originally wanted.’ If one or both parties agree to lower their aspirations, this is hardly a win-win outcome, is it? Over-ambition is due to lack of experience or lack of research on the product/service /party.

3. The Relationship
Possessing the desire to create a durable relationship in a negotiation is admirable, but it does not guarantee that you will walk out of the negotiation with a win-win agreement to hand. Mutual relationships are the ideal, with each side creating value for their organisation and for the other’s organisation. If you find that you’re getting the short end of the stick over and over again, then you’ll need to think through how the other side perceives you, and the negotiation frame that’s been set. Almost everyone agrees that it’s important to have good relations with your business partners, but few will agree with what “good” really means. Its best you explore this separately as a company and or team, as assumptions are dangerous.

4. Take Your Time
Many negotiators are under the impression that if they take extra time to negotiate they are more likely to achieve a win-win settlement. The truth is that many studies on this very subject have revealed that extra time does not make much difference to the quality of the negotiated agreements.

“During a negotiation, it would be wise not to take anything personally. If you leave personalities out of it, you will be able to see opportunities more objectively.” – Brian Koslow

5. Ask Open Directive Questions
When we enter a negotiations prepared, we need to know the other parties’ intentions, interests, timeline and priorities. It is a sad truth that in reality, many negotiators do not ask questions to gain a better understanding of the underlying ambitions that lie beneath the other party’s position.
We need to determine whether our goals can be connected to the business goals of the other party. The more we know about their aims, the more we will be able to put together settlement package that better addresses the business goals and priorities of both parties. When we know what’s important to the other party, we can build a beneficial and productive agreement that ensures the concerns of both parties have been taken on board.

6. Play Fair
What do we tell them about our goals and interests? Reciprocation is essential. We have to tell them about our goals and interests so they may better understand how they might not only meet their needs, but ours as well. Best we begin at outset with setting the frame of a cooperative mood to increase mutual interaction. Only then should we progress into fact-finding and option generation. Our counterparts will usually mirror our behaviour, the virtuous and less than virtuous.

“ We cannot negotiate with those who say, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.” – John F. Kennedy

If we start by openly offering information, they will normally reciprocate in kind. Our initiating the volunteering of goals and interests does not necessarily put us at a strategic disadvantage. Provided we set the frame of reciprocation and gain agreement at the outset, and provided we don’t put all our cards on the table. Reciprocation will prevail. If the other side refuses to reciprocate at any point, and refuses to give a valid reason, this should be our red flag to stop. It’s a bad idea to reveal your BATNA at the outset.

7. Pesent Multiple Options
The best win-win agreements often spring from presenting multiple offers rather than a single, lone offer or proposal. The reason is that a single offer or proposal often has an anchoring effect. Multiple offers tend to stimulate communication. Multiple offers will often prompt or nudge our counterpart into providing vital information about their objectives and the true nature of their business ambitions. Negotiating will be more energetic and productive because several options will likely enhance the possibility of finding even more creative solutions than would otherwise have been possible.

8. Third Party Involvement
Another innovative strategy to maximize your resources effectively is to use a neutral third party to help both parties tease out all goals and interests. In addition, you can ask this third party to suggest an agreement, or for ways in which to improve your existing agreement. Each side should of course have the option to veto the third party’s proposals if they uncover better alternatives. A third party proposal can bring a number of benefits:

Both parties can safely share more sensitive information. Since information is the building blocks required for creative alternatives, this in itself can open doors that were previously not seen.
Trust is fostered under the experienced third independent party’s direction. Often parties don’t share suspicions openly with each other. This format of negotiation is conducive to sharing doubts. With a third party looking out for both sides’ interests, it prevents one sided gains and fosters a free thinking creative process, and reduces risks.

We need to appreciate that not just any agreement leads to a win-win scenario or outcome in our negotiations. Time constraints affect how long and far we can explore. Attitudes, positions and skills set invisible boundaries that constrain what we see as possible. Win-win deals are more likely when set up correctly through effective use of framing, research and building relationships. Ultimately, it’s essential that we remember the end objective is to reach an agreement that both parties can walk away without their tail between their legs!

“The most important trip you could ever take in life, is learning what is important to them and meeting them somewhere in the middle.” – Leslie Choudhury
Leslie Choudhury has been a GM or CEO of 4 different corporate companies in 4 different countries. He has won countless awards for his ability to motivate, influence and inspire changes in staff mentality and results. His awards include: Westin Business Innovation award, the President’s/CEO’s award for running the best Sales team in the world for Sheraton Hotels, Best Service Company of the year award in Singapore, and “EBIT & ME Personality Award for Asia & Pacific. Choudhury holds a BBA from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA and is certified in NLP & Directive Communication psychology, recognized by the American Institute of Business Psychology, the only person in Asia awarded with ‘CITE’ status; and the author of two self-help books – ‘Once Upon A Time’ series. Voted as the world’s number 6 Communication Guru by Gurus International. Leslie is the CEO of Dreamz Image International and Director for Directive Communication International ( ASIA) Pte Ltd. For more info see

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