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3 abstract techniques to negotiate

February 4, 2020

Taking distance (physical, mental and temporary) from the negotiation will allow you to focus on the big goals and not on the small details.

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Life in business requires many negotiations, large and small. Effectiveness in negotiations is related to success; That is the reason why there are many books on the subject and why it has become a broad source of research.

3 abstract techniques to negotiate3 abstract techniques to negotiate

One of the main problems people have when negotiating is that they immerse themselves in the details of the matter, without keeping their eyes fixed on the high-level goal that the negotiation should supposedly achieve. The people involved in a negotiation generally do not agree on those details, which is what causes it to be discussed in the first place, but that disagreement can also inhibit the opportunities for both parties to achieve the objectives.

For example, a company could focus on the price and delivery dates with a supplier. By focusing on those details, companies may not discover that the reason why the provider's shipping costs are so high is that they do not have warehouses in the city where the company is installed. The company could rent part of its extra warehouse space to the supplier, so that both benefit from it.

The key to finding these hidden opportunities is to learn to think about the negotiation session in a more abstract way. Typically, a negotiation is framed around a specific issue and the parties express their initial positions. The general expectation is that the parties are adversaries in several of these dimensions, so they should focus on getting as close as possible to the ideal results of each dimension of the negotiation.

The elements of any negotiation are really reflections of bigger goals . For example, minimizing payments to suppliers is an attempt to reduce costs and is related to the efficient use of resources. But it is rare for people in a negotiation to think more broadly about the efficient use of resources when trying to minimize prices.

Consequently, they may not think about other resources (such as vacant warehouse space) that can provide a solution for negotiation. The two parties will not be able to reach an agreement on the space unless the supplier is willing to admit that a limiting factor for shipping quickly is the fact that all of its stores are located far away. That discussion requires a certain level of trust.

To think about negotiation more abstractly, try these techniques that will help you take a distance from matters:

1. Pretend you're on the other side
A useful technique involves social distance. Imagine that you are consulting another company on what to do in this negotiation, instead of being part of it.

2. Imagine that the negotiation takes place in the future
A second technique is to create distance in time. Imagine that instead of being at the heart of the negotiation, the real discussion will take place in several months.

3. Give yourself a physical distance
A third possibility is to create physical distance. You can do it mentally by imagining that you are observing the negotiation from another space. In addition, it may be helpful to call a colleague who is located quite a distance to observe the negotiation more objectively. The physical distance of that person from the situation could allow him to think more abstractly than you.

All these methods to create distance are effective ways to help you think about negotiation more abstractly. This will allow you to highlight the goals of the heart of the negotiation. But for this strategy to work, each party must be willing to open up on what it expects to achieve.

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