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Can it be Done?

Ammar W. Mango *


Amman - Conflict in business is part of everyday life. When dealing with it, most people have preset notions about how to behave and how to negotiate. Traditionally people focus on how to get the most out of the other person or company. This is called a win-lose style of negotiation. A simple example is when people negotiate prices with a supplier. Even if the price is fair, the buyer will try to squeeze the supplier for more discounts. This win-lose attitude, long term, results in mistrust and an unhealthy relationship where each party tries to force others to give more, even if it means being unfair to others. This traditional style is receding in favour of win-win negotiation. It is not just a term, but a whole attitude where all involved parties are winners.

Win-win stresses the importance of parties understanding their wants and needs clearly so they can devise together a solution that satisfies both sides. When trying so hard to win at the expense of the other, some ignore the simple fact that: The easiest what to get what one wants, is by giving the other side what they want. Most think that it is impossible for both sides to mutually win; however case studies from real life prove otherwise. Sometimes emotions prevent parties involved in the negotiation from noticing that they can give the other side a "win" and still get their own win.

For win-win to work there are key principles both parties should observe, starting with the dealing fairly. In preparation for a win-win, it is important to agree on what is fair. Another principle of win-win is "protecting the relationship," which It refers to the long-term commitment between the two parties. It forces negotiators to consider the effect of their current behaviour in negotiation on future work between them. For example, if a buyer unreasonably "squeezes" a supplier to lower his prices, it will force the latter to exaggerate prices in the future to protect self from buyer's behaviour. The same applies to dealing unethically or unprofessionally with the other side. It leads to mistrust and bitter feelings, which damages the relationship and future business. Instead, the negotiators should be looking out for the relationship.

A third principle of win-win is to see things from the other party's perspective. This requires understanding the other's needs, wants, expectations and background. It will help the negotiator build the win-win scenario taking into consideration the other party. Also, learning about the other party makes it easier to understand their stance, behaviour, statements and objections.

One last point to remember: There is no room for taking anything personally in win-win. A negotiation is about a specific situation where both parties are at odds with each other. There might be other situations where both parties find themselves on the same side. Usually, neither party is out to hurt the other. Incompatible needs and wants separate the two sides. Attorneys are good at applying this principle; they can be fighting it out bitterly in the courtroom, then minutes later have a friendly lunch. They know it is not personal, they are just doing their jobs.

While taking things personally is counterproductive, using humour and a personal touch is recommended for win-win to succeed. This is not the same as taking things personally, rather about seeing the human side in others. Humour helps both sides to put things into perspective and not to be too rigid when dealing with each other. Sharing a laugh helps adversaries feel that they can find common grounds.

Building on the above principles, there are other tactics one can use. These include forbearance, which allows negotiators to move past a point even if an agreement has not been reached. There is also the questioning tactic, which helps in understanding the other party's point of view. Bracketing is a tactic that helps parties categorise issues that must be addressed for a win-win solution to be reached.

Other common techniques include brainstorming and trial ballooning. Brainstorming is looking for generating a large amount of ideas towards a solution, without judging the ideas before the brainstorming session is complete. A trial balloon is a "what if" statement, without commitment, to judge the other party's flexibility.

Win-win is about transforming the situation from a conflict of interest between adversaries into cooperation between partners. It is a powerful shift of attitude that challenges traditional negotiations that can be applied to most business dealings with employees, customers, suppliers and the public.

* Ammar W. Mango writes for the Jordan Times.
Source: Jordan Times, December 9-10, 2005.
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hagalil.com 25-12-2005



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