How to Survive a Negotiation, without the Bloodshed
Part II: Satiety - Negotiation through Moderation
Continues from Part I
Ideally, negotiations should result in some form of agreement that functions well with little or no change. And yet, many agreements are often so unworkable that they can only be sorted out through litigation. Why?
Let's start with the old American motto: “moderation in everything.” As children, we may have been scolded when we asked for too many toys. One friend told me that his grandmother would snap his hand for asking a second helping of desert. Among the older generations, moderation was the watchword; live in the state of being gratified was the lesson.
Since the 1960s, America has built a huge consumerist mentality: more means better; better means bigger; bigger is best (and so on). No surprise that many Americans became conspicuous consumers of everything from toys to desert and beyond. Whatever reasons you want to offer and conclusions you want to draw from current events, consumerism is being challenged. All forms of exuberance (especially irrational) are now suspect for a host of economic and social ails. Maximum demand cannot be sustained. And now we find, moderation is everything.
Negotiation is the art of balancing moderation. Good terms mean gaining good relationships. Be firm on your terms, fight when necessary, but the goal is to negotiate to satiate; find grounds to meet complete satisfaction and repletion that destroys interest or want for more. I guess the old guys were right.
Consider the alternative. If you start with the other party in the cross hairs, what have you accomplished? Is the relationship workable? Flexible? Is the arrangement sustainable and contribute to your interests in a positive way? Maybe you got the coup de Grâce but if there is any lingering perception of imbalance, the game has just begun.
Most of you reading this article know what I mean by the “payback factor.” Even if you can cobble together a contract, over-aggressive behavior during negotiation may make management of the agreement far more costly for you. More important, with no spirit of cooperation during the negotiation, what chance will there be for goodwill if (or when) you need a little breathing room?
At a higher level, negotiation leads to the art of ‘business diplomacy’; thinking strategically about the range of influences within your working context and moving beyond immediate goals and growing long-term interests. So why should the negotiating process for a freelance contract be any different from a multi-billion dollar trade deal? Begin with a complete understanding the universe of possibilities – political, personal, legal, economies – and shape the package into feasible and sustainable business policy.
Think of this as an energy-saving tactic. What use is a business arrangement that has a negative impact on your assets and operations because it is inflexible and unyielding? Instead, think strategically about how the negotiation will impact all interests downstream. With the benefit of that perspective, undertaking the necessary outreach and treating the "other side" as a proper negotiating partner, you not only protect common interests (e.g., your own) but help you meet long-term goals so that long-term growth is achieved with as little effort as is necessary.
Here's to satiety.