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Negotiating the Impossible: Tips from The Expert

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negotiating the impossible tips from expert

According to Professor Malhotra, some negotiations are easier than others and some seem impossible. However, in the end, it reminds us that, in essence, all negotiations, however impossible they may seem, are simply interactions between human beings and as such, it will always be possible to reach a good agreement successfully. I recommend this work, since, it is one of the most useful and entertaining negotiation books I have read.

If you have ever resorted to the negotiation process to overcome a conflict and instead of reaching that goal, the conflict has worsened, probably the result was not because the negotiation was impossible, but because you failed in the attempt; since if the negotiation was really impossible, you should never have agreed to participate in that process; or at least it should not have done so at that time, since it had no chance of being successful and especially if there was a risk of aggravating the conflict.

For example, if as a general manager of a company or as a union leader, you detect that there is a possibility of a strike that will negatively affect your company and to avoid this possibility, you resort to the negotiation process and as a result of this, the strike becomes more intense and the company begins to lose profits and employment starts to reduce, you have not won, you have lost and after recognizing your mistake, you must evaluate what happened, take the corrective measures and begin to restart the dialogue.

But do not do it in the same way, because it will fail again, because as Albert Einstein said, “madness is to do things in the same way and expect the results to be different.” That’s why crazy people, sadly, do the same thing day and night, believing that one day they will get a different result.

According to Malhotra, you without muscles and without resources can be successful in any negotiation, no matter how difficult it is or how impossible it may seem. But for this, you must be able to successfully use “the frame of reference” in which negotiations will take place; “The process” that will govern the negotiations and “the power of empathy” in their personal relationship with the counterpart.

In relation to the “frame of reference”, some of the advice and reflections of Malhotra are the following:

  1. How to articulate your proposal is as or more important than your proposal itself, that is, that most of the time the form is more important than the substance to achieve your goals. Be firm in substance, but flexible in form, unless it is crucial for the substance.

  2. Identical proposals in the substance may be more or less attractive to the counterpart, depending on how they are presented.
  3. Concessions in the form are much less expensive than concessions in the fund.
  4. Approaches where the winner takes everything versus approaches where both win something, although not everything originally desired, are much less effective.
  5. Make it easy on the contrary to modify your original position. Never put an ultimatum in public to your counterpart, unless what you really want is that negotiations to be unsuccessful. Remember that the form is “the optics” of the agreement in front of the “audiences”, bases or allies of each party and do not believe that selling the agreement to the allies is only a problem of the counterpart. It is also your problem because otherwise there will be no agreement because all the parties want to declare that they are victorious, so you must help them sell the agreement to their allies. Write the victory speech for the other party, because otherwise, you will be in serious trouble.

  6. Avoid negotiating on a single issue, as it will promote confrontation and conflict and negotiate multiple issues simultaneously and not sequentially.

  7. Although you should not apologize for your statements, explain them and always resort to the “logic of the appropriate”, based on precedents or relevant objective criteria. And remember that the party that has the opportunity to develop and present the project of a “probable arrangement” increases the chances of “anchoring” that possible agreement. And never forget how your partner fell in love!

In relation to the “negotiation process” Malhotra tells us the following:

  1. Prepare yourself as best as possible, to be the best prepared at the negotiating table.
  2. Increase the possibilities of establishing the process, preparing and presenting a process project, that does not put you at a disadvantage, but that does not give you advantages, but, in your opinion, puts both parties on an equal footing.

  3. Forcing an extremely rigid process is not recommended, it is counterproductive. Be demanding with the fundamental, but flexible with the secondary. Never insist too much on the inflexibility of the process, since the perfect is the enemy of the good.

  4. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
  5. If you are not at the negotiation table, you will be on the “menu”; and if you are excluded and you have priority interests at stake in such a negotiation, from outside the table you can increase the cost of their exclusion to the original parties or force the creation of another table or substantially influence the original table. Remember that true negotiators are not necessarily those who sit down at the table.

  6. When you make concessions, show your alternatives beforehand, so that you see that you are into them, not out of weakness or despair, but out of good will and expecting “reciprocity” from the other party; otherwise, it will only be promoting the intransigence of the other party.

  7. Negotiate privately with your counterpart, but allow your bases or allies to approve or disapprove the final agreement. That will be the final test of your leadership and your negotiation skills.

Finally, in relation to empathy in personal relationships, Malhotra tells us the following:

  1. Empathy opens up new options for reaching an agreement.
  2. Empathy allows us to know the interests, restrictions, alternatives and perspectives of all the parties involved.
  3. Paradoxically, empathy is more effective, while our counterpart is more “unbearable”.
  4. Empathy, by understanding the interests and positions of the counterpart, helps us to help you save face before our allies.
  5. Putting an ultimatum, not only limits the options of the counterpart but limits our own options. And never impose them when you cannot fulfil them, as it will destroy your credibility.

  6. Do not put your counterpart in the difficult alternative of making a good decision to reach the agreement or save face, since normally, you will prefer the second alternative and you will lose out.

Therefore, the next time you have to negotiate, remember these tips from Professor Malhotra, so it doesn’t fail.

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