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Disciplines > Negotiation > The eight-stage negotiation process > Propose

Discover areas of agreement and difference | Explore for ways to reach agreement | Feel your way forward | See also

The process stages: Prepare - Open - Argue - Explore - Signal - Package - Close - Sustain


So far, no agreements have been made, and early positioning may have made the way forward difficult to see. Having established what you each want, however, you can now move towards one another, seeking a way forward.

It is generally a mistake to go fast during a negotiation and taking time to explore can pay back significantly later. Exploration not only gains you more information about the other person and their needs, it also builds the relationship between you, making it easy to reach agreement.

Note that in a collaborative negotiation there may be limited arguing and significant exploring. Exploration both requires and builds a degree of trust which, in a competitive context, may come more from the respect gained by showing one's teeth in earlier stages.

Discover areas of agreement and difference

In many negotiations it is surprising how much both parties can agree. This may not appear to be true at first, when areas of difference are often amplified and so obscure similarities.

Find areas of similarity

Particularly when you are far apart, a good first step in getting together is to find those things where you agree with the other person.  Finding agreement with the other person demonstrates similarity and hence creates bonding with them. This may also be done during earlier stages.

Similarities need not be just around the negotiation. If you both have families, like the same kind of music or have been to the same place on holiday, then you can use such similarities as a bridge across which you can connect with the other person.

Do you have children? ... Yes, mine are teenagers, too. Tough, isn't it!

Find areas of agreement

When you are negotiating, the focus on what you want as opposed to what they want can make it seem like you are miles apart, when in fact you may be quite near to an equitable solution.

Finding areas of agreement helps to shrink the areas where you have to negotiate. By saying 'we agree on this and that', you can find the specific areas where negotiation is needed.

Well, at least we both want the children to do well at school -- the question seems to be more about what we should do about it.

A good place to find agreement is in higher goals and social values. Few people will frame themselves as 'bad'. You may also find areas where neither of you are interested. In effect, these are also agreements -- at least that they are not disagreements.

Let's look at the big picture: we both want the company to succeed, don't we?

Find areas of difference

When you know where you agree, then finding where you really disagree is easier. The fact that you agree makes it easier to work together and accept areas of difference.

An effective way to enable others to accept differences is to accept the person, even though you do not agree with what they want. At the very least, you can accept that they have the right to have different views and wants to you.

A common source of difference is that is not always clear is that people are driven by fundamentally different goals.

It looks like you want to reduce costs, whilst I need to ensure high quality.

Explore ways to reach agreement

Before you start bargaining it may well be helpful to explore with the other person the process by which you may reach agreement.

Fair process

Although this is overkill in some situations, in others it is crucial to establish fair process before you start hammering out the details. If the other person feels that you are being fair, then they are more likely to agree with your suggestions as to how to proceed.

Fair criteria

In order to reach fair decisions, it is usually a good approach to find fair criteria by which equitable decisions can be made.

Look to outcomes

It can be useful to start at the end, by discussing what a complete negotiation might be like. This may include discussions of progress and emotions. If the relationship is important, it can be useful to explicitly exclude it from the negotiation.

I want to ensure that if we agree, then we both feel good about the outcome.

If we reach agreement today, we will not have a complete contract, but we will be ready to hammer out the final details next time.

Feel your way forward

When you start the more substantive parts of the negotiation, a continued sensitivity to the other person and how close they are to making decisions is a very useful skill. Moving forward is often like a soft martial art: you sense where the other person is and flow with and around them.

Seek their variables

Find the variables that they may trade with you and match them to your own variables. If you can help them see the many options open to them, then you can help them meet many of their needs whilst encouraging them to trade with you.

Would you be open to other modes of travel?

So, it's not the amount, but how fast you can get it that is a problem.

Manage your information

Rather than telling them everything at once, deal in information as well as substance. Release information in order to receive information from them. Be aware of how they may use what you tell them to their advantage.

Sorry, I can't tell you all of my plans right now but I can give you a high-level overview.

Information can be used to persuade as well just as inform. You can use social norms, for example, to nudge them in the right direction.

I need the holiday as it is my wife's birthday and I want to take her out.

Keep the goal clear, but the route flexible

When you come up against resistance, it may be possible to find a way forward that is less costly to you. Always know where you want to go, but be ready to find alternatives ways to get there. Not fighting is also conceding and you may be able to use this as a trade.

I know that you don't like flying so if I book the train will you start a day earlier?

See also

Finding variables, Listening, Questioning techniques

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