Tina Fey has nothing to do with this post

I just wanted an excuse to post her picture on the blog.

Everyone write their goals out?  Gooood.

Now why in the world did I ask you to do that?  Well, because the type of negotiation that I believe to be most successful is negotiation where you are focusing on interests rather than positions.  It’s called lots of different names but google “mutual gains negotiation” and you’ll get a good overview.  Or pick up a copy of “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreements Without Giving In.” The authors were certainly not the first to write about negotiating based on interests, but they made the ideas that academics had been tossing around and testing out for 50 or 60 years accessible to kids like you and me.  (Also, William Ury is kind of awesome; little bit of a nerd crush here in the corner.)

The basic premise is that we all lose when we try to split a situation “fairly.”  You toss out a number, I toss out a number, we beat each other up a little, this makes us both frustrated, we say bad things about one another’s families and in the end we split things down the middle.  Which, because of all the haggling, feels like winning first place in a Sarah Palin look-a-like contest.

And splitting things is not necessarily fair.  Get that out of your head right now.  “Fair” does not mean “I’m unhappy about something I had to give up.”  That’s not fair.  If I want half of what you have and you want half of what you have, then it’s fair, because we both get what we want.  But otherwise, halfsies ain’t all that great.

So where do your goals come in?  Well, your goals are your guiding principles.  They are what you should go back to every time you enter a negotiation.  You use them to determine what your interests are in the particular situation. You then use your interests to identify what is important to address in the negotiation and what you don’t care two bits about.* And once you know what you care about, you can invest your energy in a productive way, rather than a frustrating way.

Your interests in a negotiation should directly support your goals.  If they don’t, ask yourself why you think those things are in your best interest.  Because if they aren’t helping you get to what you want, what are they doing?

Also, do not be lame and tell me your goal is “to make gobs of money” and therefore “getting the highest price” is your interest.  That is weak sauce.  Also, it is cheating.  Prices are positions, pure and simple.  And who negotiates over positions?  That’s right: Jerks.

I have found the easiest way to use my interests in negotiating is to actually write out my interests in the situation and then review that piece of paper before I meet with the other side, or have it near me when we’re on the phone.  Sounds basic, but it works.  Honest.

Don’t believe me?  Wanna stump me?  Good, I like that.

If you’re willing to let me post about it, email me your goals and a situation you’ve negotiated in the past or that you’re about to enter.  I’ll use it in my next post to explain how to tease workable interests our of your larger goals that you can actually use to negotiate.

Man, I’m sure glad this post didn’t have anything to do with Tina Fey.  Could you imagine how annoying that would be?

*(Which, incidentally, you do care about because you can trade those things for things you actually want; later post, promise.)

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