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What do you think?

Negotiations are an integral part of business. If the negotiation is done well, both parties have the satisfaction of having squeezed the best out of the deal, writes Ranjan Acharya.

india Updated: Jun 22, 2007 01:36 IST
Ranjan Acharya

Negotiations happen all the time. At home, children negotiate for a few extra minutes of sleep on a school day. On the road, vehicles negotiate for every miniscule gap in the traffic to move ahead. Negotiations are an integral part of business and form the basis of most decisions. If the negotiation is done well, both parties have the satisfaction of having squeezed the best out of the deal. But if the negotiation is conducted badly, it can appear insulting, create avoidable bitterness and in some cases, lead to broken jaws.

Negotiation etiquette, thus, is an important element of business etiquette.

Negotiation is about moving forward, not getting stuck in a position. Research by Ury and Fischer demonstrates that when people are fixated in their positions, they cannot negotiate. To influence, one must demonstrate openness to be influenced.
It is important to keep one’s temper on ice. When Don Corleone tells Johnny Fontane in The Godfather, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”, he says so in a barely audible Marlon Brando rumble. He does not leave too much room for negotiation there but that is not the point. What is important is the coolness with which Don conducts his negotiations. He firmly believes that no one needs to raise his voice to be heard.
The exception is for people who can use their emotion to their advantage. There are negotiators who use anger when they are not angry and impatience just to get things moving. But one cannot do this too often or others see through the ploy.
n Always ask the other person, “What do you think?” This helps not only in the other person feeling involved in the decision, but also makes her or him actually give you new ideas and different options. Also, it helps in building a step by step commitment to the final agreement.
Negotiation etiquette depends on the cultural nuances. In some cultures, it is acceptable to get straight to the point whereas in others, it is important to go through the elaborate tapestry of formality.
Neil Rakham, the guru of negotiations, differentiates between good negotiators and excellent negotiators. Good negotiators say, “I disagree because of the following reasons”. The other person does not hear beyond, “I disagree”. Excellent negotiators say “For all these reasons, I find it difficult to agree”.



Finally, humour can lighten a tense moment. But it must be appropriate or it can become a deal-breaker. There is a character in a Wodehouse novel, desperate to sell his house. But he has a joke that he just cannot resist telling. Just when the deal is about to close, he blurts out, “In the summer, the lake is at the bottom of the house. In winter, the house is at the bottom of the lake.” The prospective buyer drops the pen with which he was about to sign the cheque and heads for wide open spaces.

Good negotiators say, “I disagree because of the following reasons”. The other person does not hear beyond, “I disagree”. Excellent negotiators say “For all these reasons, I find it difficult to agree”.

Ranjan Acharya is Senior Vice President – Corporate Human Resources Development at Wipro Corporation