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The Art of Negotiating

I’ve been thinking a lot about negotiations.  As a lawyer and as the manager of Western Oil and Minerals I have had occasion to negotiate.  When I’m running Western I have the burden of being a woman in a male and Texan dominated field.  I tend to begin my negotiations with courtesy and see how that is received.  Too often it’s perceived as weakness, and then my male counterpart tries to bully me.  I handle that with a hard and swift attack that backs them off, and makes them take another look at me, and this time actually see me and not just my gender.  Then we begin to negotiate in earnest. 

There are various theories and models of what constitutes a good negotiation.  I personally prefer the win/win model which might not result in as much money initially, but usually results in a long term relationship and more money in the long run.  In a win/win both parties walk away feeling good about themselves and each other, and looking forward to working together.

The other model is the win/lose.  Some people find this more emotionally satisfying, and they do tend to push their point more strongly, and get more of what they want.  The downside is that you’ve left your negotiating partner feeling bad about themselves, resentful of you, and you enter into a business relationship that is already poisoned with bad feeling.  That person you “beat” will be looking for another opportunity, a different person or company to get into business with and leave you and the unpleasant experience behind.

I don’t play games in negotiations or move the goal posts.  I lay out what ideally I’d like to have.  My negotiating partner (note I call them partner, not opponent or adversary) tells me what they can do.  We know the opening offer represents my desire to get as much as possible and his to give as little as possible.  We then move toward a consensus that makes both of us feel proud and vindicated.

If we both walk away feeling good and the exchange of goods is positive or the project goes well then we will continue the business relationship, and more money is made for both sides.  And sometimes you actually find a friend at the other end of that handshake.

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