Setting the prime objective of a negotiation as just “closing a deal (any deal)” is not negotiating. However many may say that they are negotiating to get the best deal. It is not. It is giving in to the other side before you start. It puts all the control in the hands of the other party and you get what others are prepared to give you / let you have, and you get what you deserve.
Being seen to negotiate by going through the motions of negotiating – meetings, discussions, arguments, – may just be grandstanding for the audience. Trying to make it look tough and difficult to get an agreement are old games which have been played out many times over hundreds of years which should not fool anyone these days. However, these little dramas are still attempted by the inexperienced, less skilled and under-prepared performers.
Often the other side will go along with this game. Why? Well because they may have to protect the relationship between the parties by playing along so as to humour them and keep them from embarrassing themselves. Protecting the other side’s “face” is often important – especially in the world of politics and international affairs.
Anyone can say “yes” just to get a deal, but it will be a deal on the other party’s terms.
Beware Last Minute Nibbles.
During the end game, there were some public declarations that a deal was close and that there were just a few minor details to sort out. I suspect that these declarations of being nearly there were made more out of habit and in hope than in all seriousness. It is common for many negotiators and hagglers to try to push for concessions in the end game by bringing up small demands whilst dangling the prospect of a deal. The hope is that the incentive of reaching the deal, especially after long and protracted sessions, may be so inviting that unconditional concessions will be easy to secure. Most often it is Buyers who use this successfully when dealing with Sellers who just want to secure a deal. Trades Union negotiators use it when they know a Management team is under pressure to get the deal and get back to work.
The tactic may have worked in previous rounds of these Greek Debt negotiations, but this time, after all that has passed, this was not going to happen. As Trust has been lost, it has been important to make sure that all the required conditionality was in place and was going to be “honoured” if an agreement was to be reached and to work.
The German position, as reported by Paul Carrel of Reuters, was made clear by Ralph Brinkhaus, deputy parliamentary floor leader for Merkel’s conservatives:
“The more money is handed out in one stroke, the less leverage one has to stop payments if the reform process in Greece does not pan out as planned and as promised.
“A lot of trust has been lost in recent months,” he said, adding that aid should only be provided in return for Greece delivering reforms.
Read more: http://uk.businessinsider.com/r-senior-german-conservative-sees-open-questions-on-greek-bailout-2015-8?r=US&IR=T#ixzz3igZYLg7g
The lesson in the end game is to make sure that all concessions are traded against the agreement of specific conditions. That if a last minute concession is being sought it is traded on agreeing the deal and bringing it to a close. The concession being traded should be small and conditional that the deal is now done. And if trust is a problem, it should be agreed on the basis of everything being clearly understood and how it will all be implemented and what the penalties will be incurred for failing to honour the accord.
When Negotiating You Get What You Deserve.
- If you are at the receiving end of an unrealistic proposal and wondering to yourself: “How on earth could anyone expect us to consider that?”, ask yourself: “What have I done / failed to do / that allows the other side to make that proposal?”.Why does this happen? Well there may be many reasons, but most common are that you have most likely failed to make it clear earlier what was possible and what was not – what is negotiable and what is not – what would be the consequences of unrealistic positions – what range of sanctions were available – what would be possible.
After all, negotiating is the art of the possible! (Even though so many spend all their time arguing about what is impossible).
- If you do not define what you want ahead of a negotiation you are preparing to receive what others will let you have. You are planning to be Reactive not Proactive – Passive rather than Active – Defensive as opposed to Assertive.
Touring round the parties of a multilateral negotiation to find out what others think can easily fall into this trap. It then leads to your objectives being defined by what others will offer rather than what you want.
- If you make it obvious that you do not have any real threats, or intentions to carry out a threat (eg. the threat to walk away / leave.), then the other parties will take full advantage of the opportunity to reject your ideas, propose tougher terms and take the “high ground”.
If you go into the negotiation with just a list of demands, you give the others the opportunity to set a high price against each demand. If the other side are irritated, then the price can be very high; BUT you only have yourself to blame!
Experienced Negotiators Know how to use a Weak Position to Advantage
- If you are in a Lose / Win situation your options provide plenty of scope to be proactive by making proposals or pursue varied strategies. After all, you have nothing to lose. Proposals can be realistic or unrealistic depending on whether you wish to move forward or just buy time. Strategies can be outrageous in a multilateral negotiation with many parties, as the complexity of the situation and the needs for a level of unity protects (and hampers) all.
- Following the old negotiator’s adage “one is always in a stronger position than one thinks”, and taking courage; being proactive and making a proposal can bring surprising results:
- It can steal the agenda,
- Give uncommitted parties something to work with,
- Force a response,
- Seize the high ground,
- Control the deadlock.
- Pursuing varied strategies and tactics can lock the parties in a dangerous and escalating competition in which each tries to prove their ideas are better (more clever) than everyone else’s. This is a modern day negotiating curse – being too clever in developing smart games, gambits and tactics – brings in high risk as strategy becomes more important than the original objective.
- Beware that being sharp is not confused with being clever, and being clever may be no better than being stupid.
Poor Negotiating creates Dangerous Risk – You Pay in the End!
A key objective (and responsibility) of a good negotiator is to reduce and manage risk. The professional negotiator see these as fundamental responsibilities.
- To protect the security and safety of the organisation.
- To make sure that in doing a deal with other parties, those parties will not put at risk the security and safety of the organisation.
- To ensure that there is adequate conditional protection built in to the deal.
- To make sure all parties are clear about the penalties for not honouring the agreement in full.
- That there is no doubt that the organisation and its servants have the determination to go through with the penalties and that is clearly understood by all parties to the agreement.
- That all parties understand that subject to the above, the deal will be honoured in full as agreed.
However, in politics, being seen to negotiate may be more important than agreeing a deal. Sometimes there is no intention of going through with a deal anyway; it is enough to be at the negotiating table to buy into a club. During the process objectives, strategies and responsibilities become confused. Instead of negotiating to clearly defined outcomes, the game is corrupted by conflicting agendas – the original goal becoming lost in a fog of politics and vested interest.
Politicians sitting around the negotiating table add risk by allowing their own personal objectives to influence their party’s objectives, their sponsor’s objectives and their country’s aspirations. With this level of complexity at work, simple mistakes and hidden agendas can have very significant consequences! In politics we often see a reliance on trust – but trusting politicians is risky business.