When you think of negotiating a contract, you may think of boardroom scenes from movies you've watched. Often you see one side with all the power, dominating the conversation, refusing to give in, and getting everything they want in the end. It looks great in Hollywood, but in the real world, this winner-take-all approach actually ends with everyone losing.
Why Do People Dominate?
Beyond the movies, many negotiators come to the table wanting to dominate the situation merely because they have people they're answering to. Often the negotiator is representing someone else and they're concerned with getting the best possible situation for that person or group. Additionally, they may assume you're coming in with an aggressive stance as well and don't want you to take advantage of them.
Moving from Domination to Collaboration
There are several things you can do to push the negotiations toward being more collaborative. One way is to simply slow down the pace. Using a lot of "yes" and "no" questions just makes things feel like a tennis match. You can use phrases like "Let me get back to you after I speak to my partner" or "We'll run the numbers and come back." When things slow down, it gives both sides a chance to calm down, breathe, and think about what's going on.
Another option is to use language emphasizing collaboration. Instead of "I," try using "we." This subtle trick will help everyone think of the group as one cohesive unit. Once everyone at the table thinks of each other as a team working in everyone's best interests, things can move more smoothly.
The appearance of your contract presentation can also impact negotiations. Be specific and make sure any details include the potential impact on both parties. You can convert a PDF to Word if necessary to make sure all items are in their place. In this case, looks should definitely be a priority.
What If They Won't Collaborate?
If you get into a situation where the other party refuses to work together, you have a choice to make. If they use threats or ultimatums or try to drag things out, you must decide what your limits are. Step outside the current situation and take a moment to think about what this deal is worth to you. Is the final result worth it? Do you have a plan for what to do if negotiations come to a halt? Will that be a better outcome than what's currently on the table? Don't let their pressure tactics affect your decision-making.
Stay True to You
You can try to influence the other side in their tactics, but ultimately you're only in charge of yourself. Remember your values, keep in mind what you'd like to get out of the negotiations, and be sure you're looking out for everyone's interests. If you can do this, you'll likely end with a mutually beneficial deal and hopefully teach the counterparty a bit about collaborative negotiations in the process.
For more tips and information on negotiations and other business matters, join your local chamber of commerce.