We help our clients save time, money, and energy.

Positional Based Vs. Interest Based Negotiation For Business or Personal Matters

When entering a negotiation most of us think “ O.k., this is what I want and this is what I need.” You can be assured that that is exactly what the other person is thinking too, and then we argue over what is right and what is fair. What if I were to tell you that this approach is setting both parties up for a fight, a confrontation, a winner and a loser, and not necessarily a negotiation?


First, we need to look at what we want our results of the negotiation to look like. Do we want a winner and a loser, or do we want both parties leaving the table without the sense that they “lost”? Obviously, most people would choose the second outcome.  If this is our goal then, we need to look at how to make this happen. Being positional, being stuck in a “my way or the highway” point of view is certainly not the best way to approach a negotiation.


What does “being positional” mean? It means that our feet are firmly planted in a stubborn idea. An idea, that our solution, that we think is right, just ,and fair (mostly for us) is the only solution. We need to shift our thinking, we need to shift our mind set: we need to be collaborative and not positional.


What does “being collaborative” mean? Unlike being positional, being collaborative means that we accept the notion that maybe there are other ways to look at things; maybe there are other options and solutions that could make both parties happy; maybe, just maybe, our “position” is not the best solution to our conflict. We need to at least entertain seeing things from the other person’s viewpoint: but even more importantly, trying to discover what their interests are.


Interest based negotiation is true collaboration in practice. Whether it is regarding a business matter or a personal matter, it involves discussion, asking a lot of questions and really listening. The point to asking a lot of questions and listening intently is to add more pieces to our puzzle: to discover what we don’t know. Afterall, we don’t know what we don’t know. It is so much easier to come up with solutions that satisfy everyone’s best interests when we just get curious and really try to understand the other party’s motivations, wants, needs, etc.


Not only does being curious provide more potential solution options, but it can help us identify possible solutions to our own needs that we might not otherwise have explored if we remained stubbornly fixed in our initial positional thinking. Exercising curiosity can also help us clarify what we truly value and to weigh that into the equation.


In summary then, one of the initial phases of a good negotiation then is taking the time to ask a lot of questions about what the other person may be thinking, may need and may want. We need to ask enough questions to uncover the other party’s interests, which may, of course, differ from they think they want or need. In turn, we need to remain open to other and/or new possibilities that could satisfy what we want or need. The key, then, to avoiding a confrontation where opposing parties are stuck in their positional thinking is curiosity: keep open minded and always remain curious. Afterall, curiosity is one trait that all geniuses possess!