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For Predictability - You Better Recognize!

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07/11/2012 05:11 PM

To this point, most of the negotiation tips have been describing negotiations and their predictability in what is called Distributive or Competitive negotiation.  A basic definition of distributive/competitive negotiation is a process by which parties distribute or compete between themselves, the substance of the negotiation.  

Almost all negotiations involve some elements of distributive/competitive negotiation.  This type of negotiation is traditionally what most people think of when speaking about negotiations and what studies regarding negotiation and strategy have focused on.  There is another broad category of negotiation in addition to distributive/competitive, labeled Integrative negotiation.  Integrative negotiation will be a future topic.

Since the tips and strategies have focused on distributive/competative negotiations, to understand the previous strategies and predictability of certain negotiations a great negotiator must be able to identify and recognize when the negotiation is distributive/competitive and when it is not.  There are three things to look for to recognize a distributive/competitive negotiation:

1.  Assumption of a Fixed Value;

2.  A Perceived Zero-Sum Exchange; and

3.  Negotiation from Positions.

The first element is identified by the fact that the parties are negotiating over a fixed value.  Sometimes this is referred to as a "fixed pie".  There is only so much that can be distributed in a whole pie.  So if parties are treating the substance of the negotiation as fixed (value, type, etc.) then you know one aspect is met.  

A Zero-Sum Exchange means that whatever one side "gains" in the negotiation, the other side is perceived to have lost.  If the parties feel that by making a concession they are giving or losing something, then you know it is perceived as a zero-sum exchange.  Again, a pie is illustrative: if Joe gets 3/4 of a cherry pie, Betty is viewed as losing part (1/4 if she is looking for an even split) or all (3/4 if she thinks the whole is the prize) of the pie.

The final element of distributive/competative negotiations is when the parties proceed from a position (or recommended solution) and  move from positions until an agreement is made or the negotiations stop.  Our earlier examples of Joe and Betty's negotiation over a candy bar is illustrative.  They each start at a dollar figure and move toward the other's position ($.50 to $1.00, $5.00 to $4.oo, etc.)

Looking for a more predictable negotiation, then You Better Recognize!

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