Business Negotiations Fail If You Rely Solely on This

Every aspect of life and every relationship is a negotiation. That is a cliché we often hear from “master negotiators” and negotiation gurus, but it is true.

Nevertheless, I want to infuse that idea with more substance, because not all relationships and negotiations are the same. In our love relationships with family and friends, for example, sometimes we find moments of “discussion” that do not feel like negotiations at all; that is, there is no loser.

In these relationships, our shared values focus us in the same direction and we feel that we are part of the same project. And, when we give something up, we don’t feel like we’ve compromised because it is an act of love; we get what we want, because more than anything else, we want the other’s happiness.

Negotiation in such relationships is mainly about clear communication of needs, and an affirmation to the other that we care about the other’s well-being.

Most Negotiations Don’t Have Love—So Appreciate the Ones That Do

Most relationships, however, aren’t like that because they aren’t built on that level of love; nor is it realistic for us to expect them to be.

Yes, we should still try to understand the other’s position, and we should not unnecessarily inflict harm. Communication and being understood is still critically important — in fact much more so — because our “opponent” is less likely to cut us any slack.

Often we will still find that helping others get what they want will help us get what we want, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves. Mere generosity without fair exchange leads to an imbalanced relationship; it will fall or break sooner or later. With it, at least one party will get seriously hurt.

In my next post, I will write more about what happens in high-conflict cases; but beware that even “minor conflict” cases can grow into serious relationship breakdowns in the future. For now, recognize that only in the rare relationship can we depend solely on good faith; if you have one, make sure you appreciate it.

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