Consumer Protection Attorneys
Get Your Life Back on Track We're devoted to protecting consumers from creditor harassment.

Principled Negotiation

Whether negotiating before filing a lawsuit, or attempting to resolve a lawsuit already filed, using principled negotiation techniques is likely more effective than traditional bargaining or haggling, will save time and money, and reduce stress.

Principled negotiation refers to an interest-based approach for resolving disputes. The concept of principled negotiations was first laid out by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton in their book Getting to Yes. In their book, the authors explain four (4) basic principles of negotiation.

These principles are:

  • Separating the people from the issues
  • Focusing on interests, not positions
  • Inventing options for mutual gain
  • Insisting on using objective criteria

The bottom line is that people have to work together to resolve a dispute.

In order to get into a joint problem-solving frame of mind, it is important to separate the people from the problem. Thus, attacking or criticizing someone may feel like a good thing to do, but it almost always makes a dispute harder to resolve. Also, care must be taken to avoid triggering people’s fear, anger and anxiety, since studies have shown it is more difficult for people to make good decisions with these emotions clouding their judgment.

Unfortunately, during a dispute, people often take extreme positions, and then prepare to respond to the other side’s extreme counter-position. This usually leads to hard-bargaining, lost time, increased costs, and hurt feelings. This often happens simply because there are misunderstandings, misinterpretations, a lack of sharing information, or acknowledging information that was shared.

Simply put, sometimes people in a dispute don’t listen to one another.

Instead of listening closely to what the other person has to say, people are often preparing their own responses or listening to their own constituency. With principled negotiation, the emphasis is on first, trying to better understand and acknowledge each other’s interests, from the other person’s perspective. This can then put everyone in a position to successfully work together, ultimately leading to an outcome that better satisfies everyone.

For example, an honest conversation where each person tells the story from their eyes, while the other is listening and not judging, can help the parties test their own beliefs and gain new perspectives. Acknowledging the other person’s story, whether you agree with it or not, is key to being able to then work together to jointly problem solve; people want to know they have been heard (otherwise they will spend all their time repeating themselves to make sure they have been heard.)

Then, as the parties move on to discussing their interests, rather than just their positions, creative thinking can be applied to achieve a mutual gain that satisfies everyone. More to the point, interest-based negotiation emphasizes the things that people really want and need, not what they say they want or need. It is easier to do that after the parties have had a chance to be heard, have been heard, and are working together, with a new-found perspective based on everything learned in the process.

And finally, reference to objective criteria can assist in reaching a fair agreement, and help avoid getting stuck. Outside sources like previous experiences, statutes, or case law, can serve as a baseline so that the agreement is not resolved in favor of who can talk the most or yell the loudest, but instead is based on a fair outcome that satisfies the interests of all.

Principled negotiation disagrees with the myth that there is a “fixed-pie,” and instead champions the idea that the parties can work together, in a creative joint problem-solving manner, to increase the size of the pie!

There are some wonderful books that help explain these methods:

  • Getting to Yes, Fisher, Ury and Patton (Harvard Negotiation Project)
  • Difficult Conversations, Stone, Patton, Sheen (Harvard Negotiation Project)
  • Beyond Winning, Robert Mnookin (Harvard Business School)
  • Structured Negotiations: A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits, Lainey Feingold

Reasons to Choose Wilcox
Law Firm, P.C.