The A-Z of Negotiation Arts: R like rules

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For a negotiation some knowledge on the rules can be useful, too. Like in a sports match. And in this context it makes a difference – using a metaphor – whether you (want to) join a soccer or rugby game.


After what rules do we negotiate?

My experience shows that a mutual system of rules facilitates the negotiation. If instead one side dictates the rules, e.g. because it is in the more powerful position, there is hardly anything to negotiate.

The rules of negotiation depend on the game played. It begins to get difficult as soon as you have a different vision from your negotiation partner and define different rules for fair play from your opponent (compare metaphor above).

Thus rules define the intercourse with each other, the way disruptions are handled and why the the negotiation is being rescheduled, where you negotiate, who writes the protocol and how binding it is.

Try to be clear about the rules with your opponent before the game starts. The discussion on rules is a negotiation itself and can be a good indicator for the likelihood of a win-win situation and whether you are both at eye level.


Handling breaches of rules

If rules agreed on beforehand are not kept, sanctions have to be the consequence. For that manner you should be clear on how to react to which breaches for you and your negotiation team. This can and must lead to the breakup of a negotiation in the last instance.

It gets difficult as soon as accepted rules are not kept.


When general rules of treatment are not kept

We have expectations on “how to treat each other” for cultural reasons and sometimes due to our industry. The former may be awkward sometimes but it is part of the game. Just what happens when these minimum standards are not kept?

In some guidebooks there are handouts that help making the opponent’s time as hard as possible:

  • Seating the opponent against the deep-standing sun
  • Refuse the handshake for greeting
  • No drinks in the room even when it lasts longer
  • Making him wait as long as possible at the reception or in a tiny room
  • Greeting with “You’re too late”
  • Beginning the negotiation with “You’re too expensive”
  • Using unfair methods like role plays (Good Cop – Bad Cop), dialectics, raising your voice

Here also counts: Be sure about what you acquiesce. If the limit is reached tell about it e.g. by saying NO.