How to Negotiate – Path vs Deal

[ New Distinctions for Entrepreneurs – Part 4 of 12 ]

Negotiation in the western world is entered into as a kind of civil combat. It is a game where two or more parties battle for their interests, taking where they can and giving up where they feel they must to get the most that they can.

From the outside, this is functional, but it is absolutely a zero-sum game (where the net result benefit of both parties is zero). Even when people negotiate saying they want a ‘win win’, it’s usually just a way of being nice and having some empathy for the other side. The truth is, in most every ‘win win’, somebody wins at least a little bit more. And usually it’s the person insisting on the ‘win win’, the other side feeling a debt for their purported good nature.

What makes most negotiations zero-sum is not the function or even the result (ironically). What makes them zero-sum is the intention from which the parties enter the negotiation. If the intention is self-interest (i.e. winning), then the result is inevetibly someone getting more than the other. In a positive-sum game however (where the net benefit of both parties is positive), there is no winning. Winning only exists in a binary.

So what if we thought about negotiation as a positive-sum game? What if instead of it being a battle, we took negotiation to be a kind of exploration? What if we saw it like negotiating a winding path?

I like to imagine that everyone in the world is on a path of their own values and desires and that all these paths eventually intersect (since we live on a sphere). This place of intersect would be where BOTH all of your interests AND all of their interests are met.

What if when you went into a negotiation you could come from a place of exploration along your path to the place where your path crosses the other’s path?

What if you committed yourself to locating that intersect as the highest priority?

Your consideration and your inquiry would immediately transform. The questions you ask would be different. The offers you’d make what be different.

What if instead of entering negotiations to make a ‘deal’, you enter them to negotiate your path until your found the place of intersect?