So much of your life is a negotiation. At home you negotiate your children's bed times, what time dinner will be ready, whose family you visit for the holidays and many other items. At work you negotiate difficult deadlines, impossible budgets and over-allocated resources (including your own over-allocation).

When you use a soft negotiation approach you place more value on being nice and maintaining a friendship. There is nothing wrong with being nice, except that if you place being nice over choosing the best approach, you will be taken advantage of and you will resent it. When you use a hard negotiation approach you forget about the relationships and care more about winning the battle. The use of the word battle is intentional here, when you use the hard approach you assume you are working against adversaries.

Enter Principled Negotiations. Developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project, Principled Negotiations is both soft and hard. Soft on the people and hard on the problem. Instead of 'giving in' to be nice and instead of assuming the other party is your enemy, the idea is to reach a solution based on the merits of that solution. To make a decision that is based on wisdom and not on willfulness.

This approach has tremendous value for us. When the negotiation is over, where do the people go who were involved? They remain your colleagues, your customers, your suppliers. You want a strong professional relationship with these people, not a strained resentful one.

The benefits of Principled Negotiation are well suited to the project world:

  • Participants become partners, NOT adversaries. - Together you commit to finding a solution; you are not competing with one another.
  • Participants develop joint interests. - Together you commit to finding common ground and working toward specific goals.
  • Fair standards are developed. - Together you set boundaries that are reasonable and acceptable to all.
  • Multiple options are explored. - Together you consider more than one or two approaches.
  • A WISE decision is reached.

When the negotiation ends, you ALL know that an ethical business transaction occurred. That you worked together with integrity to find a solution that fit the need at hand. That is why AFTER the negotiation ends you can continue to conduct a healthy professional relationship based on respect. What a relief!

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