We recently looked at the importance of establishing common ground in negotiating (Why Establishing Common Ground is Negotiation Rule No. 1).
Now, let’s look at some examples of establishing common ground from an integrative frame of reference and a distributive frame. Why? There’s no better way to demonstrate that intention is more powerful than technique.
The “tools” for powerful negotiation are the same, regardless of one’s ethics or intention. And while techniques supply power, one’s real strength in negotiation comes from one’s intention to integrate, rather than distribute power and resources.
Decide for yourself which story below shows an integrative intent and a distributive intent.
Example 1: Seeking a large budget increase for her project, a project manager opens a conversation with her boss with this preface: “Before I get to the bottom line, I’d like to check some assumptions. First, I assume that this project you assigned me is one of the top priorities in our department.
In fact, I understand that it’s your single most important priority and that its success is front-of-mind for your manager. This project is actually viewed as the gate to the future of the company, isn’t it? I thought so. So, you and I have a problem to solve together, because my best forecasts show that we’re going to come up short together if we don’t find a way to move more resources into this project. Let me show you the facts…”
Example 2: Having his offer for a prime piece of real estate accepted, the investor quipped, “Mr. Seller, you and I have put together a fine deal. A great deal! I’ll have my lawyer draw up the papers. I just need to make a couple of phone calls to run it by my Board of Directors. Then you and I can get together tomorrow to execute the deal.”
The next day, the investor calls the seller and says, “Mr. Seller, I was sure that you and I had put together the greatest deal ever, but that Board of Directors is really tough on us, and there are a few little changes they’ve asked us to look into….” (Note: I heard a conversation like this in a taped seminar from an expert negotiator who bragged there never was any Board of Directors!)
It’s not too hard to discern which example illustrates an integrative intent and which one a distributive intent, is it?
My best advice to you: adopt an integrative approach when maintaining and continuing a relationship is a top priority to you.
Depending on your ethics, you might use distributive negotiation if and when you don’t care about a continuing relationship or about a creative win. But be careful how you assess the value of not continuing any relationship.
Techniques commonly taught for powerful negotiation are the same — whether your approach to a given situation is distributive or integrative. In other posts, we’ll examine how to use all the following techniques from an integrative perspective:
- argue for a third party
- bargain tough
- give yourself alternatives
- never compromise!
Get Started With This Week’s 5-Minute Stretch
We negotiate every day, whether we’re thinking about it or not. Consider your most powerful negotiation of the last week. It could be one you “won,” one that someone else “won,” one both parties “won,” or one or both parties “lost.”
What was your intention as you entered the negotiation — to integrate or distribute power and resources? How did you establish and use common ground?
Did the negotiation leave the relationship intact? Or did one or more parties choose to distribute more power and resources to themselves than to others — thereby weakening the long-term vitality of the relationship?
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Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.