Monthly Archives: March 2015

Principled Negotiation: Planning to Succeed

 “Don’t bargain yourself down before you get to the table.”      Carol Frohlinge

One survey of negotiators some years ago found that successful negotiators spent twice as much time acquiring and clarifying information as the less successful negotiators.

They also asked twice as many questions, and were shown to be much more effective at active listening.  Much of this could possibly be classified under planning for the negotiation.

Planning is such a key component of negotiating, and a Negotiation Planner can help us to be much more prepared for negotiations.  The following template can help you do this.


Your Wants/Needs, etc. Their Want/Needs, etc. (you may need to guess)
Who/Where/When? Who/Where/When? 
Your Key Stakeholders  Their Key Stakeholders
Your Overall Goal Their Overall Goal  
Your Wants & Needs  Their Wants &Needs 
Your Opening Position  Their Likely Opening Position 
Your Subsequent Positions   Their Likely Subsequent Positions
Your BATNA Their Likely BATNA 
Your Creative Opportunities  Their Creative Opportunities

What is a BATNA?  This is an acronym for Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement.  Very often, a bottom line is arbitrary, and may actually prohibit us from obtaining the best results.  A BATNA is an alternative to a bottom line, and some experts suggest that a BATNA is the best standard against which negotiated agreements should be measured.  The key point is to focus on interests and underlying needs rather than arbitrary fixed positions.

My wife and I applied BATNA in our personal lives when we sold our home a few years ago.  We initially agreed on a bottom line selling price, which was quite arbitrary.  Then we discussed our BATNA, which was interesting!  We realised that our best alternatives to negotiated agreement were:

1.  Rent our home out while we moved elsewhere.

2.  Defer selling the home until the market picked up.

3.  Make changes to our home, so that it more fully encompassed all our needs.

4.  Renegotiate our home loan.

We agreed that number 2 would be our key BATNA if we didn’t sell, which we did, by the way.

Look up BATNA on Google if you want to know more about it.

Questions for you to consider:

Consider recent or current negotiations you are involved in.  What is your BATNA(S)?

Do/did you need to spend more time planning – perhaps completing a Negotiation Planner?

Successful negotiating!

Narayan van de Graaff

Principled Negotiation: Beyond Tactics and Dirty Tricks

“War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”           Forbes ’12

businessman and businesswoman having a discussion


In the last blog, we touched on the fact that some negotiators will employ tactics and ‘dirty tricks’.  Why?  Because they work so often, particularly with negotiators who trust the other party, and don’t realise what the other party is doing to manipulate them into surrendering to their demands.

The following are just a few of the tactics and dirty tricks that are employed:

 FAIT ACCOMPLI: doing something which is, or at least, seems irreversible, e.g. doing work for a you which had not been agreed to, then charging you for this work.

SALAMI: achieving their objective little by little without agreement, and ultimately achieving a lot!

ARTIFICIAL DEADLINES: trying to force you to arbitrary or unrealistic deadlines.

GOOD NEGOTIATOR/BAD NEGOTIATOR: along the lines of good cop/bad cop.  One negotiating partner takes a very tough approach while the other is much easier to deal with.  When the ‘bad negotiator’ disappears for a while (deliberate of course!), the ‘good negotiator’ makes an offer that under the circumstances may seem hard to refuse, given the circumstances.

NO AUTHORITY: at an advanced point in negotiations, stating that they don’t have the authority to make a decision when you had every reason to believe they did have that authority.

BULLYING and THREATS: deliberately intimidating you so that you will hopefully succumb.

STANDARD PRACTICE: Convincing you to do their bidding, because ‘it’s standard practice’.

CHANGING SCOPE OF NEGOTIATIONS: deliberately ‘changing the goalposts’ to try and unnerve you and make you cave in to their demands.

EMPTY PROMISES: Making empty promises with no intention of keeping to them.

FEINTING: Disguising the real objective by pretending they have other real concerns or objectives.

STALLING: Deliberately using delaying tactics.

SILENCE TREATMENT: Reacting to your offers/discussions with silence, to try and intimidate you.

The first key strategy to dealing with these underhand tactics is to be aware that they are being employed.   You can then assertively indicate that they are not helpful, and encourage the other party to practice principled negotiation.

 Have you encountered any of the above tactics?  How did you deal with them?

Happy to hear from you, and for us to learn from each other.

Narayan van de Graaff


Principled Negotiation: Is it Just a Lot of Bulls..t?

“Let us never negotiate out of fear.  But never let us fear to negotiate.”  John F Kennedy

 Common Ground Words Magnifying Glass Mutual Agreement

The term win-win has been around for many years, yet it is still very important and relevant.  By way of example, the workshops we facilitate on crucial conversations, conflict resolution, principled negotiation, bullying and harassment, performance management, leadership and dealing with difficult people, all have win-win as an underlying value system.

In their bestseller, Getting to Yes, Fisher and Ury explain how principled negotiation works.  Both parties develop rapport, explore and communicate their underlying needs, and seek mutually acceptable outcomes.  This is in contrast to positional negotiation, where both parties dig into positions and possibly play manipulative games with each other.

Some years ago, I was managing a team of management trainers in one of the large banks. One of the bank’s workshops for supervisors and managers was Principled Negotiation – a two-day practical workshop based on the win-win principle in negotiating.  I discovered that the negotiation workshop for senior management was based more on a win-lose philosophy.  It was very much about using tactics and ‘dirty tricks’.  There is a whole range of them – refer our next blog.

I spoke to ‘John’ who was responsible for that workshop, and explained my concerns.  Here we had two negotiating workshops side by side in the same company, very much at odds with each other in terms of their underlying philosophy and suggested strategies/tactics.  John listened, and then said, “Narayan, all this win-win stuff is a lot of bulls..t.  Only one person ever wins, and I always make sure it’s me.”  Well, that was clear!  We had to agree to disagree.

I strongly subscribe to a win-win philosophy, particularly in relation to negotiations with clients.  If you are buying a new or second-hand car from a car yard, there is usually no need to develop the relationship.  However, if you are negotiating with a significant client and employ those tactics and dirty tricks, you may ‘win the battle but lose the war.’  You might well get a short-term win, but in the process alienate the client who will not trust you and very possibly look elsewhere in the future.

The other point about principled negotiation is that if you build trust and develop rapport with the other party, you are both more likely to finish the negotiations with your main needs met.  We are not suggesting that all of your needs will be met – life isn’t as simple as that.  However, you will both be more open to exploring options and the underlying needs of both parties, and finding solutions that you may not have found, if you had used a positional negotiation approach.

What are your views and experiences on this topic?  I’d love to hear from you!

Narayan van de Graaff

LicensedtoSkill Blog One!

“The journey of a thousand blogs begins with the first blog.”   (apologies to Lao Tzu!)

Welcome to the first of many blogs that will be written over the coming months.  We are very excited about providing you with information that is designed to interest, stimulate and even provoke you!  We are also seeking to make it interactive, so that we can all learn from each other.

Who are we?

IMG_6951 - Copy

We are Sydney-based management consultants, working throughout Australia and overseas as needed.  Narayan has worked in HR, management training and management consulting for around 27 years, and has provided training in several dozen areas for clients in the public, private, educational and not-for-profit sectors during those years.

Tulsi has worked as a management consultant for some years, with a strong background in areas such as mediation, conflict resolution, legal issues for non-lawyers, capacity training and child protection.

We also have associates with extensive experience, who may write blogs from time to time.

Blog Scope

We will be covering a broad range of topics, which are linked to the following triangle of offerings – this can be found on our website  Templates are available for the many workshops linked to each area.  Feel free to download a brochure from the website which elaborates on what we do – either the one specifically for councils, or the other for all other organisations.

Workshop Templates

Each of the areas in the triangle has a range of related topics and future blogs. For instance, Getting Win-Win Outcomes encompasses a range of topics such as:

  • Crucial conversations
  • Conflict resolution
  • Empathy/assertiveness
  • Dealing with difficult people
  • Principled negotiation

We are passionate about what we do – we believe in the material and the messages that we communicate in our workshops, conference presentations and the blogs.  We love to make a sustained difference with our clients, and trust our enthusiasm and passion will inspire and benefit you.

We read a book some time ago on presentation skills, in which the author said that we are all tuned into the radio station: WII-FM.  This stands for “What’s In It For Me?”  We aim to tune into your frequency, and trust you will derive real benefit from our weekly blogs, and also our tweets, which will be closely linked to the blogs.  Happy reading!

Narayan and Tulsi