Navigating The Competitive Dimension of Negotiation

By Bradley Chowles November 5, 2019 | 3 min read

Most negotiation analogies involve some kind of sport or strategic game, such as boxing, poker, chess, basketball — you name it. This is because most people see negotiation as an inherently competitive activity. It’s one negotiator competing with the other for the better deal and more favorable outcome — simple, right?

Actually, no. As we’ve mentioned before, competitiveness is only one of three dimension of the negotiation process. The other two are collaboration and creativity, which we’ll delve into in future blog posts. While a skilled negotiator knows that acting in self-interest isn’t everything, they never underestimate or neglect the competitive dimension of negotiation. Rather, an artful negotiator understands how each dimension waxes and wanes throughout the course of the negotiation, and deftly glides between them as the power dynamic changes and need arises.

In this post, we’re going to explore two key tactics to ensure the best possible outcome while operating in the competitive dimension of negotiation.

Be assertive to strengthen the perception of your position

How the other party perceives you will define their attitude towards you and how they react to your demands. This means that even if your ultimate goal is to collaborate and find new creative solutions that benefit both parties equally, you’ll never have the chance to do so if you don’t set a competitive precedent. Any negotiator that enters discussions without the competitive drive for self-interest will all too quickly become a pawn for the other party. They’ll give in to demands too quickly, reduce the level of tension, and diminish the chances of new, creative, and mutually beneficial solutions emerging.

One of the best ways to be assertive going into a negotiation is to speak clearly and confidently about your expectations. Remember that positioning your case favorably is a core Principle of Successful Negotiation. If you don’t believe in your case enough to assert its value with confidence, you can hardly expect anyone else to give it the same respect.

Set clear boundaries to protect your interests

The second tactic to help you thrive in the competitive dimension is to have clearly defined limits and boundaries beyond which you will not cross. After all, your interests are what brought you to the negotiating table in the first place. This is essential to ensure you don’t walk away with an unfavorable deal that undermines your negotiating skills and sets the business relationship off to a rocky start. Having these boundaries in mind will help you navigate between competitive and collaborative modes as needed, especially when you feel that the other party is close to crossing them.

When you’re negotiating on price, for example, one such boundary will be your “walkaway price”. As we discussed in our blog post on Setting High Aspirations, every negotiator should start the discussion with a minimum price below which they will not go. Having this number in mind — and being confident enough to walk away if the other party won’t entertain one that is higher — will empower you to make the demands needed to thrive in the competitive dimension and, with strategic cooperation, reach the ideal outcome.

Throughout our history as a company, RED BEAR has helped professionals negotiate value-based, sustainable agreements within their own organizations and externally with customers and suppliers. If you’re interested in growing your team’s negotiating skills to ensure better outcomes, fill out the form below or click here for more information.


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