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Planning For Surprises In Negotiation 

Written by: Roar Thun Waegger, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor  Roar Thun Waegger

Negotiation often compared to an intricate dance, demands finesse and strategic skills, preparation, and improvisation. Embracing change as an opportunity. The article explores the art of negotiation as a non-linear, improvisational process, drawing parallels with jazz to underscore the importance of preparation and adaptability. The systematic approach, condensed in the 3 P's—Prepare, Probe, and Propose—provides a solid foundation for negotiating effectively. The transformative power of preparation and the art of turning uncertainties into opportunities for success in negotiation.

Team of two creative entrepreneurs having a conversation.

Mastering the art of negotiation: A strategic guide to success

Negotiation is an art form, a delicate dance where the slightest misstep can lead to a less-than-ideal outcome. As a seasoned negotiator, I understand the importance of thorough preparation, but even the best-laid plans can encounter unexpected obstacles. In the face of change, the key is not just to adapt but to thrive, turning challenges into opportunities for a win-win outcome.

Embrace change as an opportunity

Change is inevitable, and your attitude towards it can be the deciding factor in the success of your negotiations. Instead of fearing change, view it as an opportunity to showcase your creativity and problem-solving skills. Alexander Graham Bell's timeless wisdom reminds us that when one door closes, another opens – “When one door shuts, another one opens, but we sometimes stare at the closed door for so long and with such sadness that we fail to see the one that has opened for us.” This is a matter of our attention. It isn’t simply a matter of one door shutting and another opening. Will you decide to focus on the locked door and fail to see the open door as it swings open? 

Explore, reassess, reevaluate, and revolve

Your Negotiation Preparation Checklist should be a living, breathing document, ready to adapt to new information and circumstances. When faced with unexpected changes, take a step back. Explore the situation, gather more information, and delve into the interests at play. Reassess and reevaluate your plan, and don't be afraid to revolve. 

Flexibility is your ally in negotiations, helping you navigate unforeseen challenges with finesse. The essence lies not only in crafting a robust plan but also in the adeptness to turn when confronted with unforeseen roadblocks. This ability distinguishes a good negotiator from a great one, emphasizing the significance of strategic adaptation and improvisation. 

Strategic adaptation and improvisation'

Negotiation can be described as a non-linear process that demands ongoing learning, adapting, and influencing. Negotiators with agility can break through stalemates and reach agreements in a chaotic world. When faced with the unexpected, embrace it and employ a strategic approach to adapt and improvise. Your ability to navigate uncertainties will set you apart in the negotiation arena.

I often use the analogy between jazz and negotiation to further underscore the importance of both preparation and improvisation. Drawing parallels from negotiation to jazz, you can describe it as an improvisation on a theme where the destination is known, but the path is uncertain. Negotiation requires synchronization. Similar to when a jazz ensemble performs. Negotiation involves diverse players' negotiation styles. A confident and well-prepared negotiator excels by being present, knowing when and how to influence, and being proactive in driving processes forward. In essence, adopting an improvisational mindset enhances negotiation outcomes by turning unexpected elements into new opportunities.

A systematic approach

One of the training workshops I run is named "The Power of Nice". Based on the well-known negotiation book of the same name written by my mentor, Ron Shapiro. Here we emphasize three essential principles: empower yourself, value relationships, and follow a systematic approach. The 3 P's—Prepare, Probe, and Propose—are crucial elements in negotiating effectively.

Prepare: The foundation of confidence

Preparation is the only aspect of negotiation over which you have 100% control. Create a checklist divided into two parts: Information Gathering and Action Planning. Understand the situation, objectives, roles, and responsibilities. Explore precedents, alternatives, interests, deadlines, strengths, and weaknesses, and create your strategy accordingly. This comprehensive preparation builds confidence and empowers you for successful negotiations.

Probe: Mastering the art of inquiry

The second P is Probe. Probe for information, explore hypotheses and encourage your counterpart to share more. Avoid mind-reading, offensive inquiries, and getting off track. Prepare questions in advance. You do not have to use all of them, but your preparation will give you confidence in approaching your fellow negotiator. 

Propose: Timing and precision

The third P is Propose. When proposing, avoid rushing into the first offer. The first offer often aims low, so wait and propose a reasonable high with supporting precedents. Don't overestimate your weaknesses; instead, use their experience as a basis for fairness and objectivity.

Conclusion: Preparation is power

As you prepare for your next negotiation, remember that 

  • change is an opportunity, 

  • adaptation is key, and 

  • a systematic approach is your guide. 

Whether you're exploring, reassessing, or strategically adapting, your goal is to create a WIN-win outcome. It's maximizing your result, not that the winner takes all!

With a solid foundation in preparation, effective probing, and thoughtful proposals, you'll be equipped to master the art of negotiation and navigate unexpected challenges with confidence and success.

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Roar Thun Waegger Brainz Magazine

Roar Thun Waegger, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Roar is a facilitator, advisor, and mediator, and he founded Waegger Negotiation Institute (WNI) in 2017. Up to 2017 has Roar been working as a lawyer with employment and labor law, and he has extensive experience in practical negotiations and long-time influence work. With his experience and training from Harvard PON and Pepperdine’s Straus' Institute in negotiation, mediation, and conflict resolution he helps his clients solve their challenges.



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