When you and your counterpart want opposite things—More! No, Less!—it makes negotiating much more challenging. Fairness not only helps you overcome this obstacle, but use it skillfully, and your counterpart will want to work with you again and again.
TranscriptThe Master Negotiator’s Simple, Powerful Tool: Fairness
One of the most challenging aspects of negotiation is that we often have “opposing” interests: On one or more levels, we want opposite things:
-We want to pay our employees as little as we can, and they want the highest salary they can get.
-We want the project completed immediately, and our vendor wants as much time as possible to finish it.
-We want our licensing agreement to be narrow in scope, and our licensee wants it to be broad.
The best way to resolve these tensions is a simple and unexpectedly powerful tool: fairness
Because human beings evolved to live in small groups, fairness has a deep, instinctual, animal appeal to us: fairness signals that when there are resources to be divided, we’ll get our share.
Brain researchers have even demonstrated that a fair distribution of resources can be more satisfying, more neurologically rewarding, than getting more for ourselves!
In one-off negotiations, it’s fine to go for a “steal” in which we get more value than might be considered “fair.”
But when efficiency and particularly when a long term relationship with our counterpart are important, savvy negotiators use fairness to create sound agreements and engender trust and respect. That’s the big win!
How do we apply fairness in real-time conflict resolution? By identifying what we call legitimate, or fair, standards. More on that next time.