How to Say Yes in a Negotiation
Lots of negotiation texts make a lot of the concept of being able to disagree without being disagreeable. Given significantly less attention is the concept of been able to agree without being disagreeable or how to say yes in a negotiation. In this post I’m going to review the importance of how you behave when the deal is reached.
Negotiation is Communication
Every negotiation is a communication between two or more parties trying to come to an agreement on something. The goal of both parties is to come out with an agreement that leaves them in a better place than they would have otherwise been. Some items in a negotiation are tangible and easy to measure: the amount of money made, the amount of material saved or the time saved in production. Other items in a negotiation are less tangible: the satisfaction the parties derive from a deal, the business relationship that develops between parties in an ongoing agreement or even the relationship between the negotiators.
Why is it Important to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable
People generally like helping people they like. During a negotiation the parties are rarely in perfect harmony. Disagreements are a natural part of forming an agreement. If you are overly disagreeable as a person during the negotiation, it will make the other parties to the deal less likely to want to agree with you and more likely to try and gain psychological and real victory over you.
Be Hard on Issues, Not on People
The best advice for not being disagreeable while disagreeing is to be hard on issues and easy on people. Calling the people in the negotiation or on the teams of the other negotiators out during the negotiation rarely helps the process. Staying focussed on the issues at hand and thoroughly exploring them to find what the other parties value about them allows you to search for agreement while not being disagreeable. When you give a yes that offends the other party you are agreeing on the issues and being hard on the people.
Once an Agreement is Reached
Coming to an agreement at the negotiation is often thought of as the last step in an agreement. However the reality is both parties depend on each other to actually do what they say they were going to do. Accordingly, it is pretty important to maintain some level of trust and respect with your negotiation counterpart. This is where agreeing without being disagreeable is important.
During the negotiations themselves being agreeable is important because you want the other side to want to work with you or at least not object to working with you. Once the deal is done it is important to the other side continues to see the value in the deal struck and then in working with you.
Ways to Say Yes
How do you say yes depends in large part on the message you want to send to your counterpart. A yes that communicates that your counterpart made significant movement and you are exceptionally happy with the deal sounds different than a yes that is just barely better than your BATNA.
- Enthusiastic Yes
- Neutral Yes
- Barely a Yes
An enthusiastic yes is given when you are exceptionally happy with the deal struck. This type of yes when your first offer is accepted or when your other makes a very fair counteroffer. When giving an enthusiastic yes it is important to be thankful but to some degree contain your enthusiasm. The goal is to make your counterpart feel good about working with you without leaving them with the impression that the deal is disproportionately in your favour.
If your counterpart moved significantly, acknowledge it and thank them.
A deal that you are happy with but not thrilled with should get a neutral yes. There is no reason to make your counterpart think you are anymore excited with the deal than you are.
Saying something like “We can work with those terms. We accept your offer” communicates that the deal is doable but doesn’t overstate your enthusiasm.
The first rule with deals that are barely a yes is to thoroughly review them before saying yes. Make sure that what is offered is both better than your BATNA and a deal that you can execute. If it is, then you can review your areas of concern and make it clear to your counterpart that you have been pushed to your absolute limit. It may even be helpful to tell them you had hoped to do better and pause before saying yes. The pause gives your counterpart a chance to respond to your hope and maybe add something to the deal. Remember that your counterpart may be concerned you will not go through with the deal. They maybe willing to add a bit more value.
Things to avoid
When saying yes there are a few things you want to avoid saying because they offer no value while compromising the deal or your relationship with your counterpart.
- You Owe Me
- Telling Them They Agreed For The Wrong Reason.
The classic I’ll do this for you but you’ll owe me has no place in most negotiations. First and most importantly, if you wanted something to be included in the deal, it should have been brought into the negotiation. Second, telling your other that they owe you leaves them with the impression that if they execute the deal, they have some mystery debt that you will one day come to collect.
The whole statement suggests that the deal is not final. You are essentially making a counteroffer of what they offered plus some mystery future consideration. Since you were the last one to make an offer, it follows that they are free to reject your offer. Since owing you later has no defined value and it puts the offer back in their hands to accept or reject, there is nothing to be gained and lots to be lost by adding you owe me one to your yes.
If you are skilled or lucky enough to get a deal that you find very attractive, it is best to stick to an enthusiastic yes. Rubbing your other’s face in how awesome your negotiating skills are or how poor they performed is at best rude and at worst deal ending. Again remember that the point of the negotiation is to not only arrive at a good deal but have both sides willingly execute the deal made.
I am amazed at how often this occurs during labour negotiations and mediations. Both parties have been bargaining hard and the offering side makes an offer and backs it up with why they think it is a good idea. The offer is within the other sides range but they disagree with the rationale offered. So they accept the deal and then tell the other side why they REALLY should have offered that and that their rationale clearly demonstrates they don’t understand.
This is nearly always the worker responding to their boss. It damages the worker’s reputation and the relationship of the employer and the union. Accordingly, I typically either warn against this type of acceptance when the parties are close to a deal or engage in shuttle mediation to avoid the problem altogether.
It’s About Ego
After the technical terms of the deal are worked out and most of the interests are satisfied one interest remains: ego. When you say yes in a negotiation it is critically important to consider the ego of your counterpart, because it may have short term effects on the deal and lasting effects on the relationship. Mediation can help manage all phases of a negotiation and ensure each party’s’ interests are met. If you have a workplace conflict or negotiation that you need help with drop me a line using our contact us page.