By Dr. Stefan Eisen, Air Force Negotiation Center
/ Published July 11, 2018
This quick tips list is a “bare-bones” description of the five essential cooperative negotiating strategies and tips on when, where and why to use each.
1. Everything is a negotiation – sometimes you negotiate with yourself (like when to get up on a Saturday morning after a tough week), but most often you negotiate with others to solve problems. As with anything in life, a little bit of planning goes a long way.
2. If you only have time to do one thing, always know your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) and protect it. Always estimate their BATNA and find ways to influence it. In a military environment, your BATNA can often be used to motivate the opposite to stay in a negotiation. You can often convince the opposite to engage further in the negotiation when you reveal that you’d hate to go back to your boss and admit failure – and ask the opposite how his boss would react upon hearing the same news.
3. If you have time to do two things before a negotiation, do 2 above and a Trust, Information, Power and Options (TIPO) assessment. It’ll give you a hunch on how to proceed. Know the two types of trust, process/personal. During a negotiation, constantly assessing the TIPO within the negotiation might give you insight on what the opposite is using for a strategy. Trust (or lack of it) drives almost everything in negotiation.
If you have time to do three things, do 2. and 3. Above and work through the NSC and know the pros and cons of each strategy. If circumstances allow, try the CNS first.
Evade Strategy: The Evade strategy is a passive, unassertive strategy where you don’t have any motivation to work your expectations or meet their expectations. When might you " evade " or " kick the can down the road "? Perhaps if the issue at hand is totally unimportant to you, if you have higher priorities, or you lack the energy and drive to tackle the problem. Often the status quo is actually preferred to any envisioned solution. Also, you may use the Evade strategy if you are faced with an overwhelmingly competitive opponent and this forestalls an outcome that would definitely not satisfy your needs.
Evade may be useful when trust is low, you have no need for information beyond what you have, you have the power to resist the opposite’s strategy and the option of the status quo is the preferred option for you.
Comply Strategy: The Comply strategy tends to delegate the responsibility for the conflict’s resolution with the other person or party. This (along with the Evade strategy) is a passive approach to negotiations. This strategy is preferred when preserving the relationship between you and the other party is the paramount concern even if it is at the " expense of the task ". The result of this strategy is that the more assertive party gets what they want and you, as the compliant side, give up whatever is at stake or grant a concession to the opposite.
Evade may be useful when trust is low to moderate, you have no need for information beyond what you have, you do not have the power to resist the opposite’s strategy and the option of giving in to the other side’s interests may create a favorable situation for the next engagement with your opposite.
Insist Strategy: The Insist strategy is useful when you believe that obtaining your objective is paramount, regardless of the cost to the opposite’s interests or the relationship. The Insist strategy is usually associated with a position and declared with a demand that leaves little room for movement and / or compromise. Information is usually hoarded and withheld. Relationships are usually put at risk and any long-term negotiating relationships are difficult to maintain. This style is preferred when a " winner takes all " requirement is sought. Usually the Insist strategy is used when there is a single issue (like price or security) and the likelihood of further interaction between the parties is unlikely or winner’s residual power after the negotiations will allow for more use of the Insist strategy. The Insist strategy is quick, and there’s usually one outcome: one party " wins " and the other " lose ". At issue is which party gets to play the victor or the vanquished. Usually, the party with the greater amount of power is the victor. We also describe the Insist strategy as a zero-sum or distributive process where there are a finite number of chips to be won—and each party wants to be the sole winner.
Settle Strategy: The Settle strategy may be a useful when you seek resolution to a situation, but see little chance for you to really get it " your way " (e.g. the Insist Strategy) or you don’t want to " give in " (e.g. the Comply Strategy) to the opposite. By using the Settle strategy, you may minimally satisfy both side’s task interests through the process of splitting whatever difference separating you from the opposite; usually in the form of splitting the difference " …somewhere down the middle ". The Settle strategy usually opens not with a demand (a hard position with no wiggle room), but a softer " offer " (a position leaving some room for you or the opposite to maneuver the other to a solution). Each party " gets something ", but usually not what you really need or what fully satisfies you. Additionally, the people orientation is not strong, as you expect the opposite to take care of their interests as you are taking care of yours. It is not antagonistic, neither is it nurturing.> difference
Settling usually results in a quick negotiation (Settle is an efficient process), but rarely an optimal outcome (Settle is usually not an effective process). Also, the Settle strategy is usually most useful where only one variable is at stake or being considered (like price). A quick tutorial on the Settle strategy is available in any segment of “Pawn Stars” or “American Pickers” series on cable television. Observe how they intuitively use TIPO in these cable television programs.
Settle may be useful when trust is low to moderate, you have most of the information you need, but not all to conclude the deal, you have about equal power with your opposite and you are willing to give a little on your desired option to close the deal.
Cooperative Negotiating Strategy (CNS): CNS is the Air Force Negotiation Center enhanced version of the business world concept known as " Interest-Based Negotiations (IBN) ".i CNS depends on each party’s desire to achieve both a mutually satisfactory outcome while simultaneously managing the relationship. For this to occur, trust must exist between the parties and they must be willing to share information and decision-making power and suspend judgment on possible solutions. The AFNC also suggests that all five NSC negotiation strategies are " interest-based" – and none should be disregarded when contemplating or executing a negotiation. For example, in certain situations your " interests " must predominate (such as using the Insist strategy in a crisis) or in other situations, your interest may be for the opposite to " have it their way " (using the Comply strategy to help build a relationship), etc.ii
CNS, however, has the potential to address multiple issues within a negotiation. The basic premise is that the " game " is not inherently zero-sum, as in the Insist Strategy, but there is a potential to create new value for each party involved while building an enduring relationship to handle the inevitable problems that crop up during in executing nearly every negotiated agreement. CNS is particularly effective in a diverse situation – such as the military environment. Agreements in the military must be reached with people and groups that are often very different —culturally, socially, politically, etc. To get beyond the obstacles to an agreement, CNS suggests focusing on the underlying, basic, and perhaps common, interests behind each party’s initial positions. From these interests arises the potential to also find common ground and generate opportunities to create new value. Reduced to its essential, CNS proposes that two groups working together will come up with a solution qualitatively better than what either party could generate on their own.
CNS may be useful when trust is moderate to high, you know you do not have the information you need, you have about equal power with your opposite and you are willing to consider many options that might meet your interests as well as you opposite’s interests.
i Fisher, Roger and William Ury. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In, (New York: Penguin Books, 1981)
ii Roberts, Wess. Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. (New York: Warner Books, 1987). p. 85.