TO CHOOSE OR TO DECIDE: Dealing with uncertainty in negotiation

Dear Readers:

Today I am happy to present a guest blogger, my esteemed colleague and friend Ulrich Egger, founder of Egger Philips and Partner (www.eggerphilips.ch) in Zürich.  We would both welcome feedback on these thoughts.

Mark Young xxx

As a lifelong practitioner, student and teacher of win-win-negotiation, I have often observed that even very experienced negotiators occasionally get into a dilemma when they are faced with immediate decisions, especially when closing the deal. Sometimes just before signing the contract, shaking hands or doing whatever is needed to finalize the process, out of nowhere a doubt appears. Although we have already clearly determined our course of action, we suddenly find ourselves hesitating. Why does this happen and what can we do to overcome this uncertainty?

Let’s assume that everything went more or less smoothly. We know that our preparation was thorough and that we have considered every possible aspect of the decision. We were even able to jointly draft a mapping of the negotiation process. Looking back at the negotiation critically, we are convinced that we have effectively employed all the basic principles of a win-win-approach:

  • We do not see any reason for doubts concerning relationship or trust issues that might endanger the deal.
  • We have made a realistic assessment of the different perceptions of all stakeholders and dealt with them in a constructive way.
  • We have explored and evaluated all the relevant interests and we are convinced that most of them can be satisfied.
  • We are particularly happy about having jointly expanded the pie thanks to the creation of many new options.
  • Most of the conflicting interests have been successfully dealt with by mutually accepted criteria of legitimacy.
  • We have been able to get a pretty clear picture regarding our and their BATNA and know that this deal is better for us both.

Taken together, we can also say that we have limited any cognitive bias to a minimum, so that there should be no barrier to reach an agreement or to come to a clear decision. So where is the problem? Why does our rationality collide with our intuition? Could it be that we have relied too much on our rational mind, following the dictum of most negotiation theories that we should not overestimate our instinct?

When it comes to the final “yes or no” decision, negotiators often come to conclusions that are supported by purely logical considerations of their mind, unaware that these are based on an outer-centered reality, and thus discounting their own feelings. But if we want to feel safe and comfortable with the long-term outcome of a negotiation we also need to respect and honor our inner-centered reality. Our inner sense of what is right wants to be heard, since it is the place where our own power lies, something that belongs to us only and that we do not want to give away.

One way to overcome these sudden doubts that arise just before closing is not only to repeat the analytical process, but also to re-examine our perception of the final step. Why not look at the situation as a choice rather than a decision?   Choosing is a selective and positive process that aligns my inner truth with the path I elect to take. Choosing needs no reason, no explanation and no justification. Choosing comes from my intuition that knows what it is that I really want. The chance that I will choose the wrong path is mitigated by having gone through the rational negotiation and decision-making process as described above.

Since win-win-negotiation seeks to satisfy the needs and interests of others, a purely rational approach ending with a decision may implicate confusion and uncertainty, as we strive always to do the right thing and never make a mistake.

A CHOICE that respects my feeling deep down completes the rational negotiation process in a way that gives me more security and satisfaction in the long run than a pure analytical debriefing that ends in a decision I may later regret.

Ulrich Egger

30/11/2016

Mark Young

Mark Young

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