Practical Tips on Negotiating on Your Own Behalf
Prepare before negotiating with the other side. Negotiations are an important tool that can save time and money while resolving your case. Remember, going to court is costly (e.g., court fees and costs, potential attorney fees, time off work.) The court process can be emotionally exhausting. Below are a few tips on conducting a successful negotiation.
- Stay calm. If you need to take a break during the negotiation to regain your emotional balance, take a break. Take the break before the situation heats up. Go to the bathroom, have a glass of water, or ask to make a quick private call and apologize.
- Write a list of what you want and a separate list of what you would be willing to settle for. Consider other options as you review the lists. Then put the lists to the side, and listen to the other person.
- Keep an open mind. Really listen to the situation from the other person's perspective. Many situations end in a compromise because there are good points on the both sides. Approach this situation as “how do we solve the problem that we have?” Don’t blame the other side. Even if you are not able to resolve the situation now, a better understanding of the other side’s position will help you to prepare for court.
- Don’t overreact to negative statements. Sometimes it takes a while to find common ground. People are often nervous and start the conversation with high emotions. Do not respond to the emotion. Focus on your goal. Remember that you want to resolve the problem.
- Use questions to explore the other side’s position in a neutral way. Asking questions about the issues shows that you are willing to discuss the issues, not just making demands. Questions can help you find common ground and understand the other side’s point of view. Use this common ground to find a compromise on the issues.
- Keep notes on every interaction with the other side. Include the date you spoke and who said what. Things may seems clear during the discussion, but it is common to forget exactly what was said after a few days pass.
- If you reach an agreement, put it in writing. Work it out while you are in the same room, if you can. This avoids the inevitable re-thinking about the case. It also allows you resolve the small details that did not get discussed before.
- Write a letter if a discussion does not solve the matter. A reasonable letter may encourage the other side. Remember that the letter may be used as evidence if the case goes to court.
The following points are examples of tactics you should avoid when negotiating with another party:
- Focus on the personality of the other side rather than the issues. It can be very easy to personalize the situation. After all, you do not feel like you were treated fairly. Even if you do not like the other side, approach the conversation with an open mind and listen carefully. You are negotiating to solve a problem. Put aside your dislike or strong feelings about the other side. Focus on the issues, not the person.
- The “Right vs. Wrong” trap. Don’t go into a negotiation with the mindset that you are completely right and the other person is completely wrong. Most disputes have some merit on both sides. Your job during a negotiation is to figure out if there is a fair compromise.
- Attempting to win “no matter what.” Your attitude matters. If you enter the negotiation with the intent to “win at all costs,” you are likely to fail. Try to find a solution where you each “win” something. Once you have the information on what all of this will cost (time and money), consider what you might give up to resolve it now.
- Forgetting that negotiation is a process not an event. Every contact with the other side is part of your negotiation. An angry phone call followed by an emotional letter will not help you when you finally sit down to talk. Each contact will influence whether the other side is willing to compromise.