Collaborative Negotiation – A Lifelong Skill and Practice

Last month, staff from all across Thoughtexchange headed to the Justice Institute of BC, where we spent two full days getting certified in Collaborative Negotiation. Not how to be better engineers, facilitators or digital media experts. Why? Why would a software company make this kind of investment in their staff? Because being skilled at collaborative negotiation impacts all aspects of one’s professional and personal life. Because it impacts every relationship you enter into. And because it’s also at the heart of every successful community or constituent engagement: finding things of value for all parties and creating win-win situations, in order for everyone to leave the table feeling like they’ve gained something of value.

With this skill, not only will we become better engineers, facilitators and digital media specialists, we will also become better managers, peers, friends and parents. And of course better leaders.

If you still haven’t read Getting to Yes: How To Negotiate Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher, you should. It’s brilliant, straightforward and speaks to everyone who values relationships. The book offers a concise, step-by-step, proven strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict. And as leaders, we know how invaluable this practice is.

After reading the book and taking the two-day course I learned something else. That collaborative negotiation is not just a life long skill. It’s also a life long practice. It takes time to learn, and a lot of practice to be comfortable using. It also takes a lot of using it, to be comfortable practicing it.

It can certainly be hard work though, and a practice that leaves some feeling vulnerable. At least it did for me, and watching others practicing their skills with life-like scenarios and role-playing, I could see I wasn’t the only one.

One of the biggest learnings and reminders for me was the positive impact that collaborative negotiation has on relationships. The practice, also called interest-based negotiation, is one of the few approaches that truly treats the “relationship” as an important and valuable element of what’s at stake (while seeking an equitable and fair agreement); while many other approaches use conceding as a way to sustain the relationship.

Leaving that first day, our instructor gave us a piece of homework: observe all the negotiation happening around us – on TV, on the job, at home – to see what forms of negotiation are used most often and how successful the outcomes are. I’d encourage you to do the same. It’s amazing how much negotiation is taking place without us being conscious of it. Even where to sit on the bus, or at the dining room or boardroom table. It’s happening all around us. Choosing to practice collaborative negotiation will get you a lot more in life than the best seat in the house, it will make you a better leader. And with that, comes better, more fruitful relationships, filled with mutual trust and respect.

At Thoughtexchange we talk a lot about collaborative negotiation. And one of its key aspects, that we need to keep reminding each other of, is the notion that being a collaborative leader does not mean being weak or giving in. On the contrary, a collaborative approach seeks to gain the best possible solution for everyone, including yourself!

You can also read the previous post on Collaborative Negotiation – 6 Important Reminders About this Win-Win Approach.

About the Author

Selena McLachlan

Selena McLachlan

Comments 1

  1. Thank you, Selena – what a powerful recommendation!  Despite being conscious of the principles you describe for years and adding to my skills and knowledge in a variety of ways I have yet to read “Getting to Yes”.  I will be ordering it promptly.

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