Decisions and Negotiating

Negotiators must be able to make decisions. Large decisions, small decisions, important decisions and mundane decisions. The process of making decisions is what advances a negotiation to its final outcome. Decision-making requires confidence, awareness, information, and courage. Most of all, it requires being prepared.

Prepare properly and agree to meet only when you are comfortable deciding what to do. Even though you may be meeting to gather information, the other person may present an opportunity for you to make an offer or accept a proposal. Being prepared to consider and act on such an opportunity enables you to take advantage of "The Moment".

There are those times when things just seem to go right and an opportunity to act presents itself. Unless you know what you want and need from a given situation, you will not be in a position to respond. Failing to do so may cost the deal later when the other person discovers other options or rethinks his or her offer.

People naturally resist making decisions. This is especially true when they feel they are being pressured to do so. To be an effective negotiator one needs to know how to prepare others to make decisions and commit. The climate of the negotiation plays a significant role in making everyone comfortable with making important decisions. Mediators work hard at giving everyone at the table a sense of power. They also use caucus or breakout sessions to separate people when emotions become too volatile. A negotiator can assume the role of a mediator in any negotiation by being sensitive to the climate of the discussions. By subtly taking responsibility for the "comfort" of the others, the negotiator assumes the mantle of a small group leader and may gain the ability to direct the discussion without having to force the issues through confrontational tactics.

Preparing for the Moment of Decision Tactics:

- If tempers have flared during the discourse, seek ways to mend the personal fences before pressing for decisions. People need to feel in control to commit willingly.

- As you approach major decisions it is helpful if you have laid the groundwork with small decisions along the way. This gets everyone used to committing and following through on their word.

- Review the terms carefully and solicit edits form everyone. By incorporating their changes they are becoming invested in the agreement.

- Encourage everyone to read the document one final time. You are intentionally slowing the process to ease the stress. Watch how others react to reading the document. If you see a cloud of doubt on someone's face, stop them and ask what is bothering them. You want everyone as comfortable as possible before placing pens in their hands.

- Review the reasons the others are agreeing to the terms and reinforce why their decision is a good one.

- Take a break and suggest a beverage or something to interject a chance to relax before actually sitting down to sign documents. Well timed breathers are a great way to diffuse mounting tension.

Decisions are pivotal moments in negotiations. Treat each decision, even the small ones, with respect. This builds a degree of comfort on the part of the other person in the process. Once a decision is made, reinforce why it was a good decision. It does not hurt to intimate that you may have conceded more than expected to build up the other's ego a bit. You want each decision to become easier as you build toward the really important decisions.

Negotiation, like any other process, can be managed. Who chooses to manage the process will likely prevail at the end of the day.