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Insisting on your position – or perhaps why “sticking to your guns" won’t get you the best result

Why insist on your position?

Quite simply, it MAY well be the only way of achieving your goal! Let's say you are well aware that the other party has the upper hand, but you are convinced that your standpoint is right (for you). Stick to your position, repeat your argument to reinforce it in their minds and stand your ground. By doing so, you CAN get a sense of how far your negotiating partners are prepared to go and what concessions they are willing to make. Ultimately your firmness COULD encourage them to take a more accommodating position.

Price is naturally the most common situation in which negotiators rightly or wrongly set their sights, fix their position and stick to their guns. You hear all the time: "This is the most we can pay" or "We can't afford it, it's too expensive, there's no way we can accept an offer like that". Luckily, these positions are merely subjective opinions or personal decision, which often has absolutely nothing to do with the reality or actual cost calculation of a product and CAN, fortunately, be changed.

Why not?

First and foremost, if both parties refuse to budge, the negotiations will fail, and the two parties will go their separate ways without achieving anything and adding any value.

Secondly, one party MAY abandon the negotiations because they feel under threat, forced into a position of weakness, or fear that their offer will not be accepted anyway. At first sight, the winning party CAN celebrate – they've won after all. Is winning everything, though? What are the long-term effects that this will have on the losing side? What if they choose to make life difficult for the victors by calling in an independent arbitrator, going to court, or fighting back the next time? Such damage to the relationship MAY be irreversible. It CAN lead to the cancellation or non-extension of a contract or changing the supplier to spite the other party.

Thirdly, it CAN easily give us a false impression of ourselves. As the 'losers', it CAN leave us feeling helpless and questioning our powers of persuasion. On the other hand, as the 'winners', we dwell on the victory, feel unbeatable, and you MAY lose sight of any damage created to the relationship.

Lastly, stubbornly insisting on your position is often highly inefficient in terms of the amount of time you spend trying to get your arguments across, debating and fighting (your corner). Ultimately, the question begs, is the ROI (Return On the time Invested) worth it? Is the outcome worth the struggle?

In conclusion, a rigid position MIGHT get you short-term benefits. However, to what extent do these short-term benefits outweigh any long-term negative consequences for the relationship? As always, the art of negotiation is knowing exactly when you should and shouldn't stick to your guns at all costs.

Did you know there is a fundamentally different approach to negotiations? One which CAN avoid the issue of 'sticking to one's guns' and enables you to 'grow the pie' for all parties involved. Sounds too good to be true, eh?! Find out all about it in our latest blog.

"Rethink/change your weapon".

And it's not even rocket science! Focus on 'interests', NOT 'positions'. It is simply a healthy dose of what is known as 'interpersonal competence' and 'empathy', aka emotional intelligence – being open and show them you're interested in them and what they want (to achieve). In my experience, it makes finding a starting point for discussion, common ground and a solution much easier.

So, what CAN we do to move to more 'interest' based negotiations instead of 'position' based ones?

1) Open up! Be prepared to explain why you want what you want, your values, and how you make decisions. It should NOT, of course, be all one-way traffic. The negotiation will be doomed to fail if one side is open while the other remains secretive. Your best bet is to 'test the water' initially by revealing a few relatively minor pieces of information and seeing how the other side responds and what they give in return.

2) Become the quizmaster! I am surprised how often people forget the 'information phase' (asking questions) and dive straight into the 'bargaining phase'. This means they are probably missing vital information to help them going forward.

In my training sessions, I always encourage participants to take a step back during the 'preparation phase', think about and compile a list of the kinds of questions that COULD help them. Ask lots of open-ended questions. Here are some to get you started: 'Why do you think this way?', 'Why are you adopting this position?', or 'What is the most important thing to you?

3) Stay open even if they try the 'sticking to their guns' method to win through. When people demand things, find out why! Get to the bottom of why they want something, even if it means slowing down the process by going over points again. Tip. Make sure you make it clear to the other party that you are simply trying to get to know their interests to achieve a better result for everyone in the end. That being said, as discussed before, it should NOT be all one-way traffic, share your interests, stay open and guess what?! In my experience, the stick-to-their-gunners often let down their guard and follow suit. (See the law of reciprocity)*

*Learn more about The Psychology of Negotiations with my mini-course (add link)

4) Be laser-focused. Focus on finding out the common interests from the outset because itencourages progress in the negotiations and enhances the relationship. What's more, it also makes lighter work of dealing with any opposing interests, if and when they arise. Aim for the situation in which both parties intend to reach an agreement and in favour of maintaining a stable relationship – the sweet spot of negotiations the Best Case Scenario.

5) Become the initiator. Make the first move to getting to the Best Case Scenario. If you want a better price, you will need to explain why. Open up, make the first move while always stressing that you want to reach an agreement too. If you've done the quizmaster job well, you know their interests. By often thinking out of the box, you CAN design a deal to agree on a better price for you while satisfying an 'interest' of the other party. Thus you are 'growing the pie' for everyone.

In summary, a master negotiator's approach to negotiations is to focus on interests, use this knowledge to grow the pie, and create a win-win scenario. Then both sides can go home happy, with a win in their pocket and valuable partner to boot.


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