The 5 Steps of Collaborative Bargaining

I am a big fan of collaborative bargaining when it comes to negotiating at work and with family or friends. Maintaining a good relationship with the other party in those negotiations is one of the desired outcomes I strive to achieve. If the other party also wants to preserve our positive work or personal relationship, we can easily work together to come up with the best solution for both of us. Bargaining or negotiating our way to a successful win-win outcome is exactly how a collaborative bargaining situation is born.

If you find yourself in such a situation, remember that both parties in this equation need to be rational, reasonable, and fair. Angry folks rarely achieve a win-win outcome if they allow their emotions to get in the way. The implication in collaborative bargaining is that both parties want to deal with one another in a fair and open way that leads them to effective problem solving and a mutually agreeable outcome. There are five simple steps in collaborative bargaining.  Let’s look at each of them in more detail right now.

Step 1: Define the Problem

Working together, both parties in a collaborative bargaining situation should define the problem in such a way that it becomes their common goal. This is typically achieved using cooperative and respectful dialogue and from looking at the problem from each other’s perspective.

Step 2: Understand the Issues

Part of successful problem definition is to understand the issues behind the problem or situation the parties are trying to resolve. If you can recognize and understand the other person’s issues, you have a much better chance of achieving a fair outcome. Often, both parties find that they have multiple interests associated with the defined problem, and some of those interests may be the same.

Step 3: Generate Possible Solutions

In this step, both parties need to work together to brainstorm and “think out of the box” for possible solutions to the defined problem from steps 1 and 2. One key aspect of brainstorming is to remember that this “idea generation only” step asks you to only identify and list all possible solutions or outcomes. Later on in Step 4 you can rank and prioritize everything that has been identified.  I have found that one easy way to generate solutions is to redefine the problem by questioning its constraints.

4. Prioritize Possible Solutions

At this point the solutions generated from your step 2 brainstorming session are ranked and analyzed. Many folks call this the “idea reduction” step of brainstorming together. Any negative ideas should be framed in a positive way during this step.

5. Select a Solution

In the end, both parties need to take the results of their problem definition and solution brainstorming sessions to identify and reach a solution/bargain/outcome that is amenable to both parties.  This often requires both parties to meet somewhere in the middle. Ultimately, a reasonable solution should be achieved by both parties working together, at least that’s out hope!

I have found that a key theme throughout the collaborative bargaining process is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  After all, collaborative bargaining is supposed to be a win-win process. In the end, both parties should feel as though they have gained something. Remember, both collaborative bargaining parties must create a common goal and respect the other party’s opinion. Each party has to look at the interests and issues from the other party’s perspective.

Trust and a shared motivationare also important factors in a successful collaborative bargaining outcome. If both parties do not trust each other or are not motivated to work together, then collaborative bargaining or negotiating simply won’t happen. Don’t forget to bring your effective communication skills to the table as well.

If you are looking to refine or validate your communication and negotiation skills, take a look at Learning Tree’s 3-day course on effective communications.  This course is certainly a great place to begin or revisit how well you are communicating  and to learn some new skills and techniques for communicating with others even better still.

Susan Weese

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