One of the most valuable lessons I learned in negotiating business deals (and more lately in relationships where you equally negotiate for certain outcomes/desires/needs) is that negotiation is not a zero sum game.
Meaning, that there doesn’t have to be a loser for there to be a winner. In other words, you can negotiate in a way that allows for two winners to emerge.
Let’s take a hypothetical example of two people negotiating for one orange. Person A and B, they each want the orange that is on the table. They each negotiate adamantly, hoping to get the orange. After digging a little deeper into what their real needs and goals are, it turns out that Person A wants the orange peel, whereas Person B wants the flesh of the orange. They decide to peel the orange and split according to what they each wanted. We got two winners.
My relationship put me into a similar position recently. I wanted to go out and spend the evening outside of home, whereas my partner wanted to stay in. You would think that this is an “either/or” situation. You can’t be out and about and be spending your evening inside. Well, after peeling off a few layers and trying to understand what our real motivations and needs were, we realized that she wanted to stay in so that we could cook together, whereas I wanted to go out because I wanted to be social. I didn’t oppose cooking at home, and she didn’t oppose socializing in the evening. So our compromise ended up being “cooking at home, and then going out for a drink.” Once again, what looked like a zero-sum game ended up yielding two winners.
What’s really important here is trying to understand what someone’s motivations are and why they want what they claim to want. More often than not, there are ways to find compromises and ways to allow both players to get what they are looking for.
Keep that in mind next time you are negotiating. It doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.