Q & A Table of Contents
‘Traditional’ Versus Interest-based Negotiation
From: Claudette, Maple Grove, Minnesota
Question: What is the difference between traditional and interest based bargaining?
Response: Most people view the traditional process of negotiation as a means for doing whatever you can to maximize your gains — or minimize your losses — when reaching an agreement in a transaction involving an exchange of assets. Traditional bargaining is often seen as requiring that the parties each take and hold to a position. In common parlance, that’s referred to as the ‘my way or the highway’ approach.
Assets are exchanged in interest-based negotiation as well, but there is more consideration given to why a particular outcome is desired by each negotiating party. In very general terms, the answer to the ‘why’ question reveals a party’s interests. When parties are negotiating over interests, the process can become more collaborative. Someone will want to negotiate with a particular other party because the initiator of the process thinks — hopes — that the other party can add value to his/her situation.
When a party adopts and tries to stick to a position, often the only way s/he can change from that position means they have to back down, to lose face. If the negotiators focus on interests, changing the design of elements of possible agreement is less a sign of backing down and more indicative of discovering that someone else’s ideas contribute to a better way of satisfying interests.
Some folks call interest-based negotiation the ‘win/win’ approach. We view interest-based negotiation as a process that yields an agreement each party will willingly fulfill. That recognizes that absolute equality of results is not necessarily a realistic expectation in negotiation — but that a fair process can yield a more durable agreement.