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Effective Negotiations

by Phyllis Pollack
May 2013

PGP Mediation Blog by Phyllis G. Pollack

Phyllis  Pollack
I came across a 2009 blog the other day written by Anthony K. Tjan for the Harvard Business Review. It contains 4 simple rules for effective negotiations; reading through them- I found them to be old friends; rules that I have discussed before in my blogs:

•1. Be prepared. Mr. Tjan suggests that each party does her homework before the negotiations even begin by evaluating not only her own needs and interests but those of each other party as well. Look at the issues from the other person's perspective- you will be amazed at what you see; it is truly an "ah hah" moment.

•2. Negotiating against yourself. During the negotiation, do not negotiate against yourself. Do not give in on your initial points too easily or too early in the process. Often times, a party does not have all of the information needed during the early stages of mediation and learns things as the process proceeds. Such new information causes a change in position. So... wait until you learn new information before conceding points.

•3. Impasse. In almost all of my mediations, there comes a point when neither party is willing to move any further aka impasse. DO NOT GIVE UP. Rather, take a few moments, take a break and think "outside of the box"; think about other things and whether there is something tangentially related that may add value. For example, if the parties are stuck at two very different monetary values, perhaps there is something of a non monetary nature that will add value. In my "lemon law" cases, it may be including an extended service contract or a "supervised" repair that may get the parties over the hump of impasse.

•4. Closing the deal. Mr. Tjan offers some excellent advice: never be the party to be the one that walks away from the deal; let the other party make that move. So many times, I have had one party tell me that "X" is the last and final demand while the other party tells me that "Y" is her last and final offer. I tell one party to sit tight while I go talk to the other party and lo and behold, the other party is willing to move a little and, in response, the first party is willing to move a little bit as well... and before I know it, the parties have a deal. Neither the offer nor the demand was truly the "last and final." Patience is the key as well as not being the one to walk away. By playing "chicken", you may just end up with a deal!

I know I may sound like a broken record as I have discussed each of these points several times before- but they are invaluable and make the difference between resolving a dispute and continuing the acrimony.

.... Just something to think about.


Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.  When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.

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