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Preparation is the Key

PGP Mediation Blog by Phyllis G. Pollack

In her latest edition of One Minute Negotiating Tips appearing in the August 2013 edition of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s digital magazine ( Volume VII, No. 2), my colleague Linda Bulmash addresses a topic near and dear to me: preparing for negotiation. Her tip actually takes more than a minute (actually 4:24 minutes) because she includes a classic video from the television show, "Taxi" that poignantly highlights the consequences of failing to prepare for a negotiation. With Ms. Bulmash’s kind permission, I quote her in full:

Value is always in the eyes of the beholder: what it is worth to them. But it is often very difficult to determine where to start your negotiation so as have enough room to negotiate as well as to engage your counterpart. The typical comment in the give and take of mediation/negotiation is usually something like this: "I don’t want to insult them and have them walk out!"

So how do you decide? Years ago, in a hysterical piece in the television show Taxi, Louie De Palma (Danny Devito) is negotiating with Jim (Chistopher Lloyd) and Jim’s father to cover the damage caused when Jim started a fire in Louie’s apartment. Louie had no information nor had he done any research. Check it out and think about whether you have ever felt like this and then come back and find out how to avoid that trap:

Most books on negotiation recommend that you do not go into the negotiation blind. Here’s how you can make sure you have information at your disposal that will help you evaluate your negotiation plan:

1. Research your counterpart;
2. Get to know your counterpart through active listening;
3. Ask questions and gather information;
4. Identify your counterpart’s weak/strong points and use this knowledge as leverage in negotiating a deal;
5. Search for hidden agendas
6. In litigated cases, research verdicts and settlements in your locale;
7. Remember people are thinking "What’s In It For Me?" (WIIFM) so frame the offer in terms of a benefit to them.

As noted previously in my blogs; preparation is a must for negotiation. One cannot simply attend a mediation or negotiation and "wing it"; the outcome can be disastrous as happened to Louie De Palma in the video, above. He grossly undervalued the matter! So… prepare- gather and analyze your information (don’t guess!), think about your bottom line or ceiling (i.e., at what point are you willing to walk away from the negotiation and pursue another alternative such as trial), analyze the strong and weak points of the matter from both your viewpoint and that of the other party and get to know the other party well enough so you can figure out what offer will be attractive to her. The concept of "What’s In It for me "is a powerful one, driving almost all negotiations. And last but not least…. Don’t bid against yourself!

…. Just something to think about.


Phyllis Pollack

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… MORE >

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