Since the days of playground Pokémon battles, you’ve been taught to play nice with others. It’s an essential skill that follows you through life.
Your days of backyard squabbles may be over, but learning to cooperate and collaborate is still an essential part of your office job—it just requires a touch more nuance than sharing your Gameboy.
In most workplaces, it’s inevitable that two people (or parties) will butt heads. When this happens, they’ll need to find a solution that supports their common goals. Integrative negotiation is helpful in these situations. Utilizing this technique will bridge solutions between either side and create mutual gains for everyone involved.
Integrative negotiation (also commonly referred to as integrative bargaining or congruent bargaining) is a principled negotiation strategy where all parties involved work together to reach a mutually beneficial solution. Execute this negotiation process successfully, and you’ll be working towards a win-win scenario.
It’s a “I’ll trade you my Squirtle if you trade me your Charmander” type of situation.
Before you get started, be sure to leave your pride at the meeting room door. This type of negotiation will almost always call for some compromise or sacrifice from both sides of the table. Be sure to confirm that everyone involved is truly open to finding common ground before you deploy these negotiation strategies.
You know what you need to do. You and a coworker must work through multiple issues to find a way to a solution that makes everyone happy. This is easier said than done, sure, but it’s not impossible. Break the process down into three manageable steps:
- Find out what everyone (really) wants.
- Establish common ground.
- Use your negotiating skills to define multiple solutions.
Here’s how to get it done:
Before you start talking about what you think is best, take the time to get into the headspace of the other parties. What are their pain points? An easy way to do this is by opening the floor to discussion. Take notes and make sure everyone in the room is heard and respected. Even when you don’t agree with each other, this step will allow everyone to get the full picture and to start brainstorming solutions they may not have considered beforehand.
Now that everyone’s had a chance to air their concerns, look at those notes. You’ll be surprised to realize you probably agree on more things than disagree. Highlight these instances and focus on them. Don’t worry about any lingering points of contention. When you start on the same page, working together won’t be so difficult in the long run.
Integrative negotiation is all about embracing everyone’s unique perspectives, so don’t get hung up on nailing down one magical solution. Use the positive momentum you’ve established to mind map every possible solution you can think of. Don’t worry about the practicality of these ideas just yet. Once you’ve exhausted your brain-tank, go through the list and cross off ideas that are impractical or unlikely to gain ground with top brass.
Once this step is complete, you’ll have landed on a solution that makes sense—and makes everyone happy. Each participant had a hand in creating the solution, so everyone could take some credit.
Maybe your kindergarten teacher was right. Playing nice with others is important, but no one said it would be easy. It’s difficult to concede when you just want what’s best, but when you finally reach an agreement, it is worth the struggle. Utilize integrative thinking in your day-to-day workplace interactions, and you’ll not only develop a reputation for having a collaborative spirit—you’ll get more done, (and get better results), too.