Office workers use principled negotiation to choose a pizza topping.

The Principles of Negotiation

With the proper skills and attitude, anyone can become a successful negotiator.  But first, you'll need to learn the basics to prepare for, assess, and respond to offers for the best results. GLOBIS Unlimited can help.

Negotiation: Creating Value

Want to create more shared value between yourself and your negotiation opponent? Discover how cognitive bias affects the judgment of others. Try this course from GLOBIS Unlimited to master the value of negotiation.

Life is full of conflict. What separates humans from beasts is our ability to use our words to navigate conflict in a civil manner.

Civil discussion is an essential skill for everyone, especially in the corporate world. Effectively negotiating an agreement may seem intimidating at first, but by breaking down the fundamentals, you’ll quickly realize that empathy and understanding will get you much farther than persistence and pride.

Negotiation: Creating Value

Want to create more shared value between yourself and your negotiation opponent? Discover how cognitive bias affects the judgment of others. Try this course from GLOBIS Unlimited to master the value of negotiation.

4 Common Types of Negotiation and 1 Polarizing Pizza Topping

Imagine you and your coworkers are having a gathering. The get-together will take place during lunchtime, so food will be served. Everyone agrees on pizza, the great culinary unifier. Everyone also agrees that Panucci’s Pizza is the best shop in town.

But when it comes to toppings, talks break down. And this is a hill you’re willing to die on—especially when someone suggests pineapple.

You can’t imagine how anyone could enjoy such a heinous pizza topping, and yet a particular coworker insists. How can you prevent this tragedy?

Deploying one of the four most common types of negotiation may be your only hope. Here are your options:

Distributive Negotiation

Distributive negotiation is what most folks refer to as “haggling.” This tactic is most useful in situations like negotiating a bigger budget for your team.

With this technique, you could argue that the extra charge for pineapple on your pizza is simply outrageous. Maybe your coworker doesn’t care that the pineapple topping costs more, but what if only they had to pay more? Perhaps rather than splitting the bill evenly among the team, they could cover a bigger percentage. Or you could offer to split the cost of the pie itself, but insist they cover the tip.

Your move, pineapple lover.

An infographic of a woman using distributive negotiation to haggle on pizza prices.
In a distributive negotiation, the matter of cost typically takes center stage. | ©GLOBIS

Integrative Negotiation

In an integrative negotiation, there’s more than one issue on the line. This means that, if an integrative negotiation is handled respectfully, it’s likely to result in a win-win situation.

While you despise your coworker’s taste in pizza toppings, they’re still a great member of your team. You don’t want to ruin a relationship over pizza—but you also don’t want pineapple on your pizza. So what if you order the pizza with half pineapple and half something reasonable, like black olives. Or, if you don’t want pineapple anywhere near your slices, you could suggest that they order a dedicated pineapple pie, and you order an entirely separate pizza.

But perhaps you’re only able to order a single pizza. Maybe concede on the toppings, but assert that you’d rather have a Caesar salad as a side dish over the French fries they suggest.

In any of the above cases, you’re integrating the wants and needs of either party into a single agreeable outcome—and that makes for great integrative negotiation.

An infographic of two team members using  integrative negotiation to agree on what pizza toppings to order.
Embracing the needs of both parties to reach an amicable agreement is a hallmark of integrative negotiation. | ©GLOBIS

Multiparty Negotiation

Multiparty negotiation are similar in that they only occur with multiple people involved. As the names suggest, a team negotiation would have at least two teams, while multiparty negotiation would have at least three individuals in discussion.

If your pizza party causes a division among coworkers that results in groups vying for one option or the other, you might end up with Team Pineapple vs. Team Black Olives. Thus, it becomes a team negotiation.

The actual tactics for team or multiparty negotiation can be similar to other negotiation types. Perhaps you implement integrative tactics and order a pizza with each respective topping on half, or you go distributive and bring up the pizza party budget. In either case, if more than two people are involved, you and your coworkers are participating in a multiparty or team negotiation.

An infographic of team members using team and multiparty negotiation to decide on pizza toppings.
When multiple people support a particular position, a team or multiparty negotiation is underway. | ©GLOBIS

Positional Negotiation

This method differs from the rest because you’re starting out with your bottom line already in place: You do not want pineapple on your pizza, plain and simple.

If both parties in a positional negotiation refuse to budge, it’s easy to see why this is often viewed as one of the least productive methods of negotiation. With that in mind, positional negotiation can be a useful last resort when you’re truly drawing a line in the sand and ready to walk away.

While these four methods of negotiation are the most common, they aren’t necessarily the most effective. This is where principled negotiation comes in.

An infographic of two people using positional negotiation in an argument.
Because both parties refuse to budge on their stance, positional negotiation is not a productive option. | ©GLOBIS

What is principled negotiation and why does it matter to you?

According to Harvard Law School, principled negotiation involves using your opponent’s own principles against them to gain leverage. This may sound sinister, but it’s actually a fantastic way of reaching a middle ground that makes everyone happy.

A successful negotiation almost always calls for compromise, so showing your opponent how your position makes sense from their own perspective is an effective tactic.

The Principles of Negotiation

With the proper skills and attitude, anyone can become a successful negotiator.  But first, you'll need to learn the basics to prepare for, assess, and respond to offers for the best results. GLOBIS Unlimited can help.

If your coworker is the only one in the office interested in pineapple on their pizza, they’re limiting the choices available for the rest of the team. They may feel as if they’re the oppressed, but you can show them through discussion that they’re the oppressor. That’s principled negotiation at work.

Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton: The Godfathers of Principled Negotiation

In 1979, anthropologist and academic William Ury formed a brain trust with Harvard professor Roger Fisher called “The Harvard Negotiation Project.” Together, they participated in real-world conflict resolution, pulled inspiration from those experiences, and documented their findings. The result was an objective negotiation method that can be easily used by politicians, police, or just regular folks across the world trying to reach an agreement.

It came down to four principles:

  • Separate the people from the problem
  • Focus on interests, not positions
  • Invent options for mutual gain
  • Insist on using objective criteria

Separate the people from the problem.

Negotiation tends to get heated. It’s important to keep an open mind and remember that you’re still communicating with a human being on the other side of the table.

Try to put yourself in your opponent’s shoes. Maybe you can understand how the sweet and salty combination of pineapple on pizza would be appealing to some people.

If you catch yourself or your opponent getting upset, take a step back and try to understand where those emotions are coming from. In fact, framing your proposals in a way that is consistent with your opponent’s values is a great way to save face and gain trust. This ultimately puts you in a better position to reach an amicable agreement.

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Focus on interests, not positions.

Try to identify and distinguish the interests your opponent has that led them to hold their current position.

For example, you and your coworker both hold positions on what toppings go best on pizza. Perhaps your stance on “no pineapple” stems from a matter of cost, whereas your coworker’s stance on “yes pineapple” stems from taste and enjoyment. Addressing these perspectives can lead to a feeling of mutual understanding. From there, you can reach a deal that makes everyone happy.

“An open mind is not an empty one.”

Roger Fisher

Invent options for mutual gain.

This principle speaks to the famous compromise: “Why not both?”

Reaching a deal that mutually benefits both parties, rather than one side or the other, almost always encourages both sides to be more flexible. For large scale negotiations, try brainstorming solutions separately, and then come together with your opponent to create a circle chart featuring each other’s unique proposals.

Maybe pineapple isn’t the only topping with a sweet and salty vibe. You might agree on another option that hits the spot, such as sweet peppers or even corn (a favorite in Japan).

Insist on using objective criteria.

The fourth and final component of principled negotiation suggests that parties “negotiate on some basis independent of the will of either side.” In other words, it encourages both parties to consider indisputable factors outside of anyone’s control, such as past precedents (have you ever tried pineapple on pizza before? If not, maybe you’ll like it), or market value (perhaps additional toppings are simply out of your budget).

To find and use that objective criteria, there are three steps:

  1. Search for objective criteria together
  2. Keep an open mind about which criteria should be applied
  3. Never give in to pressure of threats

With these three steps in mind, you should be able to successfully navigate even the most passionate pizza-based (or other) negotiations.

An infographic describing the four principles of principled negotiation.
The four elements of principled negotiation ensure a civil discussion. | ©GLOBIS

The Essence of Principled Negotiation

Ultimately, negotiation of any sort calls for empathy and understanding. Resist combat and aggression, however passionate you may feel about the topic you’re discussing. Instead, employ a more interest-based approach that speaks to your opponent’s wants and needs as much as your own.

If you find yourself in a negotiation, be it in business, politics, or a pizza party, try taking a step back before you push to get your “yes.” Remember, civil discussion is what helps us overcome a life full of conflict.

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