When we hear the word negotiation, we often associate it with one person “winning” and the other “losing”. This was the premise of negotiations up until the 1980s when the way we handled negotiations started to change. It was around this time that people started to see win-win as an improvement on the then prevalent win-lose narrative. 

What does win-win mean anyways and how is it different from win-lose?

Win-win or principled negotiation is based around trying to find a deal that benefits you while also making sure that your counterpart is satisfied regardless of if there are only two parties involved or it’s a multibillion-dollar project. 

The reason principled negotiations work is that they are based on both parties maintaining a relationship once the deal is completed. This means that each party is equally concerned with the interest of the other and will not try to take advantage of each other. 

When compared to win-lose or positional negotiation you’ll notice a stark difference. The one and only goal in positional negotiation is winning. 

There’s no room for consideration or concession in this type of negotiation and this means that relationships will be broken, and egos will be bruised. 

Consider this example of principled negotiation. The CEO of a company is in the middle of a difficult negotiation with a potential vendor who will sell their product. The two parties come to a standoff on who will pay the fees associated with future sales. While the cost was minuscule both sides refused to concede on this issue. 

This small issue threatened the entirety of the deal, but the CEO decided to concede on the condition that the vendor would treat representatives to a nice meal when certain milestones were reached. Although this deal may not have been financially even, it led to a stronger business relationship with the vendor

In the end, this deal turned out to be a win-win situation for both parties as the vendor did not have to incur any fees while the CEO generated new business at those nice meals. When participating in principled negotiation there are a few simple concepts you should focus on. 

When approaching a problem remember to address the problem rather than a person as this can cause people to become defensive. Join the negotiation society which has a wide selection of valuable information when it comes to negotiation and improving your skills. Focus on the interests you share rather than your differences. This will make cultivating a long-term relationship that much easier. 

For example, in a salary negotiation a new recruit might be expecting $80,000 for her services while the employer is offering $60,000, but industry averages show that this position with her experience warrants $68,000. As long as both parties accept the independent information, they will both be satisfied with the deal.

Create multiple options, this will allow options for both parties to gain advantages making every situation will feel like a win-win. Rely on objective data. Whenever there is opposition in a negotiation, use statistics, studies, research, etc. as a tool. Data is always impartial and will likely aid you in reaching a mutually beneficial agreement.

Overall, the most important part of principled negotiation is compromise, openness and understanding.