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Controlling the Process


Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation articles > Controlling the Process

The power of control | Take charge from the beginning | Negotiating the process | Handling questionable tactics | See also


The power of control

If you can control how the negotiation is shaped, what happens when, then you can have a significant effect over what perceptions are gained and what decisions are made.

Controlling the process can often be done invisibly to the other person, who is focused on the substantive outcomes. It can thus be a subtle method of reaching a satisfying conclusion.

Control allows you to, for example, decide who goes first in opening or naming a price. Control also allows you to say no and to question the process at any time. If you think things are not going well, then you can chunk up to how things are being done, refusing to return to the substantive negotiation until the process is to your liking.

Take charge from the beginning

The time to take charge is right from the very beginning. When you meet the other person, offer your handshake first and guide the small talk before moving into the opening stage, when you may ask them to state their case or smoothly move into creating your own position.

Depending on the type of negotiation style you want to use, you may choose to give them control or involve them in decisions at any time. This is still Controlling the Process, but now at a higher level. By letting them decide, you are still in control.

Negotiating the process

At any time, you may switch from negotiation about specific outcomes and exchanges to negotiating about how the negotiation is to take place. Thus for example, you can discuss what should be done to seal an agreement, whether it is by handshake or by formal contract.

You can base a move to process negotiation on what has happened in the past ('I don't like the way things are going here') or how thing will proceed in the future ('Let's decide on how we will reach a binding agreement.'). A useful lever when negotiating is to positioning your move as seeking fairness. This is a common human value and is difficult to deny.

Handling questionable tactics

When people use questionable negotiating tactics, a good move is to shift the discussion to the process. An effective method of neutralising deception or coercive methods is by telling them the tactic they are using, showing how you are wise to their game.

Take the high ground, talking about the importance of fair play. Shame them into playing the game properly, if you can. Otherwise negotiate further about process, demonstrating that you can detect foul play and are able to respond, for example by deploying your walk-away alternative.

See also

The walk-away alternative

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