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Deepak Malhotra, Max H. Bazerman

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Negotiation Genius

Strategy 2: Help Others Be Less Biased

Our students often ask us "Would you rather negotiate with a good negotiator or a bad negotiator?" Our answer is simple: we'd rather negotiate with good negotiators; bad negotiators will usually just get in the way of good deals. Unfortunately, many people falsely assume that bargaining with an incompetent or irrational (i.e., biased) partner gives them a valuable competitive advantage. While this is sometimes true (as the Moneyball example shows), biased negotiators also have tremendous potential for entirely derailing the negotiation. For example, if your counterpart is overconfident, she might wait for deals that you can never give her. If he irrationally escalates commitment to a course of action, he may become overly competitive and unwilling to compromise. If she is afflicted with the fixed-pie bias, she may refuse to share information and thus eliminate opportunities to create value. IN these cases,the other party's biases hurt not only their own interest, but also yours.

For these reasons, it is often in your best interest to help your counterpart think more clearly. How can you promote careful, reasoned, and systematic thinking? Consider again that negotiators tend to be far more biased under time pressure than when they have time to think through a proposal or idea. THus, when you have provided the other side with an offer that you believe o be better than your competitor's proposal or idea. Thus, when you have provided the other side with an offer that you believe to be better than your competitor's proposal, give him time to think it through rather than pushing for an immediate answer. Under pressure, negotiators who are overconfident in their ability to get a better deal often say no when they should say yes. If you are confident that you are offering more than he can get elsewhere, you'd be wise to encourage him to explore alternative and get back to you after comparing your offer with others.

Most of us also assume that we want the other side to be less prepared. However, ill-prepared negotiators typically want to bargain over one issue at a time and to withhold information. They are also less able that prepared negotiators to evaluate or propose multi-issue (package) deals. All of these behaviours inhibit value creation. When dealing with an ill-prepared negotiator, encourage her to think through the relative importance of each issue to her. In addition, take the lead in negotiating multiple issues simultaneously and in making package offers - and encourage her to do the same. It is also important that you clarify for her that you value some issues more than others and that you are happy to jointly explore mutually beneficial trafde-offs.

Finally, the best thing you can do to help an ill-prepared negotiator (and to help yourself) is to encourage her to be more prepared. If the negotiation is not going smoothly, you might suggest that both parties would benefit from thinking more about the issues that have surfaced during the recent discussion. You might then create a time line with the other party that includes milestones that encourage preparation and the sharing of information. For example, you might agree, that, after one week, each of you will send an e-mail that lists your top priorities and concerns; after three more days, one of you will be responsible for making an initial package proposal; then after another party has a few days to consider this proposal, both parties will meet for further substantive discussions. While most people believe that giving the other party this much time to prepare is dangerous, a negotiation genius recognizes that you counterpart can only make wise trades, expand the pie, and accept your creative offers if she knows what she values - and that such knowledge requires preparation. So, the next time you run into a well-prepared negotiator, you should be encouraged about the potential to create an excellent agreement rather than nervous about being exploited or outperformed.


Book "Negotiation Genius" page 150-151
By Deepak Malhotra, Max H. Bazerman

Harvard Business School

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