Working Assumption: When negotiating, we can often best meet our interests by thinking of ourselves as joint problem-solvers working side-by-side with the otherparty.
1. Some possible roles. Negotiators tend to see their roles in several characteristic ways. Among the most common are:
the "competitive sportsman" whose responsibility is to win;
the"defender" whose responsibility is to protect against loss; and
the "problem-solver" whose responsibility is to work together with the other side to find a solution.
None of these is "right" or"wrong," but each may be more or less effective for achieving our goals.
2. What's our purpose? What outcomes do we want our role to achieve? In searching for answers to these questions, we may beginwith the most restrictive assumption about a negotiator's goals: that the sole goal is to serve our side's interests well. If the best way to serve our interests is to do something ourselves -- withoutbenefitting from the agreement of anyone else -- then we should do so. We don't need to negotiate. However, if we might do better by some joint decision and action with others, then negotiation isappropriate. And once we begin to negotiate, we cannot hope for the other side's agreement unless at least some of their legitimate interests are met. Soviet President Gorbachev recognized this point whenhe stated:*
"Negotiations are always a subtle matter, not simple. The main thing here is to conduct the affair to a mutually acceptable balance of interests."
3. Which process best suits ourpurpose? In a complex world of often-conflicting interests, the challenge for the negotiator is how to create a process likely to produce a mutually acceptable balance of interests. Research indicates thatnegotiators are more likely to create such a process when they:
Know their alternatives to negotiation;
Look beyond the positions of the parties for their underlying interests;