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Prioritizing Issues in Negotiation

How does one prioritize the issues in a negotiation?

When there are more than one interest in a negotiation,  those interests should be dealt with collectively. Poor negotiators generally address interests individually. It sacrifices the ability to use the issues strategically to create greater total value. Knowledge of the interests at stake in a negotiation are imperative to prioritizing them in the negotiation. Below are examples of things you should understand about the applicable interests.

  • Importance – Understand which issues are more or less important to one’s self and the other party. Interests that are directly adverse and equally important are generally distributive in nature. Negotiators may attempt to trade off on these issues or split the difference in value. Interests that are identical are compatible should be fully exploited to create mutual value for the parties. Adverse interests that differ considerably in importance to the parties offer the greatest opportunity and can be used to develop an integrative negotiation. One party will seek to accommodate another party’s interest if that interest is far more important or valuable to that party. In turn, the other party can be convinced to accommodate the negotiator on a separate interest that is more important or valuable to her. In this way, the total value achieved by the parties is greater.
  • Related Interests – Determine whether the issues are linked together or are completely separate. Often, one interest will affect another. As such, a seemingly unimportant interests can have far greater impact or importance. Understanding this will allow the negotiators to package interests together that create greater value to either party. This is a tactic known as “bundling”. If an interest is completely unrelated, it can be dealt with individually to avoid the loss of value created through bundling like interests.

Understanding the importance of individual interests to the other party is difficult. Disclosure by information by the parties about importance and connection of interests is a primary negotiation tactic. It is a tactic that must be carried out in accordance with the overall strategy. Remember, the objective is to disclose enough information create the desired perception in the other party and to, in turn, acquire the amount and type of information necessary to effectively strategize.

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