Prioritizing Issues in Negotiation

Cite this article as:"Prioritizing Issues in Negotiation," in The Business Professor, updated October 2, 2017, last accessed July 4, 2020,

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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 and to create greater total value. Knowledge of the interests at stake in a negotiation are imperative to prioritizing them in the negotiation. In a prior section, we discussed the various types of interests. There are, however, any number of things that are important to know when prioritizing an interest in the negotiation. Below are examples of things you should understand.

• Importance of Interests – Understand which issues are more or less important to one’s self and the other party. The importance of an interest will vary considerably depending upon the nature of the interest. In a separate section, we discuss distributive, integrative, and compatible interests. In summary, interests that are directly adverse and equally important to the negotiators are generally distributive in nature. Negotiators may attempt to trade off on these issues or split the difference in value. Interests that are identical and are compatible (i.e., the parties desire the exact same outcome – so there is only a perceived conflict) 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.

• Relationship between Interests – Determine whether the issues are linked together or are completely separate. Often, one interest will affect another. As such, a seemingly unimportant interest can have far greater impact or importance. Understanding this will allow the negotiators to package interests together that create greater value to either party. A common tactic is 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. Inducing disclosure of information by the opposite party about importance and connection of interests is a primary negotiation objective. This objective must be carried out in accordance with the overall strategy. Remember, the objective is to disclose enough information to create the desired perception in the other party and to, in turn, acquire the amount and type of information necessary to effectively strategize.

• Discussion: Do you think individuals value interests in a negotiation differently based on the whether the interests are distributive, integrative, or compatible? Can you think of an example where the relationship between interests can affect the importance of each interest in a negotiation?

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