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Traditional vs Interest Based Bargaining

There are many styles of negotiating and more than one approach may be used in any set of negotiations. The different styles of bargaining may commonly be referred to as traditional, positional, distributive or adversarial bargaining. Alternatively, you may refer to interest-based, principled, problem-solving or integrative bargaining. Models are emerging that combine these styles. Each style has its advantages and there are many variations in practice. 

Generally, “traditional” bargaining refers to a situation where each side places their demands and proposals on the table and the other side responds with counter-proposals. The process is characterised by a struggle of give and take. 

“Principled” or “interest-based” bargaining, on the other hand, aims to solve the problems raised at the bargaining table as the negotiators focus on the interests underlying the issues and seek to satisfy all parties’ interests.  Interests include the needs, desires, concerns and fears important to each side.  They are the underlying reasons for a position.  Teasing out an interest involves exploring “why?” – why do they want this/why don’t they want this?

Some important elements of bargaining include
  • sharing relevant information for effective solutions
  • focusing on issues, not personalities
  • focusing on the present and future, not the past
  • seeking the interests underlying the issues
  • recognising the other party’s interests as well as your own
  • developing options
  • evaluating the options against objective criteria.

Four principles of best practice bargaining:

Preparation: understanding the issues and the people and equipping the team for the process

Relationship: developing a strategy for maintaining the relationship before, during and after negotiations

Communication:  building trust by applying an open communication style 

Problem-solving: exploring options and strategies for reaching agreement

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Interest Based Problem Solving
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