How To Exchange Concessions In Negotiations

What do these examples of concession exchanges have in common? And where do they all go wrong?

  1. ‘Replace transitional President Bashar al-Assad and we’ll come to the negotiation table’ offers the Syrian opposition faction to the United Nations.
  2. ‘I believe the interests of the National shareholders are best addressed by the resignation of the chairman… and I would resign at the same time’ states a Bank’s Board director pushing for a spill of the Board.
  3. ‘Stop pulling my hair, or I’m going to tell the teacher’ shouts the six-year old in the school playground.

Invoke the Power of Reciprocity

A major influencing force identifiable in all cultures is the social expectation of reciprocity. If I do something for you then you will do something for me.

This translates into what negotiators call the Conditional Offer concession exchange technique. The above examples show the technique in operation.

However, many negotiators get the formulation wrong. This is because they seek to pressure the other party to give first before being willing to give back.

Give to Get, Not The Other Way Around

Reciprocity works best if I have done you the favour first causing you to feel you owe me something in return.

Consider how you might better formulate the above examples, and then review the ENSI  tips below.

Tips on Making Conditional Offers

  • ‍Avoid unilateral concession-making – always seek something in return.
  • ‍Keep your concessions tentative, while specifying concrete requirements from the other side.
  • Use the IF/THEN technique: IF we were to do ‘x’, THEN will you do ‘y’?
  • ‍Note the advantage of this formulation is that it does not lock you in. Your offer comes first, and it is hypothetical. Then in return you are claiming a reciprocal, which is concrete and specific.
  • Plan your concession exchange options before entering the formal negotiation meeting.

To discuss this article in more depth and explore developing your negotiation capabilities, please contact us via email or call +612 9299 9688.

ENS Team
ENS Team

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