Well, I have nothing particular with the Rolling Stones. But their music and lyrics seems to be good inspiration for contract management. We’ve seen it before with “Satisfaction”. And this time, they are going to give us a little lesson about contract negotiation with their song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.

If you want to listen while you read, click on the You Tube link here below.

Positional Negotiation 

… always get what you want

… always get what you want

One type of negotiators you may encounter is the positional negotiator. Usually these are people that have important roles inside the company they are working in. In their (small) world, they are used to people doing what they want. But, such persons are not so used to negotiation, are not so good at it. “Positional negotiation” is quite a simplistic form of trying to strike a deal.

I bet you know some people like that. Some made it to president. Here are some of their characteristics:

  • They are concerned only with getting the result THEY want.
  • This, by being consistently “hard on the issues” and “hard on the people” they negotiate with.
  • Therefore, they do not take into account the needs/interest of the other party.
  • And, have no concern for maintaining on-going relationships.

And I went down to the demonstration

To get my fair share of abuse

Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration

If we don’t, we’re going to blow a 50-amp fuse”

Their negotiations frequently end in dispute and deadlock. Negotiations are a demonstration of their power. As their counterpart, you get a lesson of what you have to do, what you have to accept.  

Should they succeed in getting what they want, at the other party’s expense, the “agreement” is likely to fall apart. This, because people feel abused after the negotiation. They feel they are going to blow up. So, they are geared up for sweet revenge – to vent their frustration – whenever they get an opportunity. Even at their own expense. That’s when “win-lose” negotiations turn into “lose-lose”.  

I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy

And man, did he look pretty ill …

I sung my song to Mr. Jimmy

Yeah, and he said one word to me, and that was “death”

Is negotiation like playing poker?

You got the message about positional negotiation, I hope. Anyway, all negotiation experts agree that positional negotiation is not a good long-term strategy. But, what should you do instead?

I saw her today at the reception …

She was practiced at the art of deception

We are all so good at “the art of deception”. Generally, people compare negotiation to a poker game. A bit of luck and a lot of bluff. “If the other party knows what cards you have in your hand, how can you win?” That’s also the WRONG approach.

As Keld Jensen says, a renowned negotiation expert, the true ingredients for a successful negotiation are trust (“Tru$tCurrency”), looking together at the situation and jointly finding the 42% of untapped value of “NegoEconomics”.

Principled Negotiators 

No, you can’t always get what you want …

But if you try sometimes

Well, you might find

You get what you need

What should you try, then?

Fortunately, at Harvard, already several decades ago – but, hey, it takes time for people to change – they have developed an entirely different way to negotiate. It all started with the excellent book by Ury and Fisher, “Getting to Yes”.

Ury and Fisher propose a different approach, “Principled Negotiators” with the following characteristics:

  • A “Principled Negotiator” ensures that all parties leave the table feeling they have got the best deal of the day.
  • They do this by being “hard on the issues” and “soft on the people”.
  • And, they don’t allow others to bully them.
  • Using constructive tactics to achieve outcomes.
  • And building solid relationships.
  • To achieve this, they plan and prepare themselves thoroughly.

By actively listening, such negotiators try to understand what – beyond declared positions – are the other party’s interest. They do this by asking calibrated questions. Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, is a master at it. By deeply understanding your counterpart’s situation, you can generate a lot of options. Therefrom, you can draw, with objective criteria, the solution that generates the most value for all parties together. And, then you share this generated value in a “win-win” solution. You will see, you will get what you need … and your counterpart also. Probably even more than you need. Otherwise, it’s better to walk away from the deal and try something different (usually called a “Batna” = best alternative to a negotiated agreement).


Ah you can’t always get what you want (no no)

…mmm but if you try sometimes, you just might find

You just might find you get what you need

Ah yeah! Ah yeah! Yeah

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About AfiTaC

AfiTaC.com is the blog on commercial and contractual subjects for the Project Businesses (Construction, Infrastructure, Oil & Gas, Power & Renewable, Water Supply & Sanitation, etc). Its objective is to stimulate reflection, learning, convergence to balanced contracts and positive dispute resolution. You can subscribe to our newsletter by writing to “newsletter@afitac.com”. You can also connect to our LinkedIn page. Engagement with the readers is what keeps us going. So, don’t hesitate to exchange with us by commenting here below, liking our publication on LinkedIn and writing to us “info@afitac.com”. 

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