Three Negotiation Insights from Linda E. Ginzel

Negotiation Insights

If you had to plan a company-wide retreat, where would you start? How would you negotiate with a fellow employee to make sure you secure the destination, speakers, and accommodations that you want—and how would you get to a “yes” in the face of opposition?

That’s the imagined scenario that attendees faced at Booth Women Connect 2018 in a hands-on negotiations workshop led by Linda E. Ginzel, clinical professor of managerial psychology. The attendees paired up and negotiated an imaginary retreat. As in real life, each person in the pair knew his or her own goals, but not the goals of the person he or she was negotiating with.

Ginzel reminded attendees to experiment during the exercise—to take risks and write any insights down. “To improve your insight skills, you experiment, you practice, you collect the data, and you reflect in order to understand the causes of the pattern, so that you can move up the curve faster,” said Ginzel.

After the experiment was finished, Ginzel talked attendees through the exercise and shared her tips and tactics for negotiations—where you could succeed, and where you could go wrong. Here were the takeaways:

Balance Cooperation and Competition

People tend to be competitive and defensive going into negotiations because they assume that the person they’re negotiating with doesn’t want the same thing. But sometimes an outcome can be mutually beneficial to both parties.

Ginzel said that 20 percent of people who go through this type of exercise never realize that on at least one issue in the simulation, each party is negotiating for the same outcome. Instead, they try to compete, and both end up getting a worse result according to the exercise. Because they don’t question whether they might be on the same team, neither get what they both want.

Look for Trade-Offs over Compromise

“You have to make good trades to create value,” said Ginzel. It’s often better to look for trade-offs than attempt to split the difference.

In the interactive exercise, some pairs compromised by meeting in the middle for most of the issues in the negotiations simulation, and did pretty well individually. But it is possible to get a perfect score, a negotiation that turns out maximally beneficial for both parties. The way to do it is to trade-off: in the setup, one partner wants a specific destination but doesn’t care as much about accommodations, while the other partner wants a specific level of accommodation but is more flexible on the destination.

If the two simply trade, giving each other what they most want, they together would get a perfect score. That pair would leave the negotiation much happier than people who try to find a middle-of-the-road option that neither is truly happy with.

Think of Negotiating as Problem-Solving

After the exercise, Ginzel pointed out that many participants instinctually held their information too close to their chests rather than give away some information in order to elicit reciprocity. This led either to one-sided negotiations, in which one person dominated, or to overly compromised negotiations that left both parties ultimately unsatisfied. Only by sharing information and problem-solving with the other person does a perfect score become feasible. It also leaves both people with a good impression of each other and a willingness to negotiate in the future.

The magic, Ginzel said, is not getting everything for yourself, but figuring out the trades and outcomes that make it so that both parties are better off. “And I’m not saying that can always happen,” she said, “but this is really a key to interpersonal problem-solving. And that’s all negotiation is.”

Booth Women Connect Conference is organized by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The 2018 event brought together more than 1,100 professionals for an extraordinary day of bold ideas, spirited discussion, practical insights, and impactful networking. Join us for the next annual conference on November 1, 2019.

—By Leah Rachel von Essen

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