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How to Get the Most from Your Negotiations

How to Get the Most from Your Negotiations
Diplomacy, Negotiation

Article Rating:::: 15 Ratings :::: Saturday, June 27, 2009

While playing Risk, quite often you may find yourself negotiating with other players. Negotiation is a skill that can prove extremely useful when you want to avoid direct conflicts and save your armies and resources for better use later in the game. However, negotiations can be tough. Some people ignore them altogether. Others actively argue that there is no need to negotiate or make deals with other players because these deals can be broken. These player find negotiation difficult and as such either avoid it or to try to justify their negativity philosophically. Remember, negotiation is just another tool. You are not forced to use, nor do you have to avoid it exclusively. Just be good at it and when the right circumstances arise, use the tool to get ahead of others.

Most people learn how to negotiate in the field without much systematic training. There are many established guidelines to follow for better results, though many still fall to the trap of old ineffective approaches. Consider the following example negotiation…

  • Player 1: “If you give me three turns, I will move my armies out of your continent.”
  • Player 2: “Mmm, three turns is way too long. I’ll clear the way, so you can move the next turn”
  • Player 1: “I am not prepared to move yet. I need at least three turns”
  • Player 2: “I don’t think this deal is getting anywhere. If you want to move, you have to move now”
  • Player 1: “Well, in that case, I just leave my armies there then.”
  • Player 2: “Well, that’s not going to help me, is it? Ok, why don’t you remove you armies in two turns then?”
  • Player 1: “As I said I can’t take them anywhere. You know what, let’s just forget about this deal…”

…and on and on and on…

As you can see, these two players are not getting anywhere. They are constantly arguing over positions back and forth and are getting more emotional.

Rather than focusing on positions, negotiators should focus on interests. By trying to understand what other players really want to get out of an exchange, they stand a much better chance of resolving their negotiations and moving towards a win/win solution.

This technique is known as principled negotiation and was developed and popularised by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their bestselling book, “Getting to Yes”. The work has proved to become a classic for anyone interested in negotiation. The basic ideas in this method are explained below:

Don’t Bargain Over Positions

  • Don’t argue over positions as the agreements may not be optimal.
  • If you pay too much attention to positions, you may lose your focus on the real problem. This may lead to non-optimal agreements or no agreements at all.
  • Bargaining over positions is inefficient as you go back and forward in a never ending cycle where none of the parties are ever really satisfied.
  • Arguing over positions may have a strong emotional impact on people and can damage their relationship
  • Positional bargaining with more than one party is even more difficult.
  • A usual approach taken is to become a soft negotiator focusing on finishing off the deal, even if that means being nice and compromising. This is not necessarily the best approach.

Separate the People from the Problem

  • When negotiating, focus on people, not the task. Try to establish a relationship with the other player.
  • Negotiators have two kind of interests: substance and relationship
  • Separate substance from relationship.

Focus on Interests not Positions

  • To arrive at an optimal solution, negotiate over interests, not positions. Interests should define the problem. For example, Player 1’s interest is to save his armies when Player 2 goes on to conquer and claim the continent. Player 2 simply wants to conquer the continent with minimal loss. However, there is no point to agree to the deal now, only to fight each other 3 turns later. Hence, the negotiation is a great opportunity to establish a relationship and work on interests of both parties.
  • Even though the position might be different or conflicting, the interests could be compatible. For example, the interests on both sides are to simply reduce the loss of armies by not fighting.
  • Acknowledge their needs and interests as part of the problem
  • Have a positive forward look to solve the problem rather than a negative view at the negotiation.
  • Showcase your interests. Use a simple test; if they don’t know what your interests are, you have failed to showcase them well

Invent Options for Mutual Gain

  • Help them to solve their problem. Treat their problems as yours.
  • Work on options to broaden the topic in line with each party’s interests.
  • Make their choices clear and easy to understand
  • Brainstorm to find more answers before making decisions.
  • Understand their preference

Let’s look at the example again one more time, this time using principles negotiation techniques.

  • Player 1: “If you give me three turns, I will move my armies out of your continent.”
  • Player 2: “That’s an excellent idea. I was just about to ask you the same. I am going to conquer the continent, so there is no point to lose armies on both sides. Tell me where you are going to move your armies, so I can clear the way.”
  • Player 1: “Well, I need to move towards this adjacent continent. But first I need to conquer some other territories so I can move my armies in one move.”
  • Player 2: “Ok, that’s a good idea. Listen, I can see that you need a few turns to get there, but I also need to conquer my continent as soon as possible. So we are both going to have our continents by the end of this move. I suggest we make a treaty over our borders as well. This way I can focus my armies on the other side of my continent and you can do the same.”
  • Player 1: “Sounds like a good idea, I guess this way in a couple of turns we can both get our continents and also have concentrated armies on the other side of the continent ready to expand.”
  • Player 2: “Yes, that’s good for me too. It’s a deal then!”

In short, think of new ideas and possibilities to expand the range of the art of possible so you can find a solution that satisfies both players’ needs.

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Cardtrick   By Cardtrick @ Wednesday, July 29, 2009 1:09 AM
Wonderful article, Mr. Honary. I'm new to Total Diplomacy, so I'm just reading these articles. What really intrigues me is the "Invent Options for Mutual Gain" section. That alone has numerous real-world applications, which really expands the game of Risk. Honestly, to me, it just makes sense that if you want an ally, you need to consider his side of the situation.

Also, as I read this article, I noticed that the second conversation (the one with the negotiation techniques involved) contained much more dialogue. This clearly underscores the fact that communication is key in not only Risk but also the world.

Ehsan Honary   By Ehsan Honary @ Wednesday, July 29, 2009 6:59 AM
Thanks for your comments Aaron, glad that you liked the article.

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I am a board game and Risk game enthusiast. I like thinking and talking about strategy in games which has led me to the creation of this website. Although Risk is a classic, I feel one can never get tired of playing this game. Read about what I think of the game and I am always eager to know what you think.

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