The ultimate negotiation strategy

What do you do when negotiating – start high, low, be tough or tender? A lot depends on whether you are negotiating in a ‘once-only’ situation – say buying a house – or a situation where you will deal with the person or organisation repeatedly. Research shows that in repeat negotiation situations ‘tit for tat’ is the ultimate negotiation strategy.  This updated version is an enhancement that really covers all bases – tit for tat with gratuitous friendliness.

The traditional tit for tat strategy says to start cooperatively then match the other party’s response (but don’t escalate).  For example: “this is what’s important to me, what do you need for this to be a success for you too?” If the other party acts co-operatively, you do so too.  If they act aggressively / selfishly, you act assertively by stating the minimum you need to feel that the arrangement is beneficial.

However it may still escalate, e.g. if the other party say “it’s my way or the highway” repeatedly. So when things seem to be getting out of control, the skill of ‘gratuitous friendliness / forgiveness’ means you can call a halt to the escalation.

Examples include “let’s take a step back”, “I think we are furiously agreeing here”, “let’s check in what we both agree on”, “we seem to have gotten off to a rocky start, let’s start over”, “I’m sorry if I have misunderstood”.  All these friendly / accommodating phrases, now make even more sense as ways to break a spiral of aggression.

To find out more: Search for Anatol Rapoport the creator of tit-for-tat or Robert Axelrod whose tournaments showed tit-for-tat and ‘tit-for-tat-with-forgiveness’ were superior negotiation strategies. Or read these popular posts from Psychology Today and Stanford University

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