Highlights from Negotiating for Good

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This past week, B Local Boston hosted Just Wright from Habitus Incorporated as he lead a workshop on negotiation techniques.

Justin began the evening by asking the question, what would need to learn more about tonight in order to consider this event a success? The group then brainstormed and came up with some great items such as:

  • Start being more strategic in negotiations instead of instinctual.

  • Learn more about tactics and how to negotiate with your bosses instead of deferring.

  • Learn how to hold your ground and demonstrate value.

  • Prepare for negotiations where you might not have leverage.

  • Learn how to say no.

Justin then proceeded to go over different negotiation styles, emphasizing that different people use different styles and not every style works in every situation. It is important to take stock of the kind of people you are dealing with, the level of trust that already exists, and your ideal outcome when determining the best style for your negotiation.

Negotiating Styles:

  • Compete: Getting what you want to matter the cost.

  • Accommodate: Getting a strong relationship but maybe not getting much substance.

  • Compromise: You get a little substance, but still maintain a relationship.

  • Collaborate: Get as much as you want while the other person gets as much as they want (requires trust, time, and skill).

  • Avoid: When time passing works in your favor and you don’t care about the substance or relationship.


Justin then discussed how being self-aware helps you work around your own disadvantages and can help you become a better negotiator. It also helps us to pick the right negotiation strategy, because if we are overly emotional, we will often pick the wrong technique. Your “feeling” brain reacts much faster than your “thinking” brain, which means that you often want to lead with your feelings when it is better to think first.

Think about your triggers - once you know them, you can recognize that you are about to respond emotionally to a situation.


So, how do you buy time to get over your “feeling” response?

  • Simply ask for time.

  • Recap in order to stall.

  • Breathe.

  • Create space with an open-ended question.

The group then moved to discussing Positions (specific demands) vs. Interests (the why). How can you differentiate between what a person’s demands are versus what they are truly interested in? Ask why.

When you ask why someone has specific demands, you can then get to the heart of the matter and understand what they really care about. When you ask someone why, make sure that you take their answers and put them into a positive and future focus. For example, they say they want to live on the 4th floor. You then ask them why and they say for security reasons. You now know that there is a reason behind the 4th floor position, so you can now offer alternatives based on their underlying interests. You can say to them, so you want to feel safe at home (future and positive focus) instead of you want to avoid break-ins (current negative focus).

You want to understand and meet the other side’s interests. If you don’t know their interests, then you can only throw value at them and hope something sticks.


We finished off the evening by learning the Four Core Collaborative Negotiation Questions:

  • 1. Why? - We know what you want, but why? Ask this a lot and make sure to have a positive and future focus.

  • 2. What if? If you are presented options, you are likely to pick one because it is easily available and “good enough”. Give them options to say yes to you and ask them, what if we do this?

  • 3. What makes this fair? Every side should be able to explain why an agreement is fair so that they don’t undermine it later.

  • 4. What will go wrong? Don’t force yourselves to come back to the negotiation table later because a predictable surprise popped up. Discuss likelihoods in the initial negotiation and “kick the chair” to make sure it’s not going to fall apart. This makes sure that the deal is sturdy and can be executed.

Overall, this event was highly collaborative with participants working both together and with Justin to hone their negotiation skills. We were very lucky to have Justin lead this event and look forward to more productive sessions in the future!