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  • Peter Kam Fai Cheung SBS

Lead Negotiations


Do you practise the complex art of negotiations making use of verbal and non-verbal communications to bargain with others about relationship matters? Our interests, concerns, needs and wants on many fronts vary, it is an aspect of life that we all have to negotiate with others, attempting to reach agreements preferably on mutually acceptable terms. But are you prepared when you negotiate?

If unprepared, you may not understand your objectives and fall-back positions, the kind of acceptable favours to give away, and the arguments to advance your best scenario. And when bargaining, the main issues and differences might not be identified or clarified, or appropriate enquiries not asked or possible favours not considered. If you do not think for yourself, you would have to believe what you are told and to concede prematurely.

As caving in to others' demands to secure an unfair deal is worse than having no deal at all, one should keep the no-deal option open to maintain one's bargaining strength. Furthermore, try not to focus on your own constraints, think also about the break points of the other side, or if possible to discuss the respective perceptions. Be emphatic to listen actively and speak assertively with a purpose, deploy tit for tat to educate compliance and cooperation, but never volunteer favours without reciprocity.

I have experienced on-going distributive/positional/zero-sum negotiations eg with my spouse, as well as ad hoc integrated/principled/value-added negotiations eg with Hong Kong's free trade partners. The rule of thumb, I believe, is to negotiate in good faith eg defining the common goal, recognizing the respective constraints, exchanging favours to arrive at mutually beneficial outcome. I know such values are not readily shared by all, so making the first move to influence others to do things otherwise they would not do is a proven way to lead negotiations!

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