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Understanding Contracts

Win-Win Negotiating

You are about to end the negotiation, either by closing a deal or walking away from it. If you are going to close the deal, be sure that the deal is positive for both parties, producing a win-win situation. If you are thinking about walking away, be sure that you aren't overlooking some way to achieve a mutually satisfying outcome. This may be the most valuable moment in the entire negotiation.

In the commonly used sense of the phrase, a win-win negotiation is a deal that satisfies both sides. In an ideal world, a win-win agreement is the only kind of deal that would ever close. Even in today's world, the vast majority of negotiations end in win-win situations.

Win-win negotiating does not mean that you must give up your goals or worry about the other person getting what they want in the negotiation. You have your hands full looking out for your own interests. Let others bear the primary responsibility for achieving their goals. Don't think that you need to ride rough-shod over your opponents. Practice honesty and respect in all your negotiations. But looking out for the other side isn't your job. It's theirs.

Recognizing a good deal

A good deal is one that is fair under all circumstances at the time the agreement is made. It provides for various contingencies before problems arise. A good deal is workable in the real world.

To be sure that you have a good deal and a win-win situation, ask yourself the following questions just before closing:

  • Does the agreement further your personal long-range goals? Does the outcome of the negotiation fit into your vision statement?

  • Does the agreement fall comfortably within the goals and limits that you set for this particular negotiation?

  • Can you perform your side of the agreement to the fullest?

  • Do you intend to meet your commitment?

  • Based on all the information, can the other side perform the agreement to your expectations?

  • Based on what you know, does the other side intend to carry out the terms of the agreement?

In the ideal situation, the answer to all six questions is a resounding yes. If you are unsure about any one of them, take some extra time. Review the entire situation. Assess how the agreement could be changed in order to create a yes answer to each question. Try your best to make the change needed to get a firm yes to each question. Then, close the deal. Don't go for any more changes even if you think that the other person wouldn't mind. You never know!

When you work in a culture other than your own, being sure that you have a win-win solution takes a little extra effort. During a cross-cultural negotiation, be thorough in your investigation of what is and isn't acceptable.

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If you can't alter the deal so that you can answer yes to each question, be very thoughtful about closing. If you decide to go forward, write down exactly why you are closing the deal anyway so that you don't become part of that army of people with tales of exploitation. This exercise is particularly helpful to your state of mind if the results don't work out; you have a record as to why you took the deal. You won't be so hard on yourself.

Knowing your counterpart

Remember that the people you are dealing with are more important than the paperwork you draft. Know your counterpart very well before you enter into a long-term relationship. No lawyer can protect you from a crook. Lawyers can just put you in a position to win your lawsuit. People do bad things all the time. Checking out references is one of the most overlooked resources. You can learn a great deal from checking out references, even from the most obviously biased sources.

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Some people, especially women, tend to be overly concerned about the other party's welfare in a negotiation, smothering their own goals in the process. When you're engaged in a negotiation, you must allow other people to take care of themselves. You don't have to make things "nice" for everyone. That's not a negotiator's job. Your job as a negotiator is to get what you want. Remaining true to that objective may involve upsetting someone. Part of negotiating well is having the strength to take that risk.

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