Position-Based Negotiation

Traditional Position-Based Negotiations

In traditional negotiations people routinely engage in positional bargaining. What this means is that each side takes a position, argues for it, and makes concessions to reach a compromise.

The classic example of this “negotiating minuet” is the haggling that takes place between a customer and the owner of a secondhand store: “How much do you want for this dish” “I could sell it to you for $75”; “It’s dented, I’ll give you $15”; “I won’t take less than $60”; “I won’t pay more than $25” – and so on.

This form of negotiation depends upon successively taking – and then giving up- a sequence of positions.

The Problem With Positional Bargaining

When you bargain over positions you tend to lock yourself into those positions. The more you clarify your position and defend it against attack the more committed you become to it. So does your spouse or partner. Your egos become identified with your positions and each of you now has a new interest in “saving face”, making it less and less likely that any agreement will reconcile your original interests.

Positional bargaining also tends to consume a lot of time because each of you generally starts with an extreme position and makes small concessions only as necessary to keep the negotiations going.

Finally, positional bargaining becomes a contest of will. The task of devising an acceptable solution tends to become a battle, each person trying through sheer will power to force the other to change his or her position. The result is anger and resentment, often long-lasting. This is particularly damaging where there are children, because as parents you will have to have an ongoing relationship whether you like it or not.