In a negotiation, does the other guy have to lose for you to win?
In your small business, you’re going to negotiate many things—prices, deadlines, contract terms. And, unfortunately, you may find yourself in many disputes—with vendors, customers, distributors. When you do, I want you to remember a little mantra I say whenever I’m in a negotiation or dispute: “Settle for Victory.”
What do I mean by “Settle for Victory?” I mean concentrating on finding a positive outcome for yourself rather than focusing on “defeating” the other side.
Sounds easy? It’s not. Let’s face it, when you find yourself in a negotiation or conflict, your natural emotions are going to kick in. You’re an entrepreneur, so you’re competitive. You’re going to want to squeeze out every advantage you can. And you’re human, so you’re going to want to get ‘even’ with those who’ve wronged you.
Those emotions may not serve you well. Instead of trying to “beat” the other guy, focus on what would be a genuinely good outcome—a “Victory”—for you.
I learned the importance of settling for victory the hard way a number of years ago. I was involved in a legal dispute that ended up in court-ordered mediation. The other party had clearly and unambiguously violated the terms of an important contract and had failed to pay me what he owed me. I was mad and wanted him to pay and pay big!
Fortunately, I had an extremely sensible attorney. He asked me an important question, one that changed my life. “What did I really want? What would be a good outcome for me, regardless of what happened to the other guy? What would ‘victory’ look like?”
The answer was that I wanted to get out of the contract altogether; being untethered was a better outcome than getting paid. To do that, I ended up having to pay the man who was clearly and legally in the wrong and who owed me money!
My family was furious: Why should I pay him when I was the injured party? But it was one of the best business decisions I ever made. It enabled me to go forward and become much more successful than if I had just received a financial settlement from him.
My attorney taught me: “Settle for Victory.” In other words: focus on what was a win for me rather than what was a loss for him.
That seems sensible and easy in hindsight. It wasn’t at the time. When we’re in the midst of a negotiation, especially a dispute, we often want the other guy to feel some pain. But that isn’t the way to get what’s best for you.
I repeat this little mantra, “Settle for Victory,” often. It’s made my life not only a lot easier, but also a lot more successful.
When you’re in the midst of a negotiation or dispute, whether in business or in your personal life, remember:
- Define a number of options that will work for you. If you have only one position, then you’re not negotiating, you’re demanding. That doesn’t give the other party anything to work with.
- Keep an open mind. The reality is there are almost certainly a number of ways to reach your goals. The other party may suggest approaches that didn’t occur to you. Stay open.
- Communicate. Once you stop talking to the other side, there’s no hope of a positive outcome. Things don’t get better just because you’re ignoring each other.
- Look for quick solutions. Even if it seems more expensive at first, the quickest resolution (especially for disputes) is usually the best and cheapest. You need to be running and growing your business, not negotiating or fighting.
- Don’t take things personally. The other party may suggest approaches that you find insulting. Get over it. Deal with every aspect of a negotiation with a business-like approach. And don’t get personal with the son-of-a-gun on the other side, either.
- Finally, and most importantly, look for win/win solutions. The best deals are achieved when both sides come away with a positive, not perfect, outcome.
The next time you’re in a negotiation or dispute, just remember my little saying, “Settle for Victory.” That doesn’t mean the defeat of the other party. It doesn’t mean getting the one and only thing you think you must receive. It means looking for positive, yet realistic, outcomes and settling for those.
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2021
This article originally ran in USA Today on February 24, 2021