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Updated: 28 Jan 2021

Is Principled Negotiation used in Business?



How much do people use "Principled Negotiation" in real business life? Is it just a theory or an applicable tool/guideline? Do you have examples or case studies?

Sibilla from Britain


Most readers may appreciate a short introduction to the phrase 'Principled Negotiation'. 'Principled Negotiation' became known to the world from Fisher and Ury's seminal book "Getting to Yes" (Check out our book review). The phrase 'Principled Negotiation' has become synonymous with the phrase "win win", so you will often find these two phrases used interchangeably.

So who uses "Principled Negotiation"? Mainly Northern American Academics and Mediators. Why? Principled Negotiation focusses on avoiding and resolving conflict - no small coincidence since it was created by lawyers who deal predominantly with conflict negotiation. Business Negotiation is far more concerned with creating and claiming value than it is about conflict. Also, Principled Negotiation works better in countries like North America. North Americans are culturally more open to being direct in sharing their process, their information, brainstorming together, and using a shared approach to solving a problem. A common reason for Principled Negotiation not working outside of Northern America, is that for information to be shared, the bedrock foundation of Trust must first be in place. Compared with most other countries, North Americans invest less time and effort in building a trust fostering relationship.

To see whether a win-win approach is appropriate for your negotiations, What Is Win-Win Negotiation? explores the ins and outs for you.

You asked for some case studies. These case studies focus on problem solving and conflict - as this is Principled Negotiation's mainstay.
Read this article Win-Win Negotiation Badly Executed to discover how a partially implemented Principled Negotiation approach can lead to disaster.
Creative Problem Solving in Negotiations briefly relates how power companies managed to reduce pollution and help the fish population along, while at the same time saving money!

If you're interested in researching effective Principled Negotiation, then we suggest you review Thoughtbridge's contribution in the form of their ICON model, discussed in our A New ICON for Negotiation Advice article. We have incorporated a few of ICON's suggestions in our foundation Concession Strategy planning. We suggest borrowing from the best of each approach and testing until you find a blend that works best for you. On the other hand, we would be happy to have you on one of our courses to share with you what we have found works for our clients.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to negotiation. Anyone who tells you this is either: naive, has only worked in a homogeneous society, hasn't travelled much, knows too little about negotiation, likes to shoot from the hip, or all of the aforementioned.

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4.5 out of 5 from 2 responses
  • 3
    Bud Natali on

    Non-principled negotiations may not be accepted in all cultures (yet), but they are the lowest cost method long-term to what is really problem solving relative to the distribution of resources. Win-lose or my-way styles produce less over time at a higher cost.

  • 31
    Ruth Edwards on

    I’ve seen too many Americans jet in to HK, Beijing or Shanghai and try to apply their American approach to negotiation – only to have to fly back (usually over and over again) when things don’t work out according to plan. There is a lot of micro advice other countries can offer Americans (like talk less, listen more; use a local agency to save you from your expensive mistakes). Instead, just heed this advice: Don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach like Principled Negotiation in the East.

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