3 Dimensions in Negotiation

When you look beyond the win-win and win-lose mentality of negotiation, it becomes clear there are multiple dimensions that make up the skillset. In order to be successful in the practice of negotiation, it is necessary to understand what goes on beneath the surface.

David Lax, co-author of 3-D Negotiation explains that it is very common for people to spend all of their time and energy focusing on surface-level negotiation tactics. For example, in the midst of a negotiation, someone could get hung up questions like, “In what order do I deliver my points? How do I read what they say back to me?” Or a negotiator could pay close attention to the other side’s body language and apply social and personal psychology to the situation. However, all of the methods only make up the first dimension of negotiation.

In addition to this, we often think of our negotiations, especially if they’re multiparty, in sequential order. However, this may not necessarily be the most appropriate use of our time.

Lax challenges us to go deeper into the multi-levels of negotiation. He gets into the negotiator mindset and poses the example of reaching an agreement through a more advanced tactic.

A negotiation is effective if you can make a deal better for both parties by finding attributes that are of high value to the other party that you can give them at a low cost. Then in return, you may get things that are of high value to you that the other party can give you at low cost.

Lax calls this the second dimension of negotiation, or the negotiation deal. Lastly, the third dimension is referred to as set-up. This is where as a negotiator, you think of all the involved parties that may be interested in the negotiation, and then you align those interests by determining the right sequence of discussion.

This third dimension often enables you to unlock the most value by making sure you have the right parties, talking about the right set of issues, and seeing the right set of interests at stake.

Lax believes the first important set of questions you need to ask yourself when preparing for a negotiation is: who are the parties, where and what are their relations to the parties in the negotiation, and what is their relation to parties affected by the negotiation?

Lax also states it is of utmost importance to think about what the involved parties care about. Negotiating is about understanding and memorizing the other parties’ interests. Most importantly, it is about having a grasp on what motivates them to make decisions.

From my perspective, it’s important to know who’s on the board and whether you have any relation to that. However, picking the right party is an art and creative act. Ultimately, this is what calls for preparation.