September 08, 2016 Articles

Collaborative Negotiation Techniques: Three Practice Tips Backed by Social Science

By Tracy Hughes

Most lawyers have been exposed to negotiation courses or trainings that emphasize the “win-win” model of compromise as the best strategy for negotiating a case. This model, popularized by Roger Fisher and William Ury’s negotiation bible, Getting to Yes, emphasizes a need-based, open information approach to negotiated outcomes. My own experience is that this negotiation model leads to strong settlement agreements and facilitates positive professional relationships with opposing counsel.

And yet, while preparing a recent training about using these techniques, I realized that I had not yet won over some old-school colleagues who still perceived the collaborative model as “weak.” To help explain why these methods work, I looked to Dr. Robert Cialdini’s Influence: Science and Practice, a psychology textbook used in business schools to teach students about how marketing influences purchasing decisions. Cialdini, a recognized expert in social psychology, has identified some “click whir” responses that drive our perceptions, specifically reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. Much of Cialdini’s work helps to explain why the collaborative negotiation model works in the first place, and provides some additional useful tools negotiators can use to make that model even more successful.

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