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When we think of negotiation, we often focus on the differences between what we want and what the other party wants.  While it’s important to have identified those differences, it’s equally important –  perhaps more so – to identify our common interests, and to explore how we are connected.

Even when you are negotiating with someone whom you believe to be diametrically opposed to your position, you are connected in some way.  That connectedness may be far removed from the issues you are negotiating, but if you take time to explore, you will find it.  It might be a sport, form of entertainment, favorite author or actor, etc.  Reduced to its lowest common denominator: when people hurt themselves, everyone’s blood is red.

Let’s consider a negotiation between an artist and a gallery.  Both are interested in maximizing their respective financial positions with regard to an exhibition;  those positions would appear to be opposing.  But looking behind these positions you see that both share a passion for art, both want to successfully market the exhibition, both want to build their reputations.  They have many shared objectives.

Discussion of commonalities is a great way to open a negotiation discussion. It alleviates tension, puts people at ease and builds rapport, all of which set the tone for a collaborative approach to negotiaton rather than a combative one;  an approach that is more apt to result in a better deal for both parties.

Commonalities invite affirmative responses;  more yeses than nos.  That initial yes momentum may carry through when you start to discuss the thornier issues.

In summary, use these tips to make better deals:

1.  Take the time to explore commonalities and build rapport with the other party

2.  Use common interests to set a collaborative tone at the outset of the negotiation

3.  Use affirmative language, whenever possible

4.  Discuss thorny issues at the end of the negotiation, so that you benefit from the positive momentum established earlier on