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15 Diplomacy Strategies For Negotiations

        posted by , February 14, 2013

Have you ever imagined yourself as a high-powered diplomat?

The word diplomacy invokes images of international intrigue, power and strategy.

After all, diplomats tackle the World's big problems — trade, war, economics, culture, environment and human rights. It often feels that diplomats make little progress but the World would surely be a mess without diplomacy.

If you think your problems with office politics, sales or salary negotiations are difficult — imagine the challenge of influencing nations to clean up their environmental practices or of preventing a war between bitter rivals.

Diplomatic techniques and strategy can be applied to everyday business negotiations.

Why not use diplomacy in your work? These time-honored diplomatic strategies are easy enough to apply to business situations.


1. Use An Advocate (Shuttle Diplomacy)

Use a semi-independent advocate to influence the other side in negotiations. For example, employers often use agents to state their case in salary negotiations.


2. Superrationality

Superrationality is an advanced diplomatic technique that solves strategic dilemmas such as the Mexican Standoff. It's considered an alternative to game theory.

Game theory assumes that players in a game act in their own self interest. In some situations (such as the Mexican Standoff), when players act in their own self interest — they lose.

Superrationality is a diplomatic model that suggests negotiators can get beyond their self interests to seek an optimal solution for everyone.


3. Use of Objective Criteria

Frame your positions with objective criteria (facts). Example, "this discount is rather large, the average discount we offer is only 22.3%".


4. Tit for Tat

Tit for Tat is a process of equivalent retaliation. It's a common strategy in international diplomacy that involves three steps:

Always cooperate, until provoked.

If provoked, always retaliate with equal force.

Be quick to forgive.


The strategy is intended to maximize the chances for a peaceful resolution of conflict.


5. Buy Time

If the other side is making large gains in negotiations, it's often a good idea to find an excuse to delay.

Delay tactics are easy to implement. For example, flood the other side with irrelevant information (known as a snow job).

Use the delay to regroup, identify lessons learned and refocus your strategy.


6. Ignore Imposed Constraints

It may be in your best interests to ignore deadlines and other constraints imposed by the other side. It's important not to let the other side box you in.


7. Name the Trick

If the other side uses a deceptive tactic such as a red herring or straw man — name their trick (e.g. "This is a delay tactic isn't it?").


8. Call Bluffs

If you think the other side is bluffing — call them on it. Ask them to show their cards. For example, in salary negotiations a candidate may claim to have other offers, ask to see the offers in writing (although non-disclosure agreements may already be in place).


9. Build Golden Bridges

Give the other side options that allow them to come away from negotiations with some wins.


10. Avoid Escalations

When negotiations become heated take a break or use humor to defuse the situation.


11. Anchoring

Negotiators have a tendency to use the first information they hear as an anchor (important information they keep coming back to).

In sales, be the first to mention a price. The other side may continue to use your first price as an anchor.


12. Make Your Ideas Seem Like Their Ideas

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
~ Lao Tzu
A highly skilled diplomat is able to lead the other side to desired conclusions. With a soft touch, the other side may accept your ideas are their own.


13. Never Allow Your Opponent to Lose Face

Never personally attack your opponent or make them look bad. If they make themselves look bad, help them to recover.


14. Code Words & Politeness

In diplomacy, code words are used to keep criticism polite (on the surface). Diplomats don't argue, they have "frank discussions". They avoid words that can be used against them and shade their harsh words.

This technique is often used in business. You don't say that a consultant is incompetent, you say they "lack the requisite capabilities".


15. Set Up Your Opponent's Victory Speech

The other side wants to be able to tell their boss that they were victorious in negotiations. Strategies such as door-in-the-face help the other side to walk away with a perceived victory.

This post is part of the ongoing series of articles called how to win at negotiation.


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