Create a ‘Backdoor’ in a Negotiation

I’ve seen some tense negotiations. Most end up well. Some fail.

One thing I’ve learned over time is to let the other side have a “back door” out. In other words, don’t push them so into a corner, which will cause them to walk away. Instead, let the other party get some of what they want and the ability to “save face.”

I’m thinking of this as I watch the President and Congress fail to negotiate. Both sides have drawn very firm white lines from which it will be very hard for each party to withdraw. In other words, this is set up to be a zero-sum dialogue or a “win-lose.” I’d much prefer a “win-win.”

I’m also thinking of this as a friend is in a delicate discussion with family members. I think negotiating with family is particularly hard. A parent may still see you as the 17 year-old, who went away for college. Siblings often have complicated relationships that span decades.

But, you are “bound together” as a family. You can walk away from friends and business colleagues, but you cannot erase DNA and a shared past. As is the case for Congress and the President, you have to make things work. And, I think, offering the other side a “back door” is one way to do it.

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