Negotiate 1-2-3

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CRITICAL MOMENTS

Summary

A signpost with a series of signs reading 'somewhere else,' 'this way,' and 'that way.'
Critical moments can determine the direction of a negotiation. We hope you have learned some techniques to help you exert some control over that direction!

If you've completed all the modules in this unit on Critical Moments, well done! We hope that the concepts, techniques, and examples that you've seen are helpful in your own negotiations. This concluding note offers some overall comments to emphasize a few important themes. If you haven't had the chance to explore all the segments, however, we suggest that you do that first and then return here. That's up to you, of course.

Just as with the Openings and Closing units in Negotiate 1-2-3, all the modules here were designed to have stand-alone value, so that you can browse according to your particular interests. Take a moment now to see how the pieces fit together.

In the introduction we described critical moments as ones that are hard to unwind. That is, they involve actions and statements that direct a negotiation down one path as opposed to another. You can either make the first offer or wait until your counterpart makes a proposal, for example. Likewise for staying at the bargaining table or walking out. You can't do both.

We further narrowed the definition of critical moments by focusing on those choices (yours and those of other parties) that are understood at that moment (not just in hindsight) to have significant consequences. The kidnapping story in the Choosing a Path module is an extreme case, but it illustrates that aligning tactics and broader strategy is essential in any sort of negotiation. The Caitlin Challenge video clips in the Powerplays module illustrate the same principle in the context of an ongoing relationship. Throughout her conversation with her boss, Caitlin faced a series of decisions that affected the overall direction of the interaction in a positive manner.

People learn in different ways, so the material here has been in various formats. (Here we're closing with text, but our introductory module was a video greeting.) Most of the modules included quizzes that allowed you to compare your responses with those of other viewers of Negotiate 1-2-3. The self-assessment quiz in the Luck Factor module dealt with people's openness to new experiences and their feelings about chance events. Other quizzes in the Outbursts, Brinksmanship, and Choosing a Path modules put you in the shoes of negotiators facing a series of critical moments as negotiations unfold step-by-step. The unit as a whole drew examples from a wide range of contexts: international diplomacy, the cable television business, professional sports, and even a squabble between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. And you got to be the protagonist yourself in the Ultimatums module!

Just as with the Openings unit, a recurring theme has been the importance of analyzing and conducting negotiations holistically. While our focus has been on pivotal moments, they need to be understood within the broader context. Always remember that how the process unfolds is not entirely in your control: You'll always be dealing with at least one other person with their own priorities, temperament, and notions of what sort of consideration (if any) you deserve.

As a result, your strategy must be supple from start to finish. You should constantly be refining your sense what is feasible and how best to proceed from there. Yes, you must try to influence others to see the situation in a way that is favorable to you, but often you must adapt to their behavior—expected and otherwise. Plain and simple, negotiation is a dynamic process. You are an important player, but never the only one. That point is made explicitly in the Luck and Agility modules. It is central to the entire unit.

It's important to reiterate a point that is made in the summary of the Openings module. Namely, negotiation is a context that tests and defines your personal values. You have a right, even a responsibility, to advance your own interests. But there may be boundaries, as well. Before any negotiation, you must be clear about what you owe others (if anything) with respect to the fairness of the result, candor, and the possible use of pressure tactics. Those are not easy questions. How you resolve them may depend on particular circumstances or your own experiences over the years. But surely those choices should be made consciously, not spur of the moment.

We hope that the concepts and techniques in this module will give you a framework for ongoing learning. You can get helpful advice from the books and resources below. But you can also learn much by relating this framework to your own experience. Negotiation scholars and wise practitioners have significantly advanced our understanding of the process over the years. This unit covers some of that ground but more will certainly be learned in the years ahead, and this Negotiate 1-2-3 platform will expand accordingly. For now, here are some other resources you can further explore.

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