The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan



The Not-So-Subtle Art of Negotiation

By Deborah Hayden

We all negotiate all of the time, whether at home—working out whose turn it is to take out the rubbish—or in the office, for a major deal that is your career-making initiative. But just how often do we stop and think about the processes we go through when involved in negotiations, to ensure we reach our desired outcome?

On January 15, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s Women in Business Committee hosted a training session on negotiation, which was attended by an audience of 40.

Leading the session was the founder of Alpine International, Susan Piatek, who brings over 20 years’ experience in management coaching from the Walt Disney Company and the US government. Piatek drew on her experience conducting negotiations in the public and private sectors to help attendees understand the not-so-subtle art of negotiation.

She began by expanding on the stages of negotiation. What needs to be done before the event—who will be on your team and what are their roles? Do you have a thorough understanding of the subject matter? Who is your audience, and do they have any pre-existing attitudes?

In short: preparation is key.

The better prepared, the more likely you are to succeed with a win-win outcome—you get the price you want, and your counterpart believes they have paid a good price for quality products or services. Although, she noted, some people play for a win-lose outcome.

The next stage is the negotiation itself. How should it flow? What needs to be covered?

Finally, in the post-negotiation stage, it is vital to ensure that everything agreed is captured in writing. If operating in a team, solicit feedback on how everyone felt the negotiation went, and plan for the next session.

Piatek then unveiled the “negotiator personality types,” which sent the room into peals of laughter as participants clearly relived some of their recent negotiations. But, as she explained, a successful negotiator will float between personality types to achieve their desired goal.

After running through the sorts of tactics used by successful negotiators, participants practiced in teams of two or four, to negotiate “our next vacation” or “asking for a pay rise.”

A tactic that proved popular was the use of higher authority: “That’s a great idea for a vacation, however the travel will take time. I am not sure my boss will let me take that much time off.”

Use of silence did not appear to be a popular tactic, given the noise levels in the room, however participants assured Piatek they had been coached well on this strategy through their numerous meetings in Japan.

The man next to me didn’t get his pay raise. His counterpart explained in the debrief that she had decided she would not budge—after all, she didn’t get a pay raise on her first attempt either. Know your subject!

The couple on the other side of me never reached the negotiation stage. Perhaps they chose the pre-conditioning tactic and both adopted avoider personalities, signifying: “I don’t want to play.”

Many of the participants noted how informative the session was, with more than one person commenting, “I will apply this to my performance review meeting.” Happy negotiating!




Deborah Hayden is co-chair of the ACCJ Women in Business Committee and regional director of Edelman Japan.Divider