Negotiating anything, whether its the sale price of that new, shiny Mercury Montego, or the details of a potential job offer, can be a difficult, tense, uncomfortable, and often a disappointing process.
For many, particularly those of us not inclined to enjoy the competition of a negotiation, or simply less practiced in the art of negotiation, it can be really easy to feel like you've come out second-best, that you've paid too much for the car, the house, or settled for less money or left something on the table when trying to hammer out that new or renewed employment agreement. When most of us are up against that car salesperson, who makes deals for a living, well drawing from our prior experience haggling over the Montego in 1977 usually doesn't provide enough foundation for confidence.
But I think much of the angst associated with these negotiations arises from the mentality that one side has to win, and one has to lose, and that usually the 'house', (the car dealer, the employer, the merchant), has the upper hand. If someone is going to squirm and flinch first in the battle, it's going to be you with your paltry, limited experience in wheeling and dealing.
But it doesn't always have to be that way. Sometimes you do actually have the upper hand entering the deal, even if you don't completely realize it going in. And sometimes, maybe more often that we like to admit, even a spirited, aggressive, both sides all in kind of negotiation can end with everyone keeping their dignity and moving on with the understanding that negotiation is part of the game, and business is business, and you can even gain more respect for someone willing to fight for their side and not just give up, or conversely, to bully their way to a 'win'.
Case in point - check the comments (kind of said with a little bit of a smile, admittedly), from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich regarding the recently concluded contract extension negotiations between the team, and their long time, and legendary player Tim Duncan, who certainly an all-time great, at 36 is in the twilight of his career.
Here's Popovich, (representing the house):
“He toyed with me. He lied to me. He intimidated me. He threatened me. In the end, it worked out. But I had to take much abuse to get it done.”
What's good about this, and Popovich's attitude about how the negotiations were conducted and how they concluded?
That the house respected the other side of the table, that the team knew that both sides had the right to negotiate hard, and that in the end, the house had to acknowledge the position and value of the talent, and take a little bit of abuse, in order to get a deal done that both parties could live with.
I get the sense that Duncan too, although he is not quoted in the piece, came away feeling the fight was fair, and that both sides walked away with their heads up, and more importantly, with continued respect for each other.
Big heavy take away from this story? Probably isn't one, unless it helps to remind all of us, no matter what side of the table we sit on, that the guy/gal across from us has just as much right to be sitting there, and if they did not possess something we needed, then no one would be sitting down at all.
The other guy has a point of view too, and if you have to take a little bit of heat to let them communicate that point of view, well don't take it personally.