We hear it all the time; "Negotiation is all about win-win." "We need to compromise our position so that everyone is happy." Is this really the best way to negotiate? If someone goes into a negotiation with this mindset, they are setting themselves up to be at a disadvantage and they've already convinced themselves that they will have to give up on the outcome they actually want.
Where did this idea come from? In the late 1800's and early 1900's, the US Congress passed the Railway Labor Act. Part of this act states that you must "bargain in good faith" and that if you don't, you can be sentenced to jail.
So, the result of this law is that we now feel like we have to compromise on our position when bargaining or we are somehow bad people. But, what is negotiation, really?
In the Oxford Dictionary of English, it states that negotiation is "the effort to bring about agreement between two or more parties with all parties having the right to veto."
There's nothing written about compromise or win-win.
So, if we analyze the above definition, we can see two important points.
First, negotiation is an "effort" to bring about agreement. Thus, it takes work; it is not an automatic process. There are at least two or more parties who have their own desired outcome and the effort is to find a way to gain what it is you want in the negotiation.
The other important point is that all parties have the "right to veto." This simply means that all parties involved in the negotiation have the right to opt out and not move ahead if they are not comfortable.
This is a very important principle. It is a matter of respecting each parties individual rights and not infringing upon them with force. For example, if we were to be negotiating and as part of my negotiation tactics, I held a gun to you head, I will have removed your right to veto and this is no longer negotiation, but open aggression.
So, your sole responsibility to the other party when negotiating is to not do anything that would remove that person's right to veto. As long as they are being allowed to negotiate without force compelling them, you may feel free to be as tough as you like on holding your position.
Just remember that you have a certain outcome in mind that you are trying to attain. As long as the other person has the freedom to walk away from the negotiation, you should feel no guilt about hammering away to get what you want.
But, don't take your eye off the big picture. You may still want to deal with this person in the future. You may find that giving in to something now will allow you more power in future negotiations. That's fine.
Just remember, it's time to stop being a loser when it comes to negotiation. Forget win-win, and just win.