Entitlement Negotiations

Entitlement Negotiations are Soft on People,

but Hard on the Problem.

(Paraphrased content from "Getting Past No" by William Ury

and published by Bantam Books, March 2007)

We may all be negotiators, but we don't like to negotiate.


  • Negotiation is a stressful confrontation.

  • We see ourselves faced with an unpleasant choice.

  • If we are "soft" to, for example, preserve a relationship, we end up giving up our position.

  • If we are "hard" to win our position, we strain the relationship or lose it altogether. 

Joint Problem-Solving is an alternative negotiation strategy that addresses the problem rather than the feelings of those negotiating.


  • It is neither exclusively soft nor hard, but a combination of each.

  • It is soft on the people, hard on the problem. 

Joint Problem-Solving revolves around interests instead of positions.


  • Identify each side's interests - the concerns, needs, fears, and desires that underlie and motivate your opposing positions.

  • Explore different options for meeting those interests.

  • Your goal is to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement efficiently and amicably. 

Skeptics quickly point out that all this is easy to say but hard to do.


  • Joint problem-solving is like vows of mutual support and fidelity.

  • They produce more satisfying relationships, but they are hard to apply in the real world of stresses and strains, temptations and tempests. 

At the start, you may try to get the other side to tackle the problem jointly but find yourselves in a face-to-face confrontation.


  • It is all too easy to get drawn into an emotional battle, to fall back into the familiar routine of rigid positions, or to let the other side take advantage of you. 

There are five real-world barriers that get in the way of negotiation. 

Barrier One: Your Reaction.


  • The first barrier lies within you.

  • When you encounter a NO, you naturally strike back, perpetuating the action-reaction cycle that losers both sides.

  • The problem in negotiation is the other side's problematic behavior and your reaction, which can easily perpetuate that behavior.

Solution One: Suspend Your Reaction.

  • To engage in joint problem-solving, you need to regain your mental balance and stay focused on achieving what you want, distancing yourself from your natural impulses and emotions.

  • You will be tempted to react impulsively to your opponent's complex behavior, but remember, keep your eyes on the prize. 

Barrier Two:  Their Negative Emotions.

  • The other side's negative emotions are behind hostility.

  • Behind their rigid positions may lie fear and distrust, convinced they are correct, and you are wrong, even refusing to listen.

  • Seeing the world as eat-or-be-eaten, they may feel justified in emphatically saying no.

Solution Two: Diffuse Their Negative Emotions

  • To create a suitable climate for joint problem-solving, you need to defuse their negative emotions.

  • Or, it would be best if you did the opposite of what they expected.

  • They expect you to behave like an adversary.

  • Instead, take their side

    • by listening to them,

    • acknowledging their points and their feelings,

    • agreeing with them, and

    • showing them respect.

  • If you want to sit side by side facing the problem, you need to step to their side. 

Barrier Three:  Their Position.


  • In joint problem-solving, you face the problem and attack it together.

  • The barrier in the way is the other side's positional behavior.

  • They dig into a position and try to get you to give in.

  • It's important to understand that often they know no other way to negotiate.

  • In their eyes, their only alternative is for them to give in-and they certainly don't want to do that. 

Solution Three: Take and Reframe Their Position in a Joint Solution Alternative

  • The goal of the negotiation is to tackle the problem together.

  • This is hard to do when the other side digs into their position and tries to get you to give in.

  • Do the unexpected and do the opposite. 

  • Accept whatever they say and reframe it as an attempt to deal with the problem.

  • For example, take their position and probe behind it: "Tell me more.  Help me understand why you want that."

  • Act as if they were your partners genuinely interested in solving the problem.

Barrier Four:  Their Dissatisfaction.

  • Your goal may be to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, but you may find the other side, not at all interested in such an outcome.

  • They may not see how it will benefit them, and they may fear losing face if they back down.

  • Furthermore, if it is your idea, they may reject it for that reason alone. 

Solution Four:  Build Them a Golden Bridge

  • While you may now have engaged the other side in joint problem-solving, you may still be far from reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement.

  • The other side may be dissatisfied and unconvinced of the benefits of a joint solution agreement.

  • You may feel like pushing them, but this will only make them more resistant.

  • As before, do the opposite.

  • In the words of the Chinese sage, "build a golden bridge" from their position to a mutually satisfactory solution by bridging the gap between their interests and yours.

  • You need to help them save face and make the outcome look like a victory for them. 

Barrier Five:  Their Power.


  • If the other side sees the negotiation as a win-lose proposition, they will be determined to beat you.

  • They may be guided by the precept, "What's mine is mine.  What's yours is negotiable."

  • If they can get what they want by power plays, why should they cooperate with you? 

Solution Five:  Use the Power to Educate

  • The other side may still refuse to cooperate despite best efforts, believing they can beat you at the power game.

  • You may be tempted at this point to escalating, but threats and coercion often backfire and lead to costly, futile battles.

  • The alternative is to enhance your negotiating power through education and use it to bring them back to the table.

  • Show them that they cannot win by themselves, but only with you.