Separate Substantive Issues from Relational Issues
A valued client or close friend turns to you and says, “If you truly value our relationship, you will do the following for me…” Essentially, they have commingled different aspects of your negotiation. To be effective, it’s your job to separate the two.
“If you truly value our relationship, you will do the following for me…”
Many negotiators are familiar with this type of statement and the dilemma that it presents - you do care about the relationship with your counterpart; nevertheless you don’t feel what they are asking for is fair. Essentially, your negotiation counterpart has created a classic negotiation tension for you the tension between substance and relationship. Substance refers to the things we are negotiating over – whether it’s price, volume, payment terms, deliverables, or anything else. Relationship refers to the interaction between the parties – feelings of trust, respect, reliability, the ability to deal with conflict…the interpersonal dimension of negotiation.
This tension arises when your counterpart asks for a substantive concession for the sake of the relationship, forcing you to choose one or the other. Our advice is to separate substance from relationship, and deal with each on its own merits. For example, you might reply to your counterpart “I do care about the relationship, and I also care about being fair to both of us. I would never ask you to make an unfair concession to me because of our relationship, and I don’t think you would ask that of me either. We can show we care about this relationship by being honest and straightforward with each other, and by discussing the substance on the basis of fairness.”