Negotiating Terms

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Negotiating Terms

Negotiating Terms

When reasonable boundaries (expectations and consequences) are communicated, most people will:

  1. Accept the boundary.
  2. Understand the rationale.
  3. Agree to the boundary.

However, a person may object to the boundary if he or she feels the boundary creates problems. When trying to work with a difficult person, the possibility of an objection is all the more likely because they will perceive things as problems that other people will not.

If a clearly stated boundary is not accepted, the decision has to be made:

  1. To keep the boundary and stand firm.
  2. To adjust the boundary.

If the decision is made to adjust the boundary, it may be beneficial to bring the other person into the boundary development process. This is called, negotiation.

Win-Win Negotiations

During negotiations, the goal should be to create a win-win situation in which both parties benefit.

Things to ask include:

  1. What do I need/want? (Be specific.)
  2. Why do I need it?
  3. How do I need it?
  4. When do I need it?
  5. What does the other person need/want?
  6. Can I do what I have agreed to do? Is it realistic? Is it beneficial?
  7. What might I be able to offer the other person to encourage him or her to accept the boundary?

The negotiating process should never include behavior or words that are:

  1. Intimidating.
  2. Derogatory.
  3. Inflammatory.
  4. Critical.

These are negative approaches that shut down communication. The most desirable approach will include a respectful discussion with the most open and honest attitudes possible.

Some negotiations can be rather challenging and may require extra steps. These extra steps may include:

  1. Scheduling a second meeting if emotions get inflamed.
  2. Scheduling recurring meetings to refine terms until they are mutually agreeable.
  3. Reducing immediate expectations and working on smaller boundaries that are components of the full boundary.
  4. Bringing in a third party to help with communication. A third-party person should be:
    1. Neutral.
    2. Acceptable to both parties.


Negotiations often result in compromise. The final desired outcome should not be changed during negotiations, but the way those outcomes are met may be open for discussion. For example:

  1. A boundary may be proposed that a component will be delivered by the courier at a certain time every few days.
    1. Receiving the component is the desired outcome and non-negotiable.
      1. How that component is delivered may not be of concern.
    2. Receiving the component every few days may not be negotiable.
      1. Which days the component is delivered may not be of concern.
  2. Two points open for discussion are how the component is delivered and on what days.

Often an offer of service will resolve the problem. In the example given in the first section of this lesson, a boundary was set for getting flowcharts completed in time for the reports.

To help achieve the desired goal, the offer may be extended, "I know you get interrupted by phone calls a lot, so if it will help, my staff will take the calls that come in for two hours on that day. Will you be able to train them on how to take the calls?"

The other person will:

  1. Accept the offer.
  2. Reject the offer. Rejecting the offer often negates the argument, thus negating the barrier to perform the needed service.

Healthy Boundary Concepts

As we negotiate with the other person, we always need to uphold healthy boundaries for both parties.

Determining a healthy boundary requires an understanding of the following nine boundary principles:

  1. Healthy boundaries consider multiple perspectives and are considerate of the needs of both parties.
  2. The boundaries of both parties must be respected to achieve mutual benefit.
  3. People are responsible for their own:
    1. Behaviors.
    2. Attitudes.
    3. Emotions.
    4. Thoughts.
  4. It is acceptable to help others overcome a problem.
  5. It is not acceptable to rescue others from their own:
    1. Responsibilities that have been delegated to them.
    2. Consequences resulting from their own actions, because the other person:
      1. Will be denied the opportunity to learn from the experience.
      2. Will be denied the opportunity to enjoy the success of overcoming the problem.
  6. It is acceptable for someone to:
    1. Feel "hurt" by a boundary.
    2. Be required to put out more effort.
  7. It is not acceptable for a boundary to "harm" a person by exposing him or her to:
    1. Physical danger.
    2. Unjust judgment by other employees.
  8. Behaviors always result in consequences that may be positive or negative.
  9. Helping people to one's own detriment is unhealthy.