From the boardroom to the dinner table, negotiators who understand the most common decision rules — majority rule, chair-decides and unanimity/consensus and how to navigate each, can drive more favorable outcomes and increase their influence beyond their formal authority or power.
Majority Rule: A majority rule is a type of decision-making that involves more than 50% of a group’s members agreeing on a course of action.
- Map the interests of all decision-makers: Identify those whose interests are aligned with your own and establish and maintain communication with them. Avoid the temptation to let the loudest voices dominate your thinking. The votes of the quiet carry the same weight as those of the loud.
- Target influential fence-sitters: How do you influence influencers’ interests in exchange for their support on your primary one? Start with those who might influence similarly situated “maybes”. These people can be easy to identify, but may not be particularly invested in the matter at hand. Think about ways you might expand the set of issues involved in the decision to create opportunities for “linking” and “log-rolling”.
- Customize your message to reach your target audience: Negotiators can use this tactic to harness their target audience’s perspectives, interests, and language to craft a case that resonates.
Chair Decides: This scenario lodges authority with a single decision-maker and is often used in business settings where managers have the final call for their teams or organizations.
- Understanding the decision-maker: Start by asking them directly what matters to them. Then look at their public statements and writing for clues about what they care most about, or consult their closest allies and confidantes.
- Choose trusted advisors for the decision-maker: Effective negotiators know on whom the chair relies and even the people those advisors turn for counsel. Hone your pitches and pay close attention to the sequencing of them. Some decisionmakers yield most to the last piece of advice they receive. Others are known to pay more attention to first impressions.
- Don’t neglect other stakeholders: Be attentive to the interests of other stakeholders and frame your efforts in ways that shape an image of you that is favorable and team-oriented.
Unanimity and Consensus: Unanimity requires the affirmative agreement of 100% of the deciding group; consensus involves none of the stakeholders objecting to any particular action.
- Ensure opposing viewpoints are heard: Effective negotiators listen carefully to would-be spoilers and make a public show of responding to their needs.
- Raise the costs associated with intransigence: When diplomacy fails, Western nations often deploy economic sanctions on rogue states. When engagement doesn’t work, the savvy negotiator raises the costs associated with intransigence. Delta airlines increased health insurance premiums by $200 a month for employees who refused to get Covid-19 vaccines.
- Change the rules of the game: In these negotiation moments, use decision rules to your advantage. Tailor your strategies to the particular circumstances of each decision rule to drive better outcomes.
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