Make Your Agreements Crisis-Proof

View of hands of people holding pens, negotiating documents

Photo: Pexels

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

You have secured a landmark agreement but then crisis strikes. Your counterpart would like to renegotiate. The deal is at risk of crumbling. What do you do? When negotiating against the backdrop of crisis, skilled negotiators forge stronger deals by employing the following three techniques:

Build In Contingency Measures. The future is uncertain. Negotiators shape stronger agreements with “If/Then” clauses in their contracts. By implementing “contingent deals,” the parties reduce compliance risks by committing to alternative courses of action if the environment changes.

Manage the Relationship. Even if you feel like everything is slipping away from you right now, the crisis will eventually pass. You might feel a loss of leverage in your negotiation relationship, but power will be recalibrated again in the future. Protect the relationship while advancing your immediate goals. Don’t make things worse by overreacting.

Work Together. Assume that your counterpart is looking for a solution to save the value that your deal created. You signed an agreement in the first place, meaning you identified options to create value together. Why would you give up on that? Stay committed to a collaborative mindset. Don’t make it all about yourself, but ask your negotiation counterpart: “What can I do to help you through this difficult time?”

Arvid Bell is director of the Negotiation Task Force at the Davis Center.

This piece is part of the Negotiation Task Force's "First Mover's Toolbox" series. For more insights, subscribe to the NTF Insider today.