Insist On Using Objective Criteria

Posted by Beetle B. on Thu 09 June 2016

Much of the material with the tag gty comes from Getting To Yes.

Deciding On The Basis of Will is Costly

Examples of negotiating on the basis of wills:

  • Being stubborn: “The price is X, and no more discussion!”
  • Being generous: Trying to compete in making the most concessions.

So find an objective basis that removes will from the equation.

The Case For Using Objective Criteria

The goal is to reach a solution based on principle, not on pressure.

Be open to reason, but closed to threats.

Principled Negotiation Produces Wise Agreements Amicably: Using objective criteria is more likely to lead to creative solutions than trying to force the other party to back down.

With objective standards, there is a lot less need to commit and then decommit. Less draining on the mind.

The process is even smoother with 3 or more parties.

Developing Objective Criteria

Think of multiple standards and evaluate them in advance.

Fair Standards: There are various objective criteria you can use:

  • Market Value
  • Precedent
  • Scientific Judgment
  • Professional Standards
  • Efficiency
  • Costs
  • What a court would decide
  • Moral standards
  • Equal treatment
  • Tradition
  • Reciprocity

Any criterion needs to be independent of each side’s will.

Any criterion should also apply to both sides.


  1. Insisting on self-determination, but not granting the same to their own subjects.
  2. Real estate contract to sell a house, but using a different one to sell a house.

Fair Procedures: You can use this instead of a standard (if it makes sense). An example: “I cut, you choose”. Applied in a divorce: Agree on visitation rights before agreeing on custody.

Other examples:

  • Taking turns
  • Drawing lots
  • Let 3rd party decide or use 3rd party for deadlocks

Negotiating With Objective Criteria

To actually negotiate with objective criteria:

  1. Frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria.
  2. Reason and be open to reason as to which standards are most appropriate and how they should be applied.
  3. Never yield to pressure, only to principle.

Frame each issue as a joint search for objective criteria

Say: “I want X, you want Y. What’s a fair way of splitting it up?”

If they ask for something, ask them to justify it on objective grounds.

Ensure you agree on the standard first. Concessions are difficult if it is someone else’s proposal. Appealing to a standard makes it their proposal too (if they accept the standard).

Reason and Be Open To Reason

Do not find one principle, and stubbornly stick to it.

Never Yield To Pressure

This includes a bribe or other favorable terms.

It’s Company Policy

Don’t let them get away with saying this. Insist on a rationale.

tags : negotiations, gty