Negotiations are not something esoteric, but as every parent knows, they happen on a daily basis, from the formal interactions around a union contract to the back and forth that takes place in the elevator, at the water cooler, and in meetings.

Although people often enter negotiations expecting a winner-takes-all fight, successful negotiations focus on problem solving. The goal, suggests #b#Edward Kurocka#/b# of OnSight Advisors, a Yardville-based management consulting firm, is to get to an agreement in which both sides feel like they have won and gotten everything they want.

Kurocka is teaching a noncredit course in “Successful Negotiating,” on Tuesdays from January 11 through February 8, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., at Mercer County Community College. Cost: $295. For more information, call 609-570-3311, E-mail ComEd@mccc.edu, or visit www.mcc.edu/ccs.

Kurocka offers a several tips on how to negotiate effectively:

b#Negotiations are all about relationships#/b#. Negotiation is a process. “It may have a beginning,” says Kurocka, “but if you feel like you might ever be negotiating again, it doesn’t end after the negotiating table or after the agreement is signed. It is a process that involves having a relationship with the other side beyond the event.”

It can be very helpful for participants in an upcoming negotiation to hang out a bit beforehand, talking, having a cup of coffee together, or maybe even playing a game of golf. Then, says Kurocka, they see each other as people instead of viewing each other as adversaries. When approaching one another as “principled negotiators,” participants are looking for a wise outcome instead of looking for victory. If you have a relationship, you are not going to see a negotiation as a battle, Kurocka says.

Separate the people from the problem. Often negotiations focus on resolving some sort of conflict with another person. But the focus must be on the problem.

“Even if you’ve had nothing but problems dealing with a certain individual in your profession, community, or organization,” says Kurocka, “you have to look beyond the personality and try to have that person see that the reason you are there is to solve a problem.”

Leave all the angst at the door, and with it the stereotyped, macho lines like “We’re going to get them;” “We’re bringing our big guns with us;” and “They’re not going to get the best of us.”

“You don’t have to like each other,” says Kurocka. “You have to realize this is the problem you are trying to resolve.” Be soft on the people and hard on the problem.

#b#Focus on your interests rather than on your negotiating position#/b#. Suppose two people are negotiating for a single orange from a winner-take-all position. The result will likely be one person taking the orange and the other leaving with nothing.

But suppose instead that the negotiators focus on their interests — why they each want the orange. They may find that one person wants to use the fruit to make juice while the other wants the peel to make marmalade.

“You have to find out the other side’s interests to be a successful negotiator,” says Kurocka. Had they done so in the case of the orange, both could have benefited from it.

#b#Invent options for mutual gain#/b#. “If you’re going to divide a pie, it’s only so big,” says Kurocka. “If I want it, and you want, there’s only a fixed amount.”

So to negotiate successfully, you have to figure out how to make the pie bigger by building in some options. You might add some ice cream, for example.

Now suppose a salesperson and customer are negotiating. Even if the salesperson cannot move on price, he or she can change the terms — for example, by letting the customer pay over time or adding in training and service for the same price.

Kurocka earned his bachelor’s in liberal arts from the College of New Jersey and his master’s degree in organizational behavior from the Penn. His first professional position was with a Philadelphia bank, where he stayed for 10 years. Then he moved to First Union, where he stayed for 14 years. When it became Wachovia, Kurocka did not want to relocate and left to form his own consulting firm. OnSight Advisors assists organizations with strategic planning, business strategies, human resources, and grants management.

Kurocka also does a lot of teaching. In addition to his noncredit teaching, he is an adjunct assistant professor of business at MCCC and TCNJ.

During his banking career Kurocka was regularly involved in negotiations involving hiring, compensation, and strategy with executive leadership — even though it was never clearly defined as negotiation. Before he started teaching and really absorbing the principles of successful negotiation he was involved in one formal negotiation, for a nonprofit board he was involved with.

“I wish I had known then what I know now,” he says. “The other side — it was their job. They were negotiators who were employed by the entity that we were negotiating with. We were just amateurs.”

Negotiating skills, of course, are useful in many realms of life. Take parenting.

“Children usually have the upper hand when it comes to winning negotiations,” says Kurocka, who has no children of his own (but says this knowledge is common among negotiation professionals). “They have a number of different traits and techniques they use to their advantage: they know maybe is yes; they know how to be persistent, and they don’t know how to take no for an answer.”

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