Negotiation is a part of business. Whether you are hiring a team, agreeing to terms with a client or ironing out a deal with a vendor, negotiation sets the tone for the relationship.
Of course, you want a good deal. Everyone does.
Some people take the aggressive approach: Asking for more, or offering less than they think is fair. The brash business figures of the 20th century were infamous for such aggressive negotiation practices.
The strategy here is to purposefully exceed the boundaries of fairness with the understanding that you'll need to take a few steps back. However, by doing so, you’re setting a precedent: Aggressive negotiations run the risk of creating a combative and untrustworthy tone for the relationship going forward.
If you're buying real estate, an aggressive approach might be the right strategy. But, when it comes to negotiating partnerships for bold, long-term pursuits, relationships and precedent matter. In fact, the relationship matters more than the extra spread you might gain from being aggressive.
When negotiating a deal that will yield a relationship, you'll want to consider the "fairness" strategy. It's simple: Have a discussion up front with your counterpart in the negotiation. Make the case that, philosophically, you want to reach the fairest deal for both parties. Then, in preparing to make your offer, put yourself in your counterpart's shoes to determine what they should fairly expect (and deserve). Do the same thing for yourself.
Ultimately, you will arrive at a number that can (hopefully) be backed up with a transparent analysis that you're willing to share with your counterpart. If the relationship is healthy, you will both want what’s fair.
Bottom line, the "fairness" strategy will pay off over time. The next time you enter a negotiation, think beyond the number. Remember that the end of a negotiation is the start of a relationship with the potential to create tremendous value over time. Screwing over the other party in a negotiation will only yield distrust and insecurity - very shaky ground for collaboration.
***This article is based on research by Behance CEO Scott Belsky, whose book, Making Ideas Happen, will be published by Penguin this month. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think thank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.