Negotiating: The Impact Of Time On Negotiations

Time is a precious commodity in your personal life, in your professional life, and in general. Value the time you are investing in resolving a dispute or negotiating an issue. Wasted time is not recoverable. Consider the importance of the matter at hand before over-investing in the resolution process. Time is important to everyone. By better understanding the dynamics of time consumption, one can use it tactically to advance a negotiation.

There are ways to manage time relating to settlement conferences. Suggest having the meeting at your office to eliminate travel time. Prepare a written agenda for the meeting to keep the parties focused and minimize extraneous dialogue that you do not want to have. Consider who should draft the settlement documents. You control the timing of getting documents out if you do the work to draft the agreement. But you save time by letting the other person draft the agreements for your review.

Add negotiating team members to assist in the research and preparation for the meeting. You may need to focus on other, more pressing matters. But the preparation still needs to be done. Adding teammates to spread the work is often effective. Make sure, however, that you don't also add more time in managing the team then it would have taken to do the preparation yourself.

Time is important to others as well. It can and should be used as a negotiating tactic. If the issue is a minor irritant for the other person, by being openly willing to prolong the time it will take to settle the issue you may indirectly encourage the other party to settle rather than waste additional time at the table. Look for ways that the other person handles time in a negotiation as an indicator of his readiness to settle or willingness to invest in the process.

If the person looks to be pressured by time you have two options, push for a quick settlement or reschedule the meeting. What you do depends on where you are in the negotiation; not what the other person would like to do. Make decisions designed to advance your cause and not to accommodate the other person's needs. This is a conflict being settled, not a tea party.

If you are given a time-sensitive deadline by the other person, don't accept it on face value. He may be trying to force a decision out of you prematurely. Question the need for the deadline and what other options there might be. Use a break to gather intelligence of your own about the validity of the deadline. Recognize that time is used as a tactic regularly. Don't fall prey to its being used on you.