Do we have a deal? Stand up guys can agree fast when the gun is loaded

Christopher Walken
Christopher Walken (Photo credit: André “Gigopepo” Persechini)

Al Pacino in “Stand up Guys” plays an old criminal (Val) who gets out of prison after 28 years. He wants to have fun – sex, drugs and food – but little does he realise that a mob boss has hired Al’s best friend Christopher Walken (Doc) to kill him.

At one point in the movie Val and Doc have discussed an issue – and they have plenty to talk about in this feel-good crime comedy – and Val asks, “Do we have a deal?”

Under the circumstances, Doc is agreeable to just about anything Val wants to do because he has the impossible task of killing his best friend by 10 AM the next morning.

Decisions aren’t reached so fast in real-world negotiations that take place between small businesses owners and the host of people they end up negotiating with. It’s not what the negotiation books tell you. Some negotiations can take months or even years.

The length of a negotiation depends on the number of parties involved, issues to be discussed, value involved and the climate for negotiation.

In a once-off negotiation such as buying a car or a house a deal can be struck really quickly – perhaps in a few days or weeks. The beauty about this type of negotiation is that you can walk away from it fairly easily if the terms and conditions are not to your liking. It usually involves low emotional investment. But watch out for these once-off encounters: because the other party has no need for an ongoing relationship with you, they will try to get the highest price from you at the worst possible terms.

Just watch out because as soon as you sign an agreement to purchase, you’ve got no more leverage. Your adversary will hold you to every clause in your contract – especially those you failed to read properly.

Ongoing relationships involve negotiation that requires agreements both parties can live with. A fair and mutually acceptable exchange needs to take place. Supplier and rental agreements are simple examples of negotiations that may conclude with a deal reasonably quickly.

Another type of negotiation is conflict situations where the parties may be so far apart, reluctant to concede to anything and despise each other so much that it can take long for them to acknowledge that they need to sit down and discuss their hot issues. A community protesting the expansion of a business that would destroy the character of their town is an example.

Negotiation requires that parties look for common ground so that they can make mutually acceptable exchanges. Short-term gun-to-the-head negotiation tactics are coercive and doomed to fail. Agreements that endure over the long term — and that both parties can live with — involves putting relationships first.

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