The Four Elements of ‘The Negotiator’s Zen’

A look inside the four results (not titled ‘best price’) you want in negotiating every deal you ever do.  

Pat Bohnenkamp

Pat Bohnenkamp

Welcome back to the Seprio blog and our three-part series on negotiation style! I’m your host Pat Bohnenkamp. Our initial post told a story of how we used a collaborative style, and just a little “slide-step”, to best a purely adversarial negotiator. The second post discussed the styles of negotiation and why there is, in fact, a ‘right’ style. Here in this third and final post of the series, it all comes together in the four elements of “the negotiator’s zen” that you achieve by choosing the ‘right’ style (collaboration).


Being collaborative is a more comfortable and productive style for most people. Most people are inherently nice and often uncomfortable with adversarial situations. And while many negotiators think they need to suppress their ‘nice’ side to be good negotiators, I believe trying to be something you’re not will always do more harm than good. As I said before, it’s just easier to be nice than it is to be aggressive (“Be Nice” is another tool in the Seprio Toolbox).  And being nice is a natural, complementary extension of Win-Win negotiations. On the flipside, it’s very difficult to try to be (or appear) nice when you’re negotiating using an adversarial style.  Negotiators often try to do fake nice, while they’re really trying to take you for all your worth, but their sophisticated counterparts (which include all readers of the Seprio Blog!) will see through that easily and merely counter with… actually being nice. 


Collaboration and Win-Win go hand-in-hand. Each supports the other. Win-Win results require objectivity. Objectivity requires understanding your priorities (and those of the other side, if possible), which is part of every good negotiator’s initial preparation.  You see, it all fits together giving you power. Preparation allows you to be Objective, and objectivity fosters a Win-Win… and there you achieve power in “POWW”. And the glue that holds it all together...a Collaborative Style.


A Collaborative Style is grounded in reasonableness, and reasonableness grows best when fed a steady diet of Objectivity. It’s easy to be reasonable and it’s very difficult for an opposing negotiator to argue against an objectively reasonable proposal. This exposes a critical fault in the adversarial style. The adversarial, argumentative style is most often deployed to frustrate opposing negotiators. An adversarial negotiator uses it to get you out of your comfort zone.  But your Collaborative Style acts like a wall, shielding and protecting you from their adversarial aspirations. (Anyone else thinking of a patronus from Harry Potter?)  And if the adversarial negotiator can’t get you to be adversarial with them, then they just look like a jerk. (You may not know this, but “Seprio” is a word mash of “Sepio”, which is a Latin word for a protective wall or hedge, and “Priorities”.  In the same way the Collaborative Style shields you from conflict, so too does Seprio shield our Clients from those trying to take advantage of them.) 


One of the best things about being Collaborative is ‘giving in’ on issues that allow the other party to win. Who doesn’t like to be charitable, especially when it helps all parties? Because we clearly establish our priorities early in our process, we know what we care about most, and what we care about least. As such, we can grant concessions that don’t actually represent a ‘loss’ for us, but which do represent a ‘win’ for the other side. Concessions that cost little or nothing are an extremely valuable currency, especially when you use them to pay for concessions that you value highly.

One parting shot.  As I mentioned, when I was younger, I was very much an adversarial negotiator. As I sit here writing this, I can see that I spent far too much time and energy on winning every stupid little issue, many of which my Clients didn’t even really care about. I’m willing to bet that I’d have a lot less grey hair if I’d known then what you know now, which is that the Collaborative Style is not only more efficient and effective, it’s easier. 

In our next post in this series, we will take a peek into the Seprio Toolbox to explore some of the tools you can use to be a best-in-class negotiator. The toolbox includes negotiating tactics, The Green Canvas, and a mini-library of case studies. 

If you haven’t had a chance to catch other posts or need a refresher, check out the rest of our blogs here or the companion podcast here.

Thanks for investing time in reading the Seprio Blog, a place to find stories, tips and other pearls available for you to protect your business priorities with best practices in negotiating, strategic sourcing, and vendor management. I’m your host and Seprio Master Certified Negotiator, Patrick Bohnenkamp.


Questions or comments? Let me know in the comments section or email me directly @ Also, share the knowledge with your colleagues by liking and sharing.