Brown spend substantial time critically reviewing general negotiation strategies -- not only those specifically tied to real estate, but practical theories and tactics to employ in any situation -- as well as sound strategies related to home buying and selling. Mrs. Brown was also advised that a lot of the literature related to negotiations is directed at union issues, corporate negotiations and other situations that are not what she will be engaged in specifically.
Mrs. Brown read Peter B. Stark's book, It's Negotiable: The How-To Handbook of Win/Win Tactics, which provided some good general ideas and some ideas that she certainly wouldn't need. For example, on pages 9-11 Stark offers "Four Keys to Creating a Win/Win Outcome" which essentially apply strictly to negotiations between organizations. But on pages 31-32 of Stark's book, Mrs. Brown gleaned good information on questioning during negotiations; a) "have a questioning plan," Stark suggests (when you are asking questions and your counterpart is reacting, you are the driver); b) "know your counterpart" (which Mrs. Brown will know better after inviting them over for a barbeque); c) have good timing and move from the "broad to the narrow"; and d) "build on previous responses" (keep track of all that's been asked and answered).
An article by Luke Mullins in the "Money" section of U.S. News -- "The 7 Biggest Home Price Negotiation Blunders" -- caught Mrs. Brown's eye because it offered guidelines for the Randolph family, which in turn could help Mrs. Brown in terms of understanding her neighbors' perspective. "It's essential to look at the deal from the opposite side of the table," Mullins explains (Mullins, 2008). The keywords in Mullins' article are self-explanatory: a) don't show your cards right away; b) be sure to have options; c) don't get "caught up in the game"; d) use face-to-face negotiation strategies (no emailing or faxing responses to proposals); and don't "forget your homework" (which would be a disaster for either side in the negotiations) (Mullins, 2008).
Mrs. Brown was alerted to an article that her oldest son -- searching in a scholarly database -- found called "Communication Quality in Business Negotiations." The article (like many she located) didn't precisely fit her needs as a seller, but offered some practical advice. For example, the authors explain, "arguing" involves "making claims of factual truth or normative validity with the intent to convince," while "bargaining" contains "…promises and threats, and intends to change behavior" (Schoop, et al., 2008, p. 196). Mrs. Brown of course wasn't trying to change the Randolph family's behavior but she did intend to argue the case that her house and property were worth substantially more than current assessed value. She did receive good advice from Schoop's piece on page 202, which asserts that "mutual trust" must be shared with the parties that are involved in negotiations.
Mrs. Brown's younger son found a book online that described real estate mogul Donald Trump's approach to negotiations, and shared it with his mother. While Mrs. Brown gave the son the benefit of the doubt and read portions of the Trump strategies, she quickly dismissed Chapter One's assertion that "…lying, cheating, and deception" are indeed permitted in negotiations (Ross, 2007, Chapter 1). "…Everyone involved in negotiations is free to act as he or she sees fit without restrictions," editor Ross explains on the same page as the previously quoted material. That is not Mrs. Brown's style, even though she has worked through some tough negotiations when she was employed by the electric and gas company as an engineer.
An article in the Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict posits that the outcome of negotiations largely depends on "to what degree [negotiators] have control of the negotiated outcome" (Spears, et al., 2009). Mrs. Brown decided that the outcome of her negotiations with the Randolph family should be favorable whether they reach a deal or not because she is under no pressure at all to sell. She figures the power is in her hands because keeping the four-bedroom home and continuing to rent out the two-bedroom home works out well in the short-term.
Theoretical Model -- Relationality in negotiation
Writing in the Academy of Management Review, Michele J. Gelfand and colleagues put forward the concept they refer to as "relationality in negotiation." At the "core" of this theory the authors present "the construct of the relational self-construal (RSC)." This psychological approach is in stark contrast to the view of one's self as "largely independent," the authors point out (428). In fact RSC reflects a "…cognitive representation of the self as fundamentally connected to other individuals" (Gelfand, et al., 2006, p. 428). Relationality means being connected to another person as its starting point. Relationality has been linked to an "impressive array of psychological processes," the authors explain, including "attention, memory and inference, emotional regulation and expression, and motivation" (428).
This is a potentially helpful process for Mrs. Brown to research in advance of launching negotiations with the Randolph family. The use of relationality theory could present Mrs. Brown with an opportunity to connect to the Randolph family in a deeper way than she has to date, and could help her achieve "a cognitive attunement to others' verbal and nonverbal behavior" (Gelfand, 430). "Relational cognition" is the part of the psychological process that focuses one party in the negotiations on "the similarity" she has with others in the process.
In this instance, Mrs. Brown certainly has similarities with the Randolph family: they both have children as part of the motivation for property change; they both live in the same community; they own properties that are adjacent; and they are responsible members of a close-knit community.
Another part of the process that Gelfand and associations describe as a component of RSC is "relational emotion" -- wherein connections become a source of positive feelings "and self-esteem." Embracing relational emotion assures a kind of "empathy" with the experience of others' emotions in the process (430), the authors continue. And the third component of RSC is relational motivation, Gelfand explains (431); which is the motivation to "help others achieve their goals" and a "desire for mutual empowerment." In this case, Mrs. Brown would like to help the Randolph family achieve their goal of moving their children and grandchildren out of the dangerous big city and into a safer, quieter, healthier environment -- that is, into the very house where the Brown family now resides. The broader point to be understood in the context of negotiation is that relationality brings into focus a sense of cooperation and interdependence needed in negotiations -- rather than the "autonomy" and "competition" that typically come in play during negotiations (Gelfand, 443).
Preparing to Negotiate -- a four-phase pre-negotiation framework
Northern Illinois University professors Peterson and Shepherd assert that going into any serious negotiation requires some serious homework in front of that negotiation. That is, following their prescribed pre-negotiation activities can lead to a successful conclusion (Peterson, et al., 2010, p. 67). The first part, "intelligence gathering," requires collecting, processing, "analyzing and evaluating" data that relates to the negotiation (like the market value of Mrs. Brown's property). The second step is to "formulate" one's goals, one's specific objectives, and "setting the parameters for each issue" in the negotiation; number three is "strategy development" (integrating goals, objectives and "action sequences into a cohesive whole"); and the third step. Being prepared by actually "rehearsing verbal communication" and "attending to logistical concerns" (67). Mrs. Brown took notes as she read through the Peterson article and went back over her notes and used a yellow highlighter on "formulating" her goals.
A neighbor friend -- like Mrs. Brown, a divorced mother of two children -- loaned Mrs. Brown a copy of the book Women Don't Ask, which Mrs. Brown read all the way through on a single afternoon. Research by the female authors shows that men ask for things the want "and initiate negotiations much more often than women -- two to three times as often" (Babcock, 2003, p. 3). There are many research studies presented in this book, but of particular interest to Mrs. Brown was the study that shows women typically spend a month preparing for a negotiation while men spend a week in preparation. "This means that men may be initiating four times as many negotiations as women," Babcock writes, but moreover, it just points to the fact that in "negotiation" women are "much less likely than men to use negotiation to get what they want" (ix). Mrs. Brown was determined to do her homework and use all available resources to make this negotiation with the Randolph family a success for both sides, albeit she would essentially be going head-to-head with Mr. Randolph.
Mrs. Brown's negotiation with the Randolphs
Quite seamlessly the two families -- having enjoyed a barbeque and a bottle of merlot on Mrs. Brown's spacious back deck, with hawks and turkey vultures floating on the thermals high above -- agreed to begin the process…