Whether you lean red or blue, you are sure to bite your nails over the upcoming budget/debt ceiling battle.  Both parties show little tolerance for compromise. By the same token, it was apparent compromise that led to a peaceful direction for the Syrian crisis.

How can you as business leaders navigate the rough waters of spirited debate and know when it is right to hold firm and when it is right to give in a bit?  Are there telltale signs?

It's certainly not an exact science. In my 30 plus years of business experience there are times when I felt I gave too much and other times when I felt I could have given in a bit to make something work. Either way I always knew what the right decision was in hindsight. Of course that is always too late.

My current approach is to put my ego in my wallet where it belongs and determine both my minimal positive outcome and my most desirable potential. If the negotiation is within that margin I feel comfortable moving forward.  Anything less and I simply disengage, both physically and emotionally. Once the decision is made, there is no sense in going back to punish myself if I was wrong.  There are always more opportunities to come.

Here are additional negotiation insights from my Inc. colleagues:

1. Create Common Objectives

The decision to hold firm is often driven by a belief that by compromising, a group is losing or being taken advantage of. A great way to break through this is to bring in an unbiased third party and give the groups a small goal to work towards. I was tasked with helping three business units of a very large company agree on one common homepage. This was something they had tried to do for 6 months with no successful compromise. I put the key stakeholders from the business units in a room and made them work through a simple hands-on exercise. The only goal was to establish the 5 main menu items.  Once they had bought into this co-created structure, the rest of the content fell easily into place. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

Want to read more from Eric? Click here.

2. Make an Informed Stand

The best time to compromise is when there's no chance the other person will, and the best time to stand firm is when the other person will cave. Unfortunately, unless you have an extraordinary ability to read people, you likely won't know which is which. So focus on yourself instead and do your homework. What's the worst deal you'd be willing to accept? What's a fair deal in this market? What's your best alternative if no deal gets made? Know the answers and you'll never have to obsess over what the other party is secretly thinking. Minda Zetlin--Start Me Up

Want to read more from Minda? Click here.

3. Be Willing to Walk Away

The Republican negotiating position reminds me of the (awesome) slapstick 1974 movie Blazing Saddles, in which an African-American sheriff gets away from some bad guys by pointing a gun to his own temple and taking himself hostage. Negotiation requires a willingness to walk away from the table. One way to demonstrate that is to show that you can make your counter-party's alternative unpleasant. Think of negotiating the end of a war, for example--it's usually, "bomb into the Stone Age first, negotiate later." Here, the twist is that the Republicans seem willing to suffer serious damage to America's credit--which hurts everyone, including themselves--to achieve their political goals. The only way to make a deal with a hostile party is to show that you don't actually need a deal. So far, I don't think the president has figured out how to do that. Bill Murphy Jr.--DC Bill

Want to read more from Bill? Click here.

4. Never Compromise on Your Core Values

I believe you should never compromise when it comes to your organization's core values. For example, a core value of my own business is to do whatever it takes to meet agreed client deadlines, including adding additional manpower if necessary, at no additional cost to my client. I won't compromise on that because it is fundamental to how I do business, and it differentiates me from my competitors, who may routinely miss promised deadlines and jeopardize client relations and goodwill as a result. Everything else is up for debate and compromise, but never your core values. Peter Economy--The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? Click here. 

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