Collaborative Negotiation is an Attitude

What You'll Learn
  • There are many definitions for collaborative negotiations
  • Talking with a common goal in mind
  • Commitment does not guarantee compliance

How Do You Define Collaborative Negotiation?

As you might expect, many definitions exist for collaborative negotiations. For example:


"A communication process that may take place whenever you want something from someone else or they want something from you."
- G. Richard Shell, Wharton School of Business

"A process where interested parties resolve disputes, agree upon courses of action, bargain for individual or collective advantage, and/or attempt to craft outcomes which serve their mutual interests."
- Wikipedia Encyclopedia, Internet

"To confer with another or others in order to come to terms or reach an agreement."
- The American Heritage Dictionary

"To transact business…not leisurely."
- Latin Origin


At Watershed Associates, we like to think of collaborative negotiations simply as:

"Talking with a common goal in mind."

"Collaborative negotiations" is a course of action more than a definition. It is an attitude. It is a win-win attitude toward problem solving – and life in general – where you are constantly seeking mutual benefits. You are always asking, "Is there a better way?" Collaborative negotiations (win-win) take considerably more time, but the return on your investment is always realized. Be patient.

Win-win means all parties go away feeling as if they have done well, given the realities of the situation.

Conversely, a win-lose (competitive) approach to negotiating and doing business only works if five things are true:

  1. You have all the power, and
  2. It is a one-time agreement, and
  3. You have strong alternatives, and
  4. You value the outcome more than the relationship, and
  5. The other side has no way of retaliating.

Understanding the other side's interests, motivation, and values is key to reaching a win-win solution. Value-based negotiating (also referred to as interest-based) allows you to get beyond the limits of positional bargaining. A win-win attitude toward building relationships, agreements, project management, and partnerships keeps you focused on the desired results and common goals and motivators. In collaborative negotiations, both sides commit to trying to meet as many of the parties' interests as possible. Commitment does not guarantee compliance. Using a win-win or collaborative strategy, however, increases your chances for commitment AND compliance.


  • Remember, people extend the most consideration to people they respect and trust. The number one goal in resolving a conflict is to make sure both sides maintain their self-esteem.
  • If your attitude is "when you win, rub it in," you lose. You win most when the other side thinks they won too.