What You'll Learn
  • Too often negotiators rush past this critical best practice of summarizing negotiations
  • The techniques for summarization are simple: verbal, written, and acknowledgement

The three levels of summarization

  1. After much has been discussed at the "negotiating table" BARGAIN
  2. End of bargaining round/meeting, before taking break BARGAIN
  3. The final summarization, and agree on next steps CONCLUDE

To summarize sounds easy enough. But like Preparation, too often negotiators rush past this critical best practice. In this section we explore the techniques for summarization, and the areas of the negotiation where they are most often utilized.

The techniques for summarization are simple: verbal, written, and acknowledgement. The extent to which you summarize will depend on the amount of detail involved, the stage of negotiations, and the depth of the relationship.

  • Verbal. Summarize verbally is the simplest technique – face-to-face or ear-to-ear, be sure to articulate concluded issues and get acknowledgement from the other side that your statements are correct.
  • Written. Create written summaries of all concluded points. Share the written summary with your counterpart and team.
  • Acknowledgement. For more detailed or critical negotiations, get written acknowledgment from the other side that the written summary accurately conveys the issues discussed or decided. If the other side won't acknowledge the accuracy of the summary, this lack of commitment is likely only to increase as bargaining ensues or when a contract is drafted. Stop and Probe now so that you have concurrence throughout negotiations.

  • Confirm you have met their interests and concerns. Get explicit acknowledgment from them that the final agreement meets their stated interests and goals.

There are three critical areas in negotiations that require verbal and written summaries, shared and agreed to by the parties: concluded discussion points; rounds of bargaining; and final commitment.

  1. Concluded Discussion Points
    Often as early as the Exchange Stage, key issues are discussed. Critical needs, non-negotiables, philosophies, interests, and applicable standards are discussed and agreed upon or otherwise finalized. Summarize concluded discussions points.
  2. Rounds of Bargaining
    Throughout bargaining you should summarize to ensure that everyone has the same understanding of what has been agreed to so far, and what has not been agreed to so far. In a typical business negotiation, the issues and their solutions are complex, with nuances and details critical to the agreement. There are usually multiple offers and counter-offers, shifting positions, and even Nibbles. Do both sides have the same idea of where you ended up? Summarize at the end of each round of Bargaining, the trades made and any conditions.
  3. Final Commitment
    Likewise, when you reach total commitment on all issues, ensure that there is no room for doubt or confusion. It is not unusual to have one side think an issue was settled one way and the other side to think it was settled another way once bargaining is complete. Summarize the agreed upon terms in a writing that is reviewed by each side, preferably when you can be together to prompt remembrances of who gave what concession, contingent on what, and why. Summarize terms early and often, and be sure to summarize the final agreed upon terms.

Agree on Next Steps

Once total agreement has been reached, be sure to discuss next steps. Who will write the summary and within what time period? Are there any performance issues that need to be prepared for? Is either party facing a timing issue? Who will get back to whom with what? Don't leave these details left unsaid, or un-summarized.