The use of objective, fair standards or criteria is an effective method of dealing with claims or proposals based upon emotions or desires during negotiation.
Fisher, Ury and Patton recommend that we should frame issues under negotiation around objective criteria based upon:

• Fair standards
• Fair processes

They suggest that without the use of accepted standards, proposals based upon emotional claims, desires or will, generally lead to an escalation of conflict and costs, both in terms of negotiation process and outcomes. Accordingly, their negotiation model is referred to as principled negotiation, where agreements are negotiated on their merits rather than under the pressure of wills or desires.

Lewicki, Minton and Saunders (1997) go further by providing the following examples of principles and standards on how the boundaries for negotiation process, behaviour and outcomes will be established, conducted and maintained –

• A commitment toward honesty and integrity
• A commitment to being polite and civil to one another
• Beliefs around when competition or collaboration are the acceptable processes to follow, avoid or ignore

While Fisher, Ury and Patton refer to ‘fairness’ as a standard, the following principles may be relied upon to determine what is deemed fair.

            Fairness should be based upon principles, not pressure or what one party may

 deem/define to be fair based upon self interest or desire
            Fairness should be determined according to objective criteria – not subjective claims

 of fairness influenced by bias – asking the other party for the basis for their

 argument helps to bring the negotiation back from emotional wills and desires to

 objective criteria
             Industry standards, legal precedence, market values are examples of objective

 criteria that can be relied upon to determine fair standards
            Objective criteria or standards must be applicable to each party to the negotiation
            Objective criteria should be agreed upon (accepted) by all parties to the negotiation to

 have any impact


To give legitimacy to your arguments or proposals, it is essential that you first find and link them to fair, objective standards. However, while objective criteria or standards will assist in deciding what is acceptable to divide or allocate as part of the negotiated outcome, the objective criteria must also be negotiated between the parties involved to gain this acceptance (Lewicki, Minton and Saunders: 1997).

When fair standards are negotiated and agreed upon between parties, any proposals based upon those standards become more persuasive (Jeswald Salacuse: 2003).  Salacluse (2003) points out that accepted standards may persuade parties that they cannot achieve a better outcome than what is being offered, pointing out that agreed upon Market (pricing, leases, rents etc), Legal (precedents or rules), traditional (i.e. cultural, historical), moral, expert opinions and professional standards give rationality to arguments or proposals, paving the way toward reaching agreement.

When you are faced with negotiation challenges such as hard bargainers, power imbalances, or unrealistic, emotion charged claims, seek out fair, acceptable standards that support your proposal/s, restore the balance and are less likely to be ignored.

In this post we have briefly touched on the element of generating options for mutual gain – your questions or comments on this topic are most welcome.

If you would like to have Peter Spence as a speaker, advisor/coach or trainer at your company, group or organisation please contact Peter via the website contact form or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and learn to become a better negotiator.