How to Set Ground Rules for Your Business Negotiation

Before beginning any negotiation, it is important to establish ground rules that will guide the process and ensure both parties reach a mutual understanding. These ground rules act as a framework for the negotiation, helping to maintain a respectful and professional discussion. Here we will take a look at some useful tips for setting ground rules for your next business negotiation. 

What are Ground Rules?

Ground rules are put in place to help clarify both parties’ understanding and shared expectations of how the negotiation will be conducted. In other words, they establish how the parties will negotiate and what steps they will follow throughout the process. Ground rules can include things such as:

  • Dates and location for meetings
  • The composition of the table
  • Designated spokesperson and coordinators
  • Agendas for negotiating 
  • Clarity on note-taking and records
  • Requests for information
  • Ratification protocol for tentative deals

Steps for Setting Ground Rules

1. Define the Purpose and Scope

Before jumping right into the discussion, it is essential that you clearly define the purpose and scope of the meeting. This involves identifying the specific information that will be discussed, which allows both parties to align their expectations and avoid possible misunderstandings. 

2. Determine the Negotiation Process

Another important step in setting ground rules is determining the negotiation process itself. This includes deciding on the format of negotiations, such as in-person meetings, video conferences, or teleconferences. It also includes setting timelines, discussing the frequency of communication, and agreeing on who will be involved in the negotiation for each party.

3. Establish Communication Guidelines

Effective communication is essential for any successful negotiation. Therefore, it is important to set guidelines regarding communication to ensure both parties have a fair and equal opportunity to express their concerns and interests. This includes setting rules about how long each person will get to speak and rules regarding active listening, so that each party gets the opportunity to speak without interruptions. This helps to foster open and honest communication between both parties. 

4. Identify Decision-Making Criteria

Finally, there will also need to be rules guiding the decision making process. This involves discussing the factors that will influence the final agreement, such as legal requirements, business objectives, and risk assessment. Establishing these criteria upfront allows both parties to focus on finding a solution that meets everyone’s needs.