Negotiation is part of our daily lives: everyone is in its professional, private or social life will have to find solutions to different situations. These negotiation situations have always similar characteristics, from peace negotiation between countries at war to social negotiations between employers, trade unions or even negotiation in a situation with hostages.


In traditional negotiations people routinely engage in positional bargaining. What this means is that each side takes a position, argues for it, and makes concessions to reach a compromise.

This form of negotiation depends upon successively taking – and then giving up – of a sequence of positions.

When you bargain over positions you tend to lock yourself into those positions. The more you clarify your position and defend it against attack the more committed you become to it.  Egos become identified with the positions and the negotiators typically discover a new interest in “saving face”, making it less and less likely that any agreement will reconcile their original interests.

Positional bargaining also tends to consume a lot of time because each negotiator generally starts with an extreme position and makes small concessions only as necessary to keep the negotiations going.

Finally, positional bargaining becomes a contest of will. The task of devising an acceptable solution tends to become a battle, each person trying through sheer will power to force the other to change his or her position. The result is anger and resentment, often long-lasting.

Integrative and distributive negotiation

Integrative negotiation is also called interest-based, merit-based, or principled negotiation. It is a set of techniques that attempts to improve the quality and likelihood of negotiated agreement by taking advantage of the fact that different parties value various outcomes differently. While distributive negotiation assumes there is a fixed amount of value (a “fixed pie”) to be divided between the parties, integrative negotiation often attempts to create value in the course of the negotiation (“expand the pie”).

Integrative negotiation often involves a higher degree of trust and the forming of a relationship. It can also involve creative problem-solving that aims to achieve mutual gains. It is also sometimes called win-win negotiation.

In the integrative approach, unlike the distributive approach, parties seek to find an arrangement that is in the best interest of both sides. A good agreement is not one with maximum gains, but optimal gains. Gains in this scenario are not at the expense of the other, but with the other.

A common negotiation technique in integrative negotiations involves trading one favor for another, commonly referred to as logrolling. It focuses on the underlying interests of the parties rather than their arbitrary starting positions, approaches negotiation as a shared problem rather than a personalized battle, and insists upon adherence to objective, principled criteria as the basis for agreement.