Negotiation Skills Company, Inc.
Negotiation Skills Company, Inc.

The Negotiation Skills Company -- Newsletter September 2005

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The occasional newsletter of
The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc. (TNSC)

Number 33, September 2005

The occasional newsletter of The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc. (TNSC)

Note: This newsletter is longer than usual - but it deals with a challenging common problem.


As many of our readers know, the major portion of our website is devoted to requests for Advice. We have received questions from all over the world about an incredible variety of topics: workplace issues, cross-cultural challenges, and many aspects of the process of negotiation. To our dismay, a tremendous number of queries have come in about relations among neighbors - and these questions almost invariably describe extremely unpleasant circumstances, what one of our correspondents has called 'Neighbors From Hell'.

People express discomfort and feelings of reluctance to negotiate with neighbors to attempt to resolve both minor and major issues. When faced with emotionally-charged situations - even merely the challenge of telling someone you are troubled by a habit or action of theirs, it is crucial to look in the mirror and remind yourself that you are not unworthy, that both you and the issues that concern you deserve to be taken seriously. Reluctance to negotiate guarantees a no-win result for you. Undertaking the process opens the possibility your interests will be served.

    Look In The Mirror And Assess Yourself
  • No one is more entitled than you are to pursue important interests. But it is crucial not to treat other parties as if they are less entitled than you to pursue their interests.
  • Once you recognize that your interests are worth pursuing, if you do a good job of preparing and considering the alternatives, you should feel confident about undertaking negotiation.
Unfortunately, many people fail to prepare for negotiating with their neighbors (or friends, family members, or colleagues) until a problem has arisen. One should think of dealing with conflict as follows:
  • Good: undertake an effective approach to conflict resolution
  • Better: develop and implement wise mechanisms for conflict management
  • Best: plan ahead and focus efforts on conflict prevention
Know What You're Getting Into -- Ask Questions

Before you move into a neighborhood, whether you're moving into an apartment or a single-family house, do some good research about what you can expect regarding the community. Professional real estate salespeople generally can tell prospective buyers (or renters) about local taxes, the quality of schools, what kinds of shopping and transportation are accessible from the property, the location of places of worship, and other similar issues.

It is important to investigate more deeply. If you know people in the area, you should do your best to have them tell you about neighborhood feuds and bullies, noise issues, how well people maintain their houses, the availability of services (ranging from emergency response time to where to find a good landscaper), issues of privacy, and the relative 'neighborliness' of local residents.

If you don't have personal acquaintances in an area into which you are considering moving, try to find sources of the kind of information you want. For example, if you belong to a religious denomination, find a local member of the clergy who's prepared to level with you. Go to a local library and read several months' worth of the police blotter in the local newspaper to see whether there have been frequent complaints about noise, litter, or other problems.

In my personal experience, asking those sorts of questions has helped people I know choose where to live - and where not to go.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors - Understand And Respect Boundaries

When the American poet Robert Frost wrote about good fences, he hit on a crucial point of living in a neighborhood. People need to understand and agree on both physical and psychological boundaries. If you play loud music late at night, it is your obligation to take every possible step to contain the noise within your walls. While good neighbors may feel free to exchange visits with one another, arriving unannounced can be construed as an invasion of someone's turf.

If you are buying property - and even if you are renting - it is a wise idea to have the property surveyed and marked before you finalize your decision to buy or rent. Once the surveyor's markers are visible to neighbors, wait a short time to see who complains - and how they behave. That could give you early warnings of potential problems.

Do your best to understand the rules that govern boundaries in your neighborhood; these include governmental regulations, easements, restrictive covenants, and private agreements among neighbors. Find out what may constitute a nuisance under the law or other local rules so that you know what you - and your neighbors - are free to do or barred from doing.

BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) and WATNA (Worst Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement)

When you are considering whether and how to negotiate with neighbors, always think ahead - 'What results will make this negotiation worthwhile? What's the worst that can happen?' Figure out ahead of time what might happen during negotiation that should trigger your decision to walk away from the process. Get a sense of the balance of power among the parties. BATNA and WATNA are two acronyms negotiators use to consider such issues.

If you have neighbors who are essentially barbarians, if you have no allies, if the police refuse to get involved when there's a dispute involving neighbors, it may well be that moving away is the best way out of the situation. Of course if you had done the suggested research before moving in, you might have been able to avoid the problems.

Be Prepared

Before you negotiate with a neighbor your have to prepare yourself with information, the consideration of strategies and tactics, an understanding of your BATNA and WATNA - and by reminding yourself that you are entitled to pursue your interests.

In too many cases this may not provide a perfect solution - but if you recognize what's in your best interest, you are more likely to negotiate wisely and effectively.


You might want to take a look at the staff list on our website to meet several new additions to our team of Senior Trainers. In addition, we're proud to note that Senior Trainer Peter Isaac has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a significant honour in the UK.

TNSC is adding a new course to our offerings: Tactical Choices for Strategic Influencing provides an analytical framework for choosing influencing tactics as an element of the negotiation process.

Closing thought

"You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try."
-- Beverly Sills

Good luck with your negotiations,

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