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Must we meet in the middle for a successful negotiation?

Must we meet in the middle for a successful negotiation?

Must we meet in the middle for a successful negotiation? 不要为了和解而牺牲一半的利益

Settlement usually requires parties to compromise in the sense of moving towards the other party and away from his initial position. However it is not necessary that parties only compromise on the amount to be paid, and it is not necessary that parties must meet in the middle of their initial positions.

For example, lets say A and B want to divide an orange. The normal meeting-in-the-middle approach means that each person gets half an orange because it is "fair". But that assumes that both parties want both the skin and the pulp of the orange - what if A wanted only the peel to make marmalade, and what if B only wanted the pulp to make juice? By splitting the difference, A and B got less than what was optimal for themselves,.

In order to avoid the loss of benefit from a simple splitting approach, it is important for parties to be able to explain their motivations to each other. That's why mediation and private negotiations are more likely to produce settlements, because simple letters of offer rarely explain the underlying rationale for offering certain terms. In order to maximise your gain, you need to create the opportunity to move the conversation away from a simple sliding scale or spectrum.

Here is a case in point:
  1. A client who provided warehousing services had a customer who suddenly vacated the premises without paying the bills for the last 6 months.
  2. After an aborted attempt to stop the proceedings, the customer simply offered a flat figure to settle the dispute. This offer was less than a third of the amount which we had claimed on our client's behalf.
  3. The client was obviously not happy, and simply instructed me to counter-offer to have the full amount paid in several instalments.
  4. Surprisingly, the customer's reply was that if client was not willing to accept a lower amount, then it was not a real compromise. However, the customer was willing to pay for one particular type of service rendered.

From the exchange, I could see that instead of bargaining on the total amount, starting the discussion with the types of services that the customers would be willing to pay for would be more effective in obtaining the settlement. If the customer showed resistance towards paying for certain types of services, we could then address the specific objections.

In the end, we managed to obtain a mediated settlement for about 80% of the claimed amount (even after setting off the customer's counterclaim). Indeed, there were specific objections such as not knowing how much the client had sub-contracted and paid third parties for certain services, but being willing to pay client on a reimbursement basis, so we provided additional documents to prove client's expenses (and ironically the customer got worn out examining those documents!), which lead to the customer conceding certain categories, and offering a higher global amount on the rest. Best of all, client saved 5-digits in further legal fees to bring the dispute to trial, exceeding the 20% and costs incurred which client appeared to have given up as part of settlement.

So when someone appears to be lowballing or meeting in the middle of brackets, resist the temptation to get upset at an unbalancing attempt. Keeping the conversation going, by asking clarifying questions or making counter-offers, creates the opportunity to better understand what is up for negotiation, and a way out of the rut of splitting the price difference.

Receiving unproductive or insincere offers to settle? Contact me at boongan@lawfirm.com.sg or message me on LinkedIn (Boon Gan Ng) to find out how to obtain a better settlement.

在和解的过程,双方通常必须让步,不能坚持原本的立场。但是,让步不一定限制于赔偿金的数额,也不一定要在双方立场的中间达成协议。

举个例子:甲、乙决定分割一粒橘子。如果双方以“同等”的原则而选择一人一半,双方会获得同样分量的果肉、果皮。但甲、乙两人要橘子的原因不一定相同:如果甲需要橘子皮制造果酱,而乙希望利用果肉榨汁,那么甲、乙在这一人一半的协议下无法充分地满足各自的需求。

为了避免类似的失利,双方在谈判、和解时应当透露自己的利益与推动力,才能达到满足双方的协议。简单的来信经常无法完全表达一方的思路,所以必须通过谈话了解对方,才能打破僵局。

举个亲身体验的例子:
  1. 一位提供货舱服务的当事人有一位客户,不但欠了六个月费用,还突然隔夜把货舱掏空,于是起诉了客户。
  2. 客户尝试终止诉讼不成功,过后建议以赔偿和解纠纷,但赔偿金不到当事人要求的三分之一。
  3. 当事人自然不满意,指示我回复建议客户以分期付款的形式还清全数。
  4. 客户回信,当事人应当接收较低的数目,才体现让步的精神。但是,客户愿意完全付清一项的服务费。

这样来回,显示与其以总数目讨价还价,不如以服务的分类与个别价格作为和解的启发点。如果客户对某些分类发出异见,当事人就可以针对该事项进行商谈。

最终,双方和解协议造成客户赔偿当事人所要求的百分之八十左右,尽管客户对当事人讨其他方面的赔偿。在和解过程当中,客户要求当事人透露哪些事项经过承包,当事人的承包费多少,作为赔偿的根据。料不到,当当事人提供有关证据时,客户拒绝仔细过目,并提高赔偿数目。虽然当事人牺牲了一部分的收据,但省了五位数的法律费用,也迅速地解决此纠纷。

当对方的建议显得缺乏诚信,不用生气,以免中对方的套圈。如果能保持耐心,掘出对方愿意商谈的事项,就能逃出中点分割的结局。

无法通过来信解决纠纷?不如以电邮(boongan@lawfirm.com.sg)或 LinkedIn (Boon Gan Ng) 联系我,寻求有效的和解方案。

Need Help With A Legal Dispute? 需要关于解决纠纷的法律咨询?

If you have any questions relating to business dispute prevention or how to settle a business dispute in Singapore, feel free to email or drop me a LinkedIn message. I will do my best to respond within 24 hours.

Or leave a message here (your personal particulars will not be shared with third parties without your permission).

若有关于商业纠纷防范、和解方案的疑问,可通过电邮或LinkedIn联系。我会尽量在24小时之内回复。

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Need Help With A Legal Dispute? 需要关于解决纠纷的法律咨询?