Overcoming Negotiation "Dealbreakers": K&R’s MID Chart of Goals™

How often have you encountered a “must have,” a “need” or a “dealbreaker” in a negotiation? People on both sides of the table can be unnecessarily painted into a corner when these supposed “non-starter” positions are expressed.

But in reality, there are very few dealbreakers in negotiations. More often than not, the true problem is that people in negotiations have trouble breaking down the issues and organizing them in matter of importance. Either as partners in the negotiation process or during our negotiating seminars, we help our clients break down each issue on the table so they can identify and separate means (how we’ll get there) and ends (the desired destination). Once ends and means are untangled, it is amazing how many seemingly intractable issues are suddenly neutralized.

People speak naturally in terms of means. “Can I have a glass of water?” is more expedient than saying “I am thirsty and want to relieve my thirst. What do you have to drink?” However, there’s a downside to this; the former way of stating the request already assumes your preferred solution: water. However, if they know that you are thirsty, they may have all kinds of beverages that can satisfy your thirst. Separating the means from the ends is crucial to understanding what people really want and need. You can then identify creative ways to satisfy their needs. That’s why the K&R MID™ Chart of Goals is crucial to our negotiator training.


Separating and Understanding Means and Ends: Mandatory, Important and Desirable (MID)

  • Mandatory requests should be the true goals (or ends) that must be achieved by either side for the deal to work. These are true dealbreakers.
  • Important requests are goals or favored means that matter a great deal to one side, but will not necessarily determine the fate of the deal.
  • Desirable requests are the lowest priority items. While important and mandatory items take clear precedence, these “desirables” can still be traded off for something of greater importance.

While we are simplifying the nuances of the MID Chart for purposes of this post, the purpose is to break down all the requests and stated positions on both sides of the table so that you can:

  • Methodically separate means from ends
  • Arrange negotiating issues in order of importance
  • Move conflicts over means out of the Mandatory column and into the Important or Desirable column, since means are rarely mandatory
  • Understand where tradeoff opportunities exist

Not all deals can be made – or should be made. MID analysis forces you to determine what problem you are really trying to solve. This is especially important when you are facing a conflict over goals that appears unsolvable. MID analysis can light the way forward or help you determine when to cut your losses and move on.