Negotiation and Rules of Engagement

For a lot of people starting out in the IT world, their brilliant ideas can sometimes be short lived due to the lack of a crucial and well documented set of skills.

Get that paper baby!

Namely? Well negotiation and Rules of Engagement principles can be an essential tool in the making or breaking of your next money-making venture.

According to Thomas Noble;

“Most people simply don’t know how to negotiate, despite the fact that negotiating is a vital skill, we’re not taught about it in school and so since we’re not taught how to negotiate we just assume it cannot be taught.¬†The Master Negotiator is not someone who works miracles, who can hypnotize his or her opponents into doing things that they would not ordinarily do. The Master Negotiator’s skills are obvious and while he may not walk on water, he will consistently get the best deal possible under the circumstances. On occasion, perhaps even frequently, he will get remarkably good results.”


We can begin with a definition of the term ‘Rules of engagement’ as well as a small historical overview of the phrase’s genesis, which I feel is relevant if you wish to work on this crucial skill.

Rules of engagement can be defined as:

Practices followed or behavior displayed by the participants(players) in situations of opposing interests (conflicts) such as negotiations. Unwritten rules of engagement determine what information is given, at what time, to whom, and in what manner; and what concession is granted and what is demanded in return.

Historically, Rules of Engagement/ROE were used in military and police strategy during conflict scenarios. They were used to determine when, where, and how force would be used. Such rules were both general and specific, and there have been large variations between cultures throughout history. The rules may be made public, as in a martial law or curfew situation, but are typically only fully known to the force that intends to use them. The ROE should comply with the generally accepted martial law.

ROE Example

Negotiation on the other hand can be defined as; a discussion intended to produce an agreement.

The crucial joining of the principles of ROE and negotiation skills in order to create outcomes that are favorable to you and your business venture, is a business skill that is undoubtedly vital.

Merging the two principles, together with a pleasant and knowledgeable personality can make the key difference in pushing your projects and ideas forward to their tipping point.


Negotiating involves the following four steps, by merging it with principles of ROE, one is able to go forth prepared for anything and ready for everything.


This involves answering the following questions for yourself.

  • What do I want?
  • Where do I start?
  • When do I move?
  • How do I close?

Then turning around asking them same with regards to your target.

Research on setting goals discloses a simple but powerful fact: The more specific your vision of what you want and the more committed you are to that vision, the more likely you are to obtain it.

2. Information exchange

Remember, provide only the information that you need to provide, anything above that can work against you or bore the target with excess.

Noble goes on to add, “One of the cardinal rules of Power Negotiating is you should ask the other side for more than you expect to get. What you should be asking for is your MPP – your maximum plausible position.”

However, one should also be careful enough to listen to the other side keenly in order to gain subtle/explicit cues as to what they want to achieve and how this will help you in the long run.

3. Explicit bargaining

You’ve introduced your case, what is your justification? Why should it matter? Who cares and why should they? These are just some of the key issues that need to be addressed once you reach the bargaining phase. If you’ve put a figure on the table how can you justify it?

Once you’ve done this and listened to the other side, what concessions are you willing to make to meet in the middle?¬†Concessions allow the other party to feel relevant and shows them that you have some of their interests at heart. However,¬†remember where you started will determine where you wind up. Is it too high that you are dismissed or too low that people sneer at it?

4. Commitment

I cannot put it any better than the excerpt below:


“Any Method of Negotiation may be fairly judged by three criteria: It should produce a wise agreement. It should be efficient. And it should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties. (A wise agreement can be defined as one that meets the legitimate interests of each side to the extent possible, resolves the conflicting interests fairly, is durable, and takes community interests into account). … Arguing over positions produces unwise agreements. … As more attention is paid to positions, less attention is devoted to meeting the underlying concerns of the parties.”

Muthoni Maingi16 Posts

Muthoni is a Brand Strategist and Director at Deviate, a company that works with over 15 of the region's most forward thinking brands. She is passionate about growing SME's, Internet Technology and mentoring young women. She also owns and writes for Tamu Tamu and Bridal Kenya and is an active blogger on a wide range of topics such as business, food and technology and has written for CIO Kenya, Yummy News, Affrinovator and Kachwanya. Before starting her own company she was a Production Coordinator and TV Host for the NTV show Urban Hype, an Account Executive at Habari, and a Brand Strategist at Creative Edge.


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