I'm really suprised that when I have to arbitrate the disputes and almost parties have not realized their position the meeting. Sometimes, the meeting becomes a caucus and that is the first thing they think of what they really want. Because a mediation is primarily an assisted negotiation, I found that my task is assisting people with figuring out what they want and how they can get in. Because I'm in a neutral side, I work with both parties, and it is most often carried out by raising questions that they should have asked themselves before we convoked.
Before any negotiation or bargaining, it is important to determine your position. It's important to note that positions are different from interests, and this article is not focusing on interests or interest based negotiations, but rather the position, or positions, you will present to the person you are negotiating with.
The first position you will want to determine is your greatest justified position. This is an opening position that is not in the insulting range, but is justifiable as to why you are starting there. It is the greatest amount you can request, and support why you are requesting the amount. It should be reasonable. If you are asking $500 over Blue Book for the car you are selling, you want to be able to support the amount. Maybe it is because it has extra low miles, brand new tires, or you put in a high quality stereo system with speakers. Whatever it is, you should think about your greatest position and what you have to support it.
You should also determine the minimum amount you are willing to accept. This will give you an acceptable range that you are willing to negotiate agreement. Concepts such as BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) and WATNA (Worst Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement), that I've written about elsewhere, are useful when determining your greatest and minimum positions.
If both parties have determined their high and low positions, and the ranges of the parties overlap, it is pretty certain that there will be a deal. However, if these ranges do not overlap, without added value, or creating an expanded pie, deadlock will most likely be the result. Notice that I said a change must occur with added value or expansion of the pie. If you both parties have truly determined their positions using BATNA and WATNA, there would be no reason to continuing the negotiations without overlap or added value. (Added value or expansion of the pie essentially increases a party's range so that overlap occurs) This is important because a person is not going to make a deal if they can get better elsewhere.
Agreement can be struck anywhere in the overlapping range, but the successful negotiator attempts to settle and reach agreement at the point most beneficial to themselves, and as long as it is in the zone of agreement, it is benefiting the other party too. But the only way to get there is to determine your positions and how you can justify them before the negotiations start.