Harvard Model of Negotiation: 4 Principles for Successful Cooperation

Negotiation is an essential part of our personal and professional lives. Understanding the principles that underlie successful negotiation can make a significant difference in the outcomes we achieve. In this article, we will delve into the Harvard Model of Negotiation, a framework that is based on four key principles. These principles guide negotiators in achieving successful cooperation and finding win-win solutions. Let’s explore each of these principles in detail.

The Harvard University Building

Principle 1: Separate the Person from the Issue

The first principle of the Harvard Model of Negotiation emphasizes the importance of separating the person from the issue. In essence, this principle encourages negotiators to keep the relationship separate from the matter at hand. When you negotiate, it’s essential to remember that the other party is not your enemy but your partner.

Imagine negotiating with someone you like and find sympathetic. In such cases, there may be a tendency to accommodate the other person’s interests, leading to a “lose-win” situation. On the contrary, if you strongly dislike the other party, it might lead to a “win-lose” approach.

The Harvard approach suggests that for successful cooperation, it is crucial to maintain a friendly and understanding stance toward the other party, regardless of your personal feelings. By doing so, you improve your chances of getting what you want, as the other party becomes your partner in the negotiation.

Principle 2: Focus on Interests, Not Positions

The second principle highlights the significance of focusing on interests rather than positions during negotiations. Instead of fixating on your initial stance, it’s more productive to explore the underlying interests of all parties involved.

Consider a scenario where multiple parties desire a limited resource, such as a single pumpkin. Position-focused negotiation would result in a deadlock, as everyone is holding onto their stance. However, by shifting the focus to the interests behind those positions, a win-win solution can be found. For instance, one party wants the pumpkin for a Halloween mask, another for soup, and the third for seeds. By addressing these underlying interests, a solution can be reached that satisfies all parties.

Principle 3: Set Criteria for Solutions

The third principle advocates for the establishment of criteria that solutions must meet. Negotiators should create a set of conditions that a good solution should fulfill. By doing so, you open up a world of possibilities and options, as there are often multiple ways to meet these criteria.

Imagine you want to invite someone to a restaurant. Instead of insisting on a specific restaurant, ask the other person about their criteria for a good dining experience. They might mention preferences for a small menu, specific lighting, hygiene standards, and more. This approach allows for a variety of restaurant choices that meet the specified criteria, ensuring a win-win situation.

Principle 4: Develop Multiple Options

The fourth principle recommends generating multiple options before making a decision. Instead of fixating on a single solution, negotiators should create two or more potential solutions. By having a range of options, you can evaluate them against the criteria set in the third principle.

This multi-option approach ensures that the final solution is not just the “best” one but one that aligns with the criteria and preferences of both parties. It also gives a sense of choice to the parties involved, making the solution more sustainable.


In the world of negotiation, the Harvard Model provides a solid foundation for achieving successful cooperation and finding win-win solutions. By separating the person from the issue, focusing on interests, setting criteria for solutions, and developing multiple options, negotiators can navigate through complex discussions effectively. These principles encourage collaboration and creativity, making it possible to achieve outcomes that benefit all parties involved. In our next chapter, we will explore how to apply these principles to resolve conflicts effectively and efficiently.