|Don't ask to ask, just ask|
Depending on what is being discussed, a non-disclosure statement signed by all parties provides some protection both ways, and helps open up communications.
Project negotiation is a lot like comuniccation at home with teenagers. e.g.: Dinner is at 6:00.
Teenager hears the words, and thinks:run in, sit, eat, run out. - total time expected 12 minutes assuming some conversation is required.
Adult hears the words and thinks:What should we have? do we have the ingredients? (iterate first 2 questions as necessary - branch to store if need be). Will everyone eat at least one thing that will be on the table? (add item if you must). Account for preparation time and effort. Setting table. Sit down and eat. Get up, try to corral teenager and/or spouse before they bolt. Get dishes from table to kitchen. wash and dry dishes, put them away wipe down table, counters and appliances. Empty garbage if needed. Now run out. total time investment minimum:1.5 hours, maximum 5 hours
Why this confusion? Is it lack of communication? Sure, but how much does each side want to understand of the others needs? How much is each side willing to give to reach a balance?
I am a parent of both a difficult teen and a less difficult one as well as a programmer for both difficult clients and easier ones. Negotiation techniques are similar. Initial discussions are presented in relatively neutral terms, allowing the client/teen to express their perception of what is needed. Then state some constraints perhaps more stringent than necessary. Watch the response - reasonable resistance to the more extreme constraint, with acceptance of the reasonable constraints signals a reasonable customer/teen. Resistance/ pushing of all limits or total acceptance of all constraints indicates an unreasonable client/teen - either extreme indicates a disregard for your limits and may work the situation to their best benefit regardless of cost to others.
Once a reasonability factor is determined, basis for negotiation can be reached. Reasonable clients/teens can be dealt with in a more lenient manner, because you both are looking for a balanced solution.
Unreasonable Clients/teens must be dealt with in smaller more controlled bits. Each piece of the plan or work that is exposed must be paid for immediately, or the project halts until that given small piece is completed including payment. As you go along, they will want changes - stop the project, point or display the pieces already done, explaining the costs to change each of those pieces. If the change is agreed upon as needed. Go back to the beginning piece, make the change, get payment, halt project until payment is received. This is a herky-jerky way to have to control a project but it is the only way to keep from letting unreasonable demands erode the profitability of a project. People without regard for other people's value will begin to see the advantages of not being unreasonable because the costs are passed directly back to them, and are not absorbed by you for any length of time.
Advice is free.
Experience costs like a -----.
Listen to other's advice, learn from their experiences.