June 11, 2019
To have a mutually beneficial negotiation, you can't force your way. Just like with a running river, no matter how hard to try it won't change it's course because you will it.
You must first accept the situation and align your intentions with those of the person on the other side of the table. Only once you are both calm and see the problem from the same perspective can you start flowing together.
Be like a martial artist and redirect the energy that is thrown your way. Your job isn't to prove the other person wrong. That would only serve to anger them and make them dig their feet in.
Help them to find your solution. Better yet, provide them with the energy to find a solution that's better than what you could have come up with on your own.
The best thing you can do to foster a smooth negotiation is prepare. Take time to review the facts, come up with options for both sides, and determine your best alternative case scenario. Then you will go into a negotiation ready for the different forks it could take.
It's good to be prepared, but no amount of preparation can anticipate all the reactions of others. They might anger you with a personal attack. They may stone wall you by saying a company policy doesn't allow them to budge. They may even go as far as lying and providing bad information. These are all the things you can't anticipate and you have no control over.
When these situation come up, the only thing you can control is your reaction. Before you act on any unexpected situation take some time. A simple pause can go a long way toward moving a discussion towards more comfortable grounds. If you get heated enough, you can even step away. With either technique, you gain room to think and make the other person responsible for responding.
Don't let snap judgments lock you into a decision you will regret.
Once you have your emotions under control, it's time to help the other person get control of theirs. This requires you to take the time to listen. Try to really understand where they are coming from.
If you find even 1% that you agree on, you should acknowledge it. Cling on to the smallest shred of agreement so you have a starting point that you can build upon. Even restating what they said and getting them to acknowledge that you understand might be enough.
After fully hearing them out and understaing where they are coming from, you can start stating explaining your point. However, you must do it carefully. Keep the other persons experience and perspective in mind. Under no means should you invalidate their views. Add to their view, and avoid the toxic "but". Instead of pointing out what they did, only state your experiences and how situations made you feel. Then you can both build a better understanding of the other's position.
Budding heads and arguing only leads to nobody being happy with a result of a negotiation. The secret to coming up with an agreement that makes everyone happy is re-framing the problem.
No matter how the other side approaches the negotiation, you should always try to re-frame their statement into an open ended question that leads towards a joint problem solving effort. This requires questions that can't be answered with a simple yes or no. You must ask a "how", "why", "who", or "what" question. These questions make the other side think because they can't have canned answers. Starting them on a path of thinking about the problem, instead of going by their play book, opens up the possibility of solutions.
Asking for advice after an attack can completely diffuse the attack and bring the discussion back to the problem. Asking to double down on the problem in face of stone wall can move the discussion forward despite and ultimatum. Asking for open ended clarifications can show a trick while giving the other side a graceful exit.
Don't let the actions of others take your eye off the problem. If you must, explain to them that you are trying to increase the size of the pie so everyone gets a share they would be happy with. Make sure they know that you have as much interest in them being happy as you do in making yourself happy. Cooperation will only blossom is both of you see the path to a solution as join problem solving.
You can't reach an agreement simply by making the other side see your point. There are many human factors that need to be considered.
The other side may feel like their needs aren't heard if they aren't involved in the problem solving process. It's up to you to involve them early and keep them engaged throughout the solutioning process. When they feel involved, they advocate for the solution because it become their solution too.
They may also be worried about looking weak, or backing down from a position they publicized. In this case, you need to come up with a concession on your side that doesn't cost you a lot but has a lot of value for the other side. It could even be something you were already planing on doing, just cast in a new light.
No matter where their reservations come from, it's your job to stay with them through process. Take your time together to ensure the agreement is clear and mutually beneficial. The happier both sides are, the stronger their agreement becomes. Build a relationship to last. Don't try to pad your ego today by causing repercussions tomorrow.
You might have met all the other sides needs, gave them more than they originally wanted, and made it easy for them to go back on the points they had to compromise on. However, you still can't get final yes.
They might still have a point of pride, or believe that you have to lose in order for them to win. That's when you have to show your power.
But don't threaten or intimidate. That will only undo all the work you put in up to this point. Instead, use your power to educate. Separate yourself from the outcome and warn them about the outcome if an agreement isn't reached.
After laying out the path without an agreement, let them know that the golden bridge you built is still open. Then allow them to choose. This will make the final decision their choice and not something imposed by you. Letting the other side make the final decision is the best method for letting everyone leave the negotiation satisfied.
Copyright © Artem Chernyak 2020