Lately I’ve been thinking about the art of negotiation.
As I watch leaders posture and politicize, it seems like common sense would dictate that they should be seeking positive and workable solutions for all involved instead of insulting, insinuating, polarizing and name calling.
Watching this apparent lack of negotiation skills reminds me of an Executive Education course I participated in a few years ago at the University of Washington on negotiation skills. (Gerald W. Cormick – The CSE Group)
Two interesting things I remember about the course:
- The gentleman who came up with those little upward tips on the end of jet wings – he was a classmate.
- The group was filled with seasoned professionals who were extremely competitive!
Two important points:
- Negotiation is not about “winning” it is about agreeing or building a consensus.
- Any type of verbal behavior that antagonizes without persuasive effect is unlikely to be productive
I remember one of our first exercises. We were split into teams of five and assigned another team to “negotiate” with about a somewhat controversial environmental issue. It was almost comical how we whispered, discussed strategies and tried to figure out how we were going to covertly obtain information that would enable us to beat our opponents and gain the upper hand. (We had it all wrong!)
After all of this, we were then instructed that to be effective negotiators we needed to learn how to find common ground among opposing positions, we should be building consensus from a foundation of respect, and most importantly listening, learning and welcoming different perspectives without feeling threatened.
Here are key points for building strong working relationships:
- Rationality – Even if the other side acts emotional, be rational.
- Understanding – Even if they misunderstand us, try to understand them.
- Communication – Even if they are not listening, consult them before deciding on matters that affect them.
- Reliability – Even if they are trying to deceive us, be honest and trustworthy.
- Persuasion – Even if they are trying to coerce us, be open to persuasion and try to persuade them without being heavily contentious.
- Acceptance – Even if they reject our concerns as unworthy of consideration, care about them and be open to learning from them.
The main point, success in negotiation is all about reaching an agreement that all parties are committed to honoring. The purpose is not to “defeat” or “do better than” the other side (something our group really needed to work on). Nor is it to achieve your own goals or your own self interests at the expense of the other party.
Amazingly, many times you will achieve greater success in meeting your goals by ensuring that the other party is successful in achieving their goals… What a concept!
By the end of the course (and after several hours of evaluating our responses and results) something interesting happened. Every one of us had a totally different perspective on the art of a successful negotiation.
Think about how you enter into negotiations. Evaluate your reactions to opposing views and earn to step back and seek a “win-win” outcome for all involved.