In this series, Bob Morris poses a key question and then responds to it with material from one or more of the business books he has reviewed for Amazon and Borders.
I think so. Granted, some negotiations are more important than others but all negotiations involve discussions between or among people who want to reach an agreement of some kind. Some negotiations are formal (e.g. a labor contract); others are informal (e.g. rescheduling a meeting). The eminent psychologist Carl Rogers once suggested that all negotiation issues be divided into three categories. First, identify those on which there is agreement and set them aside. Next, identify those on which concessions and compromises (e.g. trade-offs) can easily be determined. Resolve as many of those issues as possible, and then add those that remain to issues in the third group that are also unresolved, important, and probably more complicated. The focus of discussion should be on them resolving issues in dispute.
OK, but specifically how to do that? The most eminent authorities on formal negotiation (e.g. Dawson, Donaldson, Schell, Ury) suggest that all issues be prioritized in terms of most important, important, and less important. For the time being, set aside those less important and concentrate on important. Resolving them will usually make it easier to resolve the other issues.
The experts on formal negotiation agree on these general guidelines:
1. Know exactly what you want…and why. Have a ”drop dead” (i.e. walk-away) point pre-determined.
2. Recognize where your position is weakest and be prepared to defend it there, if and when attacked. Also know where the vulnerabilities are in the opponent’s position.
3. When an opponent expresses a strong opinion, listen intently and without interruption. Then respond, “If I understand correctly you…” and repeat the opponent’s opinion, position, etc. This will reassure an opponent (or opponents) that you hear what is said and understand it. That does NOT mean that you agree with it.
4. Use silence strategically while maintaining eye contact. There are moments when the less said, the better, and that includes body language and tone of voice.
5. The most successful negotiations produce “Win-Win” agreements.
Also, in my opinion, every executive ought to obtain, read, keep near at hand, and frequently consult Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. I know of no other single source that offers better advice on how to develop persuasion skills.
Comments, questions, requests, or suggestions? Please share them. They will be most welcome and I thank you for them. Best regards, Bob