Don’t Make the Other Side into Fools
Mike Hourigan, your Negotiation Skills Speaker
In my specialty as a negotiation skills speaker and negotiation expert, I have learned that the key to an effective negotiation is not to “win” but to reach a mutually beneficial compromise.
To that end, when I teach negotiation skills in my keynote speeches or negotiation skills breakout sessions, class participants are frequently surprised when I stress the importance of making the other side feel as though they got a fair deal.
Is This Heresy?
We are often led to believe that negotiation skills include anger, bluster, badgering, demeaning and dominating, in a win-at-all-costs proposition. Unless we are negotiating for a used clunker of a car, where we will never see the sales person again, we can try to force such a deal. In virtually all other situations it won’t work. When we try to bully the other side into making a hasty decision it can come back to haunt us. This is especially true if the relationship is desired to be long-term.
Indeed, many first-time negotiators enter a negotiation feeling apprehensive or anxietal. It most often comes out as anger.
About five years ago, Harvard University business school professor Alison Wood Brooks wrote an excellent piece for the Harvard Business Review on emotions and negotiation. She made an excellent point of the interplay of “feelings” and negotiating outcome:
“Bringing anger to a negotiation is like throwing a bomb into the process. Over the past decade, researchers have begun examining how specific emotions—anger, sadness, disappointment, anxiety, envy, excitement, and regret—can affect the behavior of negotiators…what happens when they also express them to the other party through words or actions.”
As a negotiation skills speaker and negotiation skills trainer, I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Wood-Brooks. Emotion, emotional swings, even joy and happiness can ruin a negotiation.
While it is pretty much a certainty that you will be unable to meditate or do yoga in the middle of a negotiation, as an expert in negotiation skills I recommend a number of steps to help you to avoid worry and emotional outbursts.
- Practice. Start in front of a mirror, then role play with team members, family and friends. Remember that everyone gets nervous.
- Stand your ground. Let me explain. Standing ground doesn’t mean anger. It means having endurance and perseverance in a negotiation. Don’t get nervous and want to run away from the table. You belong there. Research shows that hasty negotiations lead to dissatisfaction.
- Avoid anxiety. You can’t help being nervous so surround yourself with people who give you confidence. At all cost avoid negative people.
- Be watchful and thoughtful. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t make huge promises that can’t be delivered.
- Ask for help. If the negotiation is way beyond your means, ask for help. If you bring in a lawyer or expert, please inform the other party.
- Be kind, not angry. Anger doesn’t make you stronger, it makes you weaker.
- Read the other team. Observe what they say, how they say it, and if something troubles them or they are “faking it”.
- They are human, like you. Use empathy, humor and sense their fear as well. You want to ease that fear, not inflame it.
- Anger is a strange weapon. As Dr. Wood-Brooks reminds us, “Showing anger in a negotiation damages the long-term relationship between the parties. It reduces liking and trust.” It is OK to apologize if something in the negotiation offends the other party. Always look to calm ruffled feathers.
- Take a time out. If things get heated, recommend a break to re-group.
- Embrace disappointment. If something is making you disappointed, express it.
- Over doesn’t mean over. If the negotiation leaves you and/or the other party feeling dissatisfied, it is perfectly acceptable to say “let’s see what we may be able to do to improve it a bit.”
- Never gloat. Be calm, be happy but be aware the other side had a lot riding on this as well. You didn’t “win” and hopefully, they didn’t “lose.”
In the end, always strive to be caring. You may never know when a future opportunity could result in the possibility of joining the other team. If you have treated others with respect and dignity, in turn they will remember how you made them feel.
To book Mike Hourigan, negotiation skills speaker, for a virtual or in-person presentation to your organization, contact Mike today at (704) 875-3030 or fill out the form below.