Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Negotiating isn't Fighting

Scott says…

Negotiating isn’t fighting. I really don’t like negotiating books and trainers that use the term adversary, opponent or even combatant as I read in one book recently. Many will even use military terms like battle, war and “shooting the other guy.” While the person or team on the other side of the table might be hostile, looking at the negotiation as a fight for “my needs” or as a battle is an equation for losing. You may win today, but you almost always loose in the long run.

I prefer Gerard I. Nierenberg’s style of looking at a negotiation as a collaboration. You can order his book The Art Of Negation in our bookstore. He says it is two parties trying to satisfy their needs in a way that benefits both parties. Once a negotiation turns adversarial emotions become involved and things get out of control. Should you feel that things have become adversarial, stop and try to understand why the other party is upset and why you are upset. Put yourself in their shoes and think how they would feel in the situation. Then try to correct it.

My favorite way to get things to simmer down is taking a break. I’ll make an excuse to leave the room and will go get a drink of water or pretend to talk on the phone. This gives me time to reflect on the discussions and to think about the other party. When I’ve collected my emotions I’ll go back to the table, often with my purpose and objectives clearly put back in my mind.

Many times I find that the other party is not frustrated with what is going on during the negotiation, but at something entirely unrelated. I had one negotiation get so out of control that both sides were calling each other names. We took a break and when I was walking out of the room the other team leader blew his nose and took a pill. I asked him if he had a cold and he said he should be in bed and that he’s had the flu for several days. I postponed the negotiation for a week and when he felt better, we closed the deal.

Don’t fight ‘em, delight ‘em. Be alert to anger and frustration as the break you take can save you money.


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