Negotiating seems to bring out the best and the worst in people. Unless you create a
win-win negotiating situation, everyone loses eventually. If you win and your customer
loses, you will lose that customer. If your customer wins and you lose, you can go out of
business. Win-win is the only way! So what are the niceties in the nuances of negotiating?
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and answers.
- So much of the way people behave in negotiations causes
anger, bitterness, hostility, antagonism. What are some of the behaviors that undermine
people when they negotiate?
The most common ploy is to overpower or intimidate the opposition through a variety of
dirty tricks. But that leaves one side feeling used and abused, and as you said hostile,
bitter, and angry. The other behavior that undermines the negotiating process is to focus
on the relationship, to try to be nice and liked. While the likeability factor can play a
role, giving you a better chance of achieving your goals if the opposing side likes you,
you shouldn't let that get in the way of the negotiating process. Minding one's manners is
not synonymous with playing doormat and having people walk all over you. You can be strong
and still be courteous.
- What are some of the tactics used to intimidate?
The opposition makes negative comments about your appearance to rattle you. They keep
you waiting, or they interrupt the negotiations to take calls while you twiddle your
thumbs and get yourself all worked up. They don't listen - or at least make a pretense of
not listening - and make you repeat everything to throw you off. They deliberately refuse
to make eye contact. They play good cop/bad cop just like on TV shows like NYPD Blue
or Homicide. They browbeat, denigrate and insult the opposing side and tell them
that their opinions are all wrong. And finally, they make threats.
- How do you handle people who pull these tactics on you?
Anybody who pulls these cheap tricks must realize that by attacking the other side and
putting them on the defensive, they risk damaging the relationship, possibly permanently.
If you are on the receiving end of these behaviors, keep your emotions in check. Easier
said than done, but the other side is trying to make you lose your cool, and you'll play
right into their hands. Don't counterattack. Acknowledge their behavior to defuse
confrontation and to help prevent a recurrence. Or, deflect the attack. Remember, you are
in control of your emotions, not the other person.
- Well, let's look at specifics. How would you handle
derogatory comments on your appearance?
While we should always separate the people from the issues, a quick comment about the
rough night you must have had last night can be just enough to throw you off. So, smile
sweetly, and inform the critic that your appearance has never before interfered with your
skills as a negotiator, so let's start negotiating.
- What about being kept waiting?
Issues of time are a major source of offense in our culture. Keeping people waiting is
a petty power play that usually insults the one kept waiting. I would call them on it by
suggesting rescheduling for another day when they have time to devote to the negotiating
table. Ditto for people who purposely don't listen. A comment like, "You're obviously
very distracted today, and I wouldn't want to take advantage of your inattention. Let's
reschedule." usually has them blustering that there is no problem really.
- And that good guy/bad guy routine?
"There seems to be some disagreement between you. Perhaps the two of you need a
few minutes to sort out your objectives here today. Why don't we break for 15 minutes
while you work it out?"
- But threats aren't that easy to ignore...
No they're not, and they're usually the sign of an inexperienced or a bad negotiator.
Threats can be handled in a variety of ways, depending on the situation and your feelings
about the threat. You can ignore it, call the bluff, make it difficult for them, propose
to take it to the press. It's hard to be specific.
- What are some of the ways to facilitate negotiations?
Respect time by being punctual and prepared. Work on your communication skills. Ask
open-ended questions rather than issue pronouncements. Be careful of the word
"why", though, because it can be perceived as accusatory. Invite discussion, and
be open to correction and persuasion. "Please correct me if I'm wrong ..." or
"Help me to understand..." are much more likely to spur the negotiating process
and give you valuable information than some pronouncement from your position platform.
Analyze and improve upon ideas from the opposition's point of view. Ask their advice.
in doubt, use silence. It makes most people very uncomfortable. Just remember, he who
speaks first loses.
- You mentioned "our culture", is negotiating in
other cultures much different?
It most certainly is. Each culture has its own set of principles and values that
determine how people think and behave. There is no generic international model, so there
is a greater potential for misunderstanding because your opponent views the world differently.
You heap issues on top of the issues on the table.
- In which way?
First of all, there is time again. Not only must you allow a great deal more time for
the entire process, but you must also deal with differing cultural time perspectives.
The opposing sides views on status, dignity, and protocol must also be factored in to
the equation. Then there is the issue of language. You will need to explain a great deal
more, and you will probably also have to work with an interpreter. You must be very
careful of your choice of words, avoiding slang, jokes, and technical expressions...all of
which can cramp your usual style. You must also be aware of cultural prejudices and
stereotypes that the other side may hold. Remember, their values are different from yours.
And, on top of all that, you probably have to apply these differing behaviors to an
entire negotiating team rather than an individual negotiator. Other cultures can be much
more team-oriented than Americans with their strong sense of individuality.
- Any comments or suggestions in closing?
Always leave on a positive note to maintain a working relationship for the future.
Negotiations should maintain, if not improve, the relationship.