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BALANCE | BARRIERS | IDENTIFYING BARRIERS | BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATIONS | CREATED BARRIERS | OVERCOMING BARRIERS | CORPORATE BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATIONS | BARTERING | BLAME | BLUFFING | BOTTOM LINE | BRACKETING | BRAINSTORMING | BREVITY | BULLY

BALANCE/EQUILIBRIUM

Running from a leopard and encountering a ravine with a rope bridge your balance will tested; or you will be tasted!

Keeping balance is essential as a mediator. Each side will pull at him to get their points made and make the other side listen. The mediator, by definition, must remain impartial.

But when one person or side is openly arrogant and unreasonable, in break out sessions mediators will press this party to rethink what he is doing. The mediator will stress that the alternative is to have a judge hand down a decision that is binding. During the mediation, the parties have the chance to impact the outcome. In court they lose this luxury.

In a negotiation is one person is acting unreasonably, you have the opportunity to play mediator and explain to the other person thathe has two choices. He can become reasonable and deal with you as a professional, or he can negotiate against himself. That is, you will walk and he will have to find someone else to lease his property to or who want to buy his product. This is a bluff unless you know he needs you. If this is the case, you must manage his attitude to bring balance to the negotiation Knowing this is part of adequate preparation.

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BARRIERS

When a bear roars, he is not listening.

Barriers are those obstacles that stand in the way of a successful negotiation. Better put, barriers are obstacles to effective communications.

In order to have an effective discussion, the people party to the discussion have to be able to hear, be heard and understand each other. They do not need to agree, only to understand. Agreement may come later.

Barriers can be real, created, or perceived. Most stem from simple communications issues between the parties. Barriers can be verbal and non-verbal. But no matter the cause of the barriers, they need to be overcome to allow effective communications which facilitate good negotiations.

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IDENTIFYING BARRIERS

A deep, fast moving river between you and a hungry lion with cubs to feed is an effective barrier. A locked cage with strong bars would be even better.

To be effective, communicators must look for and remove barriers that block their message from being heard and understood. All negotiators must be, by definition, skilled communicators. That means they must listen as well as speak clearly. But there is more.

When negotiating with another person, it is important to observe how they are reacting to what you are saying to make sure they are listening and are understanding the message. A good way to do this is to watch the listener's eyes. If they stay focused on your eyes, that usually means they are intently listening. If however, the wander or disconnect, it usually means that their mind is racing ahead to formulate what they are going to say, that they are not believing what you are saying, or that they are thinking about the hot date they have that evening. In any event, you need to regain their attention.

A very effective way to do this is to simply stop speaking until they realize that you are no longer speaking. Then resume as though nothing has happened. Or, depending on the situation, you may actually want to call their attention to the fact that they weren't listening and ask them why. While this second tactic may seem rude, it can often uncover the reason for the barrier that can then be removed. For example, I recall a situation where the other person replied, "I'm really sorry, my daughter is very sick and I'm distracted." To this I said that I was sorry to hear about her daughter and we put off further discussions until the personal problem was resolved. In understanding her personally need, we dealt with each other as real people. This helped us to overcome some of the tougher issues we were facing as we had built up a level of trust and respect. The point is that unless communications are being heard, they should be forestalled until the other person is ready or capable of hearing what you have to say.

Barriers exist. They can be intangible or tangible, real or imagined. They come in all shapes, colors and sizes. They are caused by many things. A few of the most common are listed below.

* Language Differences

* Cultural Differences

* Physical Impediments

* Personal Problems

* Preconceived Notions

* Insecurity

* Your Reputation

* Exhaustion

The mere act of acknowledging barriers to communications can give you the opportunity to work together to start to agree on how to resolve the barriers. Then it will be easier to discuss and resolve the real issues

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BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATIONS

A deep, fast moving river between you and a hungry lion with cubs to feed is an effective barrier. A locked cage with strong bars would be even better.

Communications can be blocked by many things ranging from poor equipment to inept speakers. But the most effective barriers are the internalized psychological barriers that keep people from hearing what is being said.

People hear what they expect to hear. That is, they filter what they hear to meet their expectations. These filters are created by their past experiences, how they were raised, their education, and their needs. The filters are not fact based! They are based on personal perceptions.

When making a presentation to a group of people, you must realize each person is hearing something slightly different based on their internal filter of what you are saying. That is the basis for the game, 'telephone'. Unfortunately, the game is a reflection of the real world. People hear differently. Internal filters are nearly impossible to change. So it becomes the responsibility of the speaker to overcome the filters by validating that what he has said has been heard with the same meaning by everyone.

One can do this by:

* Asking follow-up questions.

* Observing reactions to what is being said.

* Restating the salient part and asking for confirmation that it was understood.

Be aware that you also filter information as it is received. This is a subconscious processing aspect of listening. To improve your skills as a negotiator, work at discerning your filtered messages from what was really being said using the same techniques listed above, but in the reverse.

Breaking down barriers to communication requires work, hard work. You are seeking to diffuse decades of learned behavior creating filters of which the listener is unaware.

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CREATED BARRIERS

Closing the door before a hungry bear can wander in looking for dinner is an effective way to create a barrier.

There are times when you want to slow the negotiating process. This is best done using time-buying techniques. Creating barriers is an excellent method of staying a verdict.

Because we live in a society where everyone is supposed to be omnipotent and the best at what they do, playing dumb to disarm the other person or to transparently buy some time to think over what is being said is a seldom used negotiating tactic. But it is very effective. There is nothing wrong with asking questions or asking for clarification. When the other person is making a major point against you, don't hesitate to interrupt to ask for clarification. It will break their train of thought and give you a chance to think of ways to deflect their argument.

We also live in the real-time world of email and faxes. Just because you recieve a proposal by fax or email does not mean you have to respond in kind. Feel free to sit on a proposal for a few days.

This sends several signals:

* You are too busy to look at it.

* It is not important to you.

* It never arrived (making the other person show his eagerness by resending it).

* You aren't ready to respond for some reason.

For some reason, the last item on the above list is seldom considered. Don't be forced into making a hasty decision. Time typically works to your advantage. When you are at the negotiating table and the other person makes a proposal, sit back and ponder, for a long time. More times than not the person making the offer will get nervous and either indicate or actuall improve the offer. They will have taken your silence to mean you were not satisfied with the terms. Their reaction tells you how much they want to reach an agreement.

As they say, silence is golden.

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OVERCOMING BARRIERS

Don't expect a hike in the woods to be a walk in the park. You are likely to come to a river too deep or wide to cross challenging you to find a canoe, raft, bridge, helicopter or other means of getting across or acknowledging that the crossing can't occur.

It is not if, but where, barriers exist. Understanding they exist is the first step. Uncovering them is the second. To better understand where the other person is coming from in a negotiation, you have to take the time to get to know the person a bit. Visit him in his or her office. Get a feel for his personal life. Talk with mutual friends. In short, learn what you can before settling into the negotiation. This background awareness will help you be on the alert for barrier traps.

When you are stymied by a barrier, you must find a way around it. If it is a personal prejudice, you may want to call in a co-negotiator to counter-act the image you represent. If it is a technical matter, you may want to enlist the help of an expert.

Sometimes the barrier is generational. A father often filters the statements of his thirty-something son as though he was still an adolescent. And the son still looks at his father as a strong, judging parent figure. Changing this engrained perception is difficult because both are relying on years of first hand observation. The son, having been off to college for four years, then on his own for another eight or nine years has changed. Both father and son need to embrace the change and work to remove their outdated filters.

If the 'filter' is as an issue of trust based on your wife catching you cheating, you know she will be seeing things differently for a long, long time. To overcome an obstacle this paramount will require your demonstrating that you deserve to have her trust again. This is not going to be achieved quickly or easily. Your being aware of her filtering mechanism enables you to understanding how her perspective has changed and why she now questions everything you say. To change this filter will require you to demonstrate through performance that you deserve to be trusted again.

Knowing what the filters are gives you the opportunity to do something about them. Some can be changed but most have to be worked around. The important thing is to be aware of filters and make sure you work to minimize distortion of your message.

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CORPORATE BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATIONS

Make sure the headhunter you are bartering with is the one who decides the dinner menu.

Business negotiations are seldom one-on-one. Typically at least one of the parties is am employee of a company with a hierarchy of approval rights. Part of the initial phase of any negotiation is to establish the decision making authority of the other person. If you find you are not dealing with a decision maker, beware of the corporate barrier complex.

People each have their own filters that change what they hear. But when dealing with a company or corporation, each person within the organization has their own set of filters. The CEO has a long-range perspective, the CFO is concerned about quarterly earnings and cash flow, the VP of Real Estate is concerned about where to build stores from a set budget and the real estate manager is worried about making his budget which is based on store openings. How is a landlord/owner supposed to get her message to the Executive Committee if she must work through the real estate manager? Worse yet, how is she supposed to know if the prospect is serious about her property or not? She can't unless she is able to deal directly with the CEO or at least the CFO. But companies deliberately don't allow this. This enables them to pick from any number of sites that are brought in to serve their company needs. Landlords are at a distinct disadvantage in this type of tiered negotiation.

There may be little you can do about it. But being aware of it helps you decide whether or not to tie your property up while waiting for the company to approve the site.

Equally as challenging is the role of the Real Estate Manager for such a company. He has to sell himself as trustworthy, loyal and kind until the landlord agrees. Then he may have the carpet yanked out from under him by the CFO. Who loses? The landlord and the Real Estate Manager whose credibility is damaged if this happens too often.

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BARTERING

Hungry bears don't like dollars. Never venture into the woods without something of value to offer the bears, like your lunch or your mother-in-law.

To barter is to trade by exchange of commodities rather than money. Bartering is an important part of negotiations. It is often more important than the money involved.

While bartering is commodity driven, negotiations introduces the human psyche to create value systems and human needs as commodities within the bartering framework. The more skilled the negotiator, mediator, arbitrator, and parent, the more complex the negotiating arena becomes. All too often corporate negotiators approach landlords seeking new leases offering money (rent) and security (financial stability of their company as a tenant). Landlords then extract as much money as possible before agreeing.

More experienced negotiations would approach the same landlord on behalf of the same company with a full quiver of commodities with which to barter. The commodities could include the quality of the proposed use, the prospect of multiple transactions with the landlord, the ability to move swiftly through the permitting and construction process, a strong national advertising campaign that will make the shopping center more known within the trade area, the potential of increasing the rent value of the adjacent spaces, the strength of the tenant to potential lenders, and so on. This value oriented approach serves to inform the landlord about potential benefits above and beyond rent with this tenant. If any of those arguments are meaningful to the landlord, the tenant should be able to offer less rent than another tenant.

Unless the negotiating arena is properly expanded, the focus will remain on the base commodity and there will be little reason for the other to compromise.

The tactic of adding commodity value to the negotiating arena applies to almost every possible human interaction. Two sons arguing over who gets the catcher's mitt will likely become more compliant should their father give one son the mitt and the other the ball. They now have a reason to work together.

Understanding the value of your individual assets is a critical part of the strategic planning of a negotiation. In many cases, something seemingly of little value to you may be very valuable to the other person. Often it is a small, personal concession that can reap a major financial windfall. You need to know what that concession is to be able to properly barter it up to its full value. You need to understand the needs and wants of the other party as well as your own goals. No one said this was an easy process. It requires time, patience, interviewing skills and research. Then you might be ready to sit at the table. Might…

Once seated at the negotiation table, do not become so engrossed in the process of the negotiation that you offer more than you originally intended to pay. The objective is NOT to win the negotiation, but to achieve your goal on a cost effective basis.

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BLAME

When confronting a great-white shark without your spear gun, don't waste prescious time dwelling on who forgot to pack it.

Blame is something we use to make ourselves feel better. Usually at the expense of someone else. Blame may feel good but it seldom does any good.

In an argument, casting blame serves to heighten tempers and cause embarrassment. It does not help to resolve anything. It certainly does not make the parties want to work together. Blame does not generate power or leverage. Blame is not worth anything; it is not a commodity. The only thing blame can create may be guilt. People granting concessions from guilt don't really want to do so. As with any coerced concession, they may later change their mind.

While casting blame is often a useless exercise, there is a time to assess blame. When a mediator conducts a civil mediation, he does so as a arbitrator between upset people. One aspect that makes such court-assigned mediation work is that the parties have a chance to confront each other directly. They get to say all the things about the other person that have been festering since the legal process of the lawsuit started. An adept mediator will seek to get both the facts and the feelings on the table. In many instances, simply being able to confront the other person relieves so much of the frustration that the mediator is able to structure a settlement that was not possible before.

Don't be afraid to take some of the blame. Taking blame can be an effective negotiating tactic. If a discussion is heated and at an impasse, taking blame for some aspect of the difficulty often results in the other person recognizing your attempt to take responsibility and eases the tenor of the argument. This should work to make coming together possible.

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BLUFFING

A pack of wolves smelling your fear is likely to call your bluff when you are trapped in the open without your gun. Don't leave home without it.

Using bluffing as a tactic is a strategic mistake if you cannot accept being called on it. A bluff is a venture into the unknown. Once you are caught bluffing, the other side will tend to assume you are always bluffing. It is not unlike being caught in a lie.

It is safest to bluff when you have nothing to lose. When your back is against the wall you may as well flail away. Sometimes the extra effort pays off. Sometimes it doesn't. The odds, obviously, are in your favor of improving your position as compared to doing nothing and accepting defeat.

There are times when you know you have cornered the other person. If he then elects to extend a bluff, you may want to consider it. Why? Because, if you have pressed too hard, he may fail to consider the bluff-offer andwalk away from an agreement you really need. By back peddling on the bluff you may keep the transaction alive but you will have lost a lot of face. Being called on a bluff and backing down is a major power blow. It is often wiser to grant a minor, ancillary concessions to shore up the transaction then try to make the deal again.

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BOTTOM LINE

A Ruby-Throated Hummingbird must consume trice it's body weight in food each day. This is not a goal or objective. It is the bottom line!

Mediators and negotiators by definition have different bottom lines. While both are seeking to reach an agreement, that is the sole and absolute goal of the mediator. He has no vested interest in the terms of such an agreement.

Knowing your bottom line is important. It is at that point that you must decide whether to continue to try to hold things together or to walk away from the opportunity. In most cases, this is the point where you become willing to bluff as a last resort knowing that all you now have at risk is failure.

Do not confuse goals with bottom lines. Your goals are what you want to achieve while your bottom line is what you need to achieve.

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BRACKETING

When using heavy artillery against a grizzly bear, it is normal to shoot long, then short to establish the range and effect of the wind, then “walk” the rounds down until the Grizzly is effectively de-clawed Unless of course, if he is charging. In which case you should fire for effect without delay!

As a dispute resolution strategy, bracketing is an effective way to resolve differences. It encompasses establishing “bid/ask” positions between the parties then working for a common ground, typically somewhere in the middle of the initial “bid/ask” parameters.

A mediator's first challenge is to get the parties to open with reasonable offers to settle. This will likely be accomplished in private working with one side then the other. While the objective of these breakout sessions is to generate an opening bid, the mediator will also be trying to learn what other issues are important to each party. It is these ancillary issues that often pose the greatest potential for settlement.

Once the opening bids are established, the mediator will need to formulate how he presents each bid to the other party in the best light so that the offer is not rejected but countered. This is where ancillary issues can be used. That is, when presenting a unusually high bid, the mediator may say to the other side, “While this may seem high, you have told me this is not really about money. So let's see if we can resolve the other issues and then come back to the money.” What the mediator is doing is expanding the scope of the negotiations to their widest parameters. He will then work to bring the parties together by ‘horse-trading” issues and monetary considerations until both can justify accepting the final terms.

There is an art to bracketing. Moving too quickly will result in giving up too much. The amount of each concession also signals when the parties are getting close to their final positions. A mediator needs to be sensitive to this and work to always leave a door open for 'just one more' concession if necessary.

Don't forget that time is a major commodity. The final concessions may have to be extracted by using the gambit, “We have so much invested in this session, one more small concession has got to be worth considering.

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BRAINSTORMING

Man's ability to dream, to think of novel solutions sets him apart from the animal kingdom. This capacity has resulted in bows, arrows, slings, knives, spears, black powder, guns, bombs, nuclear warheads and other killing tools to supports man's quest to conquer all of his foes.

Brainstorming how to solve a challenge is the crux of negotiations. It is the capacity to look beyond the issues at hand to come up with viable solutions that make negotiating an art form rather than mere bartering.

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BREVITY

When deep-sea fishing, the more lines you let out the better chance you will have of hooking a marlin.

Don't talk too much. Most people think they need to talk a lot to get their point across. In fact, often the less you say the better it is. Saying more than is necessary provides the other side with insights into your strengths and your weaknesses.

Beware the person who asks open questions of you. He is likely fishing for information. When you are ferreting information from the other side it is appropriate to be expansive and let the conversation flow. When they are questioning you, compress the response and turn the topic back onto them as quickly as possible. When you are arguing a point, stay focused and on point. If the other person starts to ramble, interject and bring them back to the issue. Collateral issues do not help solve problems, they often stall progress.

That being said, there are times when talking is appropriate. Mediators encourage the parties to continue speaking especially after an agreement has reached an impasse. As long as dialogue is occurring, there is a chance to reach an accord. Without it, there is no chance.

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BULLY

Elephants, gorillas and lions all posture as though they think they are all powerful. Without your trusty elephant gun they are!

Bullies are not just kids at play. As grown-ups, bullying is often a characteristic of those who are in power. Large developers often train their real estate people to negotiate from an “my way or the highway” position. This aggressive posturing is viewed as bullying by the many tenants who have to try to deal with them. But it is put up with by many of those tenants if the developer has assembled a project that warrants high demand for space. If not, tenants are able to back the bully down and negotiate reasonable terms. Bullies with power are able to make the rules of the game. But when the time comes that they lose their power, then they can expect hostile revenge.

If you have the power to dictate terms, do so in a fashion that does not appear to be bullying. The goal of a negotiated settlement is to have everyone leave the table with some self-esteem. In business, people change positions and companies a lot. You never know if the person you abused last week will be sitting across the table from you when the power equation is reversed.

When confronted by a bully garner any power you can and stand up to the person. Even if you fail to prevail you will earn some respect in the process. There are times when you will win and times you will lose. If this is a time for a loss, seek to reap some benefit from the effort by gaining respect or garnering intelligence to use in the future. If the bullying is recurring in a personal or family relationship, you have the problem of not being able to get away to let things cool down or avoid future incidents. You need to consider your options. Determine if it is a real, physical threat in which case you need to get out and try to work things out after you are safe. Assess if the behavior can realistically be modified. Sometimes mediation and negotiation cannot change a situation and different professionals are needed. Sometimes there simply is no solution.

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