BEST NEGOTIATING TIP 1011: Overcoming Barriers

When a lion charges, he is no longer listening. He is focused on only one thing....dinner!

Barriers are obstacles that stand in the way of a successful negotiation. Better put, barriers are obstacles to effective communications as without a dialogue there is little chance of resolution. In order to communicate well, those involved need to be able to hear, be heard and, most importantly, understand each other. They do not need to agree, only to understand each other. Agreement may come later if they try to work together.

man_woman_fighting_handsoverears_sm.jpgBarriers can be real, created, or perceived. Many are based in poor communications issues. Barriers to effective communications can be verbal and non-verbal. But no matter the cause of the barriers, they need to be overcome to facilitate good negotiations.

To effectively remove barriers to communicators we must look for and remove those things that are stopping our message from being understood. When negotiating with another person, it is important to observe his or her reaction to what you are saying. You do this to make sure you message is being understood. You want to validate understanding by seeking reinforcing body language indicating they have understood what you were saying.

One way to do this is to watch the listener's eyes. If they stay focused on you 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. For whatever the reason, they are not listening to you. If the pupils widen or the eye brows knit or rise, you can assume what they heard was a surprise or caused a reaction like anger or incredulity. It is the reaction more than what they say next that should guide you to your next action.
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Another way to validate that the other person is listening is to simply stop speaking or pause until they realize that you are no longer speaking. Then resume as though nothing has happened. You have regained their attention.

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 are an aspect of life. 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

Once you have identified a barrier, try to remove it. For example, if there is a language barrier you might enlist a translator or friend who knows both languages. If the barrier is seated in the other person's insecurity, take it on yourself to put him or her at ease. Then you can have a better, more rewarding discussion.