Solve Negotiation Problems By Focusing on the Details
Negotiation is far more than simply sitting at the table and exchanging proposals. It is the process of working through various phases while you learn enough about the other person to be able to engage in a dialogue that advances your cause.
The basic phases or steps leading up to any negotiation include:
• Identification of the problem.
• Researching the issues.
• Researching the participants.
• Preparing for the negotiation.
• Separating facts from assumptions.
• Meeting the participants.
• Validating your facts.
• Adjusting your strategies.
• Testing your assumptions.
• Re-Adjusting your strategies (this is an ongoing activity).
• Establishing the parameters of the situation.
• Taking a break to reflect or regroup, if necessary.
• Making or soliciting the initial offer.
Each step deserves to be considered before it is undertaken. A negotiator should prepare, plan, and execute on the sub-task level to maximize the potential from every step of the process. Too many people approach negotiations from the end result, their objective, rather than focus on the steps of the process. This linear thinking results in loss of opportunities.
The skill of a negotiator is in the preparation and the art is in the execution.
When is compromising negotiating?
Is bipartisan compromise possible in Washington?
So much is touted lately about bringing Washington together and acting in a bi-partisan manner. It is interestng that many view this as a novel idea. It is, in reality, what the Congress was challenged to do since first formed.
Compromise, in a negotiation, is the process by which each party gives a little to get a little. It is the process of merging interests to yield a balanced outcome meeting the needs, not necessarily the wants, of the parties to the agreement.
We are a very diverse nation, a federation of states in fact. This diversity is what makes America great. Our system was designed to enable the diverse interests to get along side by side and in harmony. Today that harmony seems ot be constantly challenged.
In Washington, unfortunately, the effect of our lawmakers working together is typically the creation of a bill loaded with all the necessary extra provisions to attract votes seemingly with disregard for how the earmarks will be paid.
That is not negotiating. That is not compromising. That is simply buying votes to assure passage.
One wonders what has happened in Washington over the last forty to fifty years that has seen our lawmakers seeking to do right by their country change to fighting to get their fair share for their constituencies, advocates and, yes, special interest supporters.
I may be naive being outside the beltway but I have not sensed true compromise when it comes to garnering votes for a bill in a long time. What I have repeatedly seen is the purchase of votes that violate the interest of the Country for the interests of a select few in the form of earmarks. Earmarks are riders to the bill that promises something to a small group in exchange for support of the major bill. It typically has nothing to do with the actual bill. It is, pure and simple, a payoff.
What ever has happened to principles. honor or integrity? Since when did the lawmakers of America, and that includes both of the Parties, become Machiavellian advocates of the end justifying the means. When those in the Congress cast dispersions upon the CEOs of America they should, once in a while, reflect on their own questionable behavior. It smells the same! They have been and continue to spend beyond their means.
Many of our good representatives are not negotiating in good faith. They can't cover to costs of their promises...unless we, The People, bail them out.
Choose to Improve
We approach many of our daily negotiations as mere nuisances to be mindlessly dispatched or avoided. Ironically this cavalier negotiating attitude is extended to those we love; our spouses, children, friends, family, and close associates. We tend to pay more attention to our interactions with those we don't know, retail clerks, teachers, students, clergy, bankers, police, dentists, doctors and the like, rather than those most important in our lives.
There is no reason not to try to ease the stress of the conflict in our personal lives as much as we do with perfect strangers.
It takes very little effort to improve how we deal with people; how we handle our every day negotiations. We do this by listening better. Honing our awareness of the interests and needs of others enables us to forge resolutions that are healing by design. Merging some of the needs of others into your solutions to daily problems will definitely reduce the negativism of unhealthy conflict.
It is your choice; your life. You are free to choose to be proactive and improve things. You can also simply contribute to the unhealthy conflict in your life and live with the consequences.
You are not helpless. You have choices.
Everyone talks about negotiating tactics. I prefer to think of tactics as tools to resolve problems. The term "tactics" often connotes efforts to manipulate another into agreeing to something they don't want to agree to do. That may be shortsighted as agreements forged on reluctance have a habit of falling apart as soon as the oppressed side has an opportunity to go back on a prior agreement.
The best agreement is a lasting agreement.
Tactics that coerce compliance are best reserved for last ditch efforts to save a deal that has all but failed.
The tools of negotiation are those tactics and strategies that work to bring the parties together. Such tactics serve to:
Tactics that tend to be coercive attempt to:
Consider the tenor of the negotiation and your tactical intent before employing any negotiating tactic.
Layered Barriers To Communications
When you come across a tribe of headhunters it is wise to make sure the person you are bartering with is the one who plans the dinner menu.
Other than on playgrounds most negotiations are not one-on-one situations.
-In the business environment it is typical that at least one of the parties is an employee of a company. As such, that person is burdened with a hierarchy of approval rights. It is typical for both parties to have the same burden of needing the approval of others before being able to fully commit to an agreement.
-In family disputes there may be spouses or other family members who have a voice in any agreement.
-In mediation settings there may be spouses, insurance companies or other entities that must be part of the final approval of any accord.
Part of the initial phase of any negotiation is to establish who the decision making authority is for the other party. In the case of a mediation, each of the parties may present layered authority issues.
Most people will reveal their lack of authority only if asked directly if they need someone else's consent. The human ego is typically fragile and to admit dependence is sometimes hard to do. The inclination is to personalize the situation. It is up to the negotiator or mediator to peel away the posturing and determine who the actual decision makers are. In the case of a mediation, the mediator needs to gain access to the decision maker. That may mean asking the person to attend or at least making sure he or she is available by telephone to confer and when appropriate, consent to an agreement if one is reached.
Layered approval structures create barriers to clear communication. Actual decision makers must rely on the interpretations of their delegatees as to the dynamics of the discussions. Each person between the decision makers unconsciously or consciously alter the message. Individuals have their respective filters that alter what they hear.
Consider a corporate negotiation. When dealing with a company or corporation, each person within the organization has his or her own set of filters. They each adjust what they hear. For example, 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 opening new locations to meet his or her budget and the real estate manager is worried about making his bonus. In addition, each has a personal agenda caused by personal issues such as meeting mortgage payments, college costs, a pending divorce or marraige, or retirement planning. In this scenario, it might be that the real estate manager is really trying to maximize his bonus by chasing any location that presents itself. The CFO is feeling the pressure of lagging sales and has been talking to the CEO about the need to slow development or actually retrench. And the CEO is contemplating a sale or merger that is based on growth through new locations. How is a landlord/owner supposed to know how to negotiate with the company when there are internal conflicts within the corporate culture? How will his message be altered before it reaches the CEO.
Layered barriers in a negotiation require aggressive communication countermeasures to insure that your message is being heard. Possible counter-measures include:
-Put all critical communications in writing. This way, those involved on the other side will at least be able to refer to your written message.
-Copy everyone possible on the communication to make sure it is shared.
-Pick up the phone and call the decision maker to simply inform him of the progress being made and see if there are questions you can answer.
-Refuse to negotiate further unless you have access to the other decision maker.
Negotiating is an exercise in communications. Layered negotiations poses a normal challenge until you gain access to the right person with whom to deal. A standard negotiating strategy is to try to keep key decision makers out of the room so they can assess the situation without the pressure to respond immediately. Take the time before negotiations commence to find out who is involved in the approval process and seek to work with the highest person you can reach.
Knowledge Improves Ability as a Negotiator
In negotiations, one's areas of expertise are not only defined by his mastery of the art of the process but his mastery of the issues being negotiated. You cannot expect to negotiate an outstanding real estate transaction unless you are well versed in the economic, cyclical nature, demographic, and geographic aspects of the specific real estate segment you are considering.
Negotiating is not just the process of bartering. It involves creating value from ideas and altering wants and needs to achieve an accord that is compelling enough to get both of the parties to agree. A negotiator cannot achieve this without being well informed of the subject matter.
A mediator, on the other hand, needs a working knowledge of the subject matter but need not be an expert in the field. His or her role is to bring structure to the settlement discussions and help forge a viable solution. Mediators are not creating value for their own accounts. They are seeking to introduce enough avoidance value so the parties can agree to settle for less than they feel they are entitled to in order to avoid the risk of losing more before a judge or jury.
A negotiator's ability stems from his or her knowledge of the collateral being discussed. The ability to negotiate is a hidden asset skilled negotiators possess. Frequently, they hide this attribute by feigning limited experience or lack of knowledge in "handling" such matters to put the other person at ease. This also may give the other person a false sense of superiority.
When a skilled negotiators meets the other negotiator for the first time, he or she will take the time to learn whether the other person is knowledgeable about the underlying subject matter. Many landlords are able to outwit and out negotiate corporate representatives from very large, powerful companies simply because they know more about the subject matter. Corporate employees handling real estate acquisitions for restaurant and retail companies often know a lot about real estate and very little about their industry. Landlords, on the other hand, are extremely well versed in the shopping center business, the economics of leasing and the dynamics of their tenancies. If you are a corporate negotiator, it is wise to learn the basics of how your business is run, what it takes to make a location profitable, how the occupancy costs impact cash flow, and what the drivers are that generate a strong top line. Being armed with this knowledge will enable you to meet the challenge of a well-prepared landlord and seek viable lease terms for your company.
It is not about how cheap you can get a property. It is about getting a property at a price that allows your company to make money.
Similarly, when negotiating to buy a home, you need to focus less on the cost than the affordability of the purchase price and mortgage terms.
Decisions and Negotiating
Negotiators must be able to make decisions. Large decisions, small decisions, important decisions and mundane decisions. The process of making decisions is what advances a negotiation to its final outcome. Decision-making requires confidence, awareness, information, and courage. Most of all, it requires being prepared.
Prepare properly and agree to meet only when you are comfortable deciding what to do. Even though you may be meeting to gather information, the other person may present an opportunity for you to make an offer or accept a proposal. Being prepared to consider and act on such an opportunity enables you to take advantage of "The Moment".
There are those times when things just seem to go right and an opportunity to act presents itself. Unless you know what you want and need from a given situation, you will not be in a position to respond. Failing to do so may cost the deal later when the other person discovers other options or rethinks his or her offer.
People naturally resist making decisions. This is especially true when they feel they are being pressured to do so. To be an effective negotiator one needs to know how to prepare others to make decisions and commit. The climate of the negotiation plays a significant role in making everyone comfortable with making important decisions. Mediators work hard at giving everyone at the table a sense of power. They also use caucus or breakout sessions to separate people when emotions become too volatile. A negotiator can assume the role of a mediator in any negotiation by being sensitive to the climate of the discussions. By subtly taking responsibility for the "comfort" of the others, the negotiator assumes the mantle of a small group leader and may gain the ability to direct the discussion without having to force the issues through confrontational tactics.
Preparing for the Moment of Decision Tactics:
- If tempers have flared during the discourse, seek ways to mend the personal fences before pressing for decisions. People need to feel in control to commit willingly.
- As you approach major decisions it is helpful if you have laid the groundwork with small decisions along the way. This gets everyone used to committing and following through on their word.
- Review the terms carefully and solicit edits form everyone. By incorporating their changes they are becoming invested in the agreement.
- Encourage everyone to read the document one final time. You are intentionally slowing the process to ease the stress. Watch how others react to reading the document. If you see a cloud of doubt on someone's face, stop them and ask what is bothering them. You want everyone as comfortable as possible before placing pens in their hands.
- Review the reasons the others are agreeing to the terms and reinforce why their decision is a good one.
- Take a break and suggest a beverage or something to interject a chance to relax before actually sitting down to sign documents. Well timed breathers are a great way to diffuse mounting tension.
Decisions are pivotal moments in negotiations. Treat each decision, even the small ones, with respect. This builds a degree of comfort on the part of the other person in the process. Once a decision is made, reinforce why it was a good decision. It does not hurt to intimate that you may have conceded more than expected to build up the other's ego a bit. You want each decision to become easier as you build toward the really important decisions.
Negotiation, like any other process, can be managed. Who chooses to manage the process will likely prevail at the end of the day.
Problem Solving Skills and Negotiation
No one can negotiate until they understand the situation. Basically there is a problem to be solved that involves getting two or more people to agree on something. Basic problem solving is part of the skill set of any effect negotiator.
Defining a problem is critical. Often people fight over ancillary issues rather than the real problem. In a mediation the mediator takes the time to source, identify and quantify all the micro issues that create the underpinnings of the primary argument. Mediators are trained to resolve the ancillary issues so that the primary problem can be resolved.
Problem Identification Tips:
- Don't accept the obvious; seek out underlying issues or other problems. Often the other person or the parties may be unaware of the impact of these 'lesser' issues.
- Prioritize the issues and seek to resolve the minor ones first. This will create a more positive environment and may help lead to a global agreement.
- Seek to put emotional reactions in perspective. If you can diffuse any prevailing anger or distrust, you will have made a major advance toward reaching an agreement.
- Separate the "wants" from the "needs" and focus on satisfying the "needs" of each party. Often it is the "wants" that create the most separation. And they are the least important aspect of the problem once they are properly identified as "wants".
- Don't ignore or dismiss emotional needs or wants. Sometimes their satisfaction is more important to one of the parties than the monetary aspects of the situation.
Problem identification does not stop when you enter the fray. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying to identify additional irritants or issues. Listen for clues on how to satisfy a specific need using alternative consideration.
Problem solving is the meat of dispute resolution. By expanding the possible settlement options the mediator is seeking to solve the dispute by pairing unlikely party commodities so that both emerge feeling a sense of victory. Win/Win negotiating is not so much about appeasing both sides as it is about pairing needs and satisfiers so that both parties come away with more than they gave away in their minds.
Trust is Necessary When Negotiating
In episode eight of Showtime's popular series Huff, Izzy lectures Beth on trusting too much. "You know, trust is a device we use to put people on pedestals. The higher we put them, the harder they fall". "And your point is?" Beth asks. "The next time you catch yourself trusting somebody, look at that scar!" Izzy has been deeply hurt by her husband leaving her for another woman. Beth had naively let Huff's patient into their home trusting her when she said she would not hurt anyone.
Conflict resolution, alternate dispute resolution, negotiations, mediation, settlement discussion, debt restructuring, salary and performance reviews, literally any form of productive human interaction requires a basis of trust from which accords can be reached. Humans are inclined to want to trust each other. The need to trust one another is necessary to function in society.
Honesty or integrity is an essential personal characteristic for any negotiator regardless of the situation. If you have a good reputation others will listen with confidence. If not, you will have to sell each point hard and even then may still be doubted.
Make sure you mean what you say and that you are able to back it up with your actions or those of your company. Never intentionally give your word then go back on it. Sometimes situations change and you are forced to back out of an agreement. Never do so lightly. Explain the change that occurred. Clearly demonstrate your frustration at having to change your mind to the other person. Apologize profusely and empathize with the other person's angst. Try to find a way to make it up. You do not want others to think this is typical behavior for you.
If directed by superiors to reverse your word or go back on a contract, do not blame your boss or company. Even if that is the cause, it is your word that has been broken. Taking the heat personally demonstrates your sincerity and should save a good portion of your reputation. If such vacillation is habitual in your company, consider seeking another job where you can provide proper representation.
Izzy's bitter resentment demonstrates the damage caused by a breach of trust. For her, she has lost the ability to assume people are trustworthy. When this happens in a negotiation, the absence of trust will block any chance the parties have of opening up and solving the problem. In such a situation someone needs to suggest changing the negotiators or separating them. Often a mediator will put the parties into a permanent caucus setting and negotiate between the two parties, a process called shuttle diplomacy. This tactic diffuses the angst one or both of the parties has toward the other and may allow meaningful discussions to get started. You have to be willing to get burned from time to time, as Beth was, to effectively negotiate. It requires you to have faith in the other person.