“Do I not destroy my enemy when I make them my friend?" Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President, 1861-1865
By Marianne Eby
Creativity is essential to reaching mutually beneficial solutions in negotiations. Most people are actually more comfortable arguing or convincing others to accept their ideas than they are using creativity to generate win-win solutions. Creativity requires the ability to take risks, be open to ideas, defer criticisms, and empathize. Are you scared to be creative?
Researcher George Land conducted a study that showed we start as extremely creative individuals and lose most of it. Land distributed a creativity test (the same one used by NASA to select innovative engineers and scientists) to 1,600 5-year-olds, and re-tested the same children at age 10, and again at age 15. He also gave the same test to 280,000 adults. The results below demonstrate that the majority of people become less creative as they mature.
Some blame our educational systems for derailing our abilities to: take risks, be open to new ideas, generate loose connections, and empathize. Steve Jobs, reflecting on his first three years as a student of Monta Loma Elementary, commented:
“I was kind of bored for the first few years, so I occupied myself by getting into trouble…I encountered authority of a different kind than I ever encountered before and I did not like it. And they really almost got me. They came close to really beating any curiosity out of me.”
Quoted from Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs (a great read on creativity and negotiations). Indeed a number of educational systems focus on one correct answer, which actively discourages imagining different results. Regardless of the cause, we can overcome this challenge and reengage with our inner child’s imagination.
One way to keep the creativity alive in your negotiations is to focus on defining each party's interests, and then listing all possible options that meet those interests without any criticism regarding resources, feasibility, etc. This part of a negotiation should be like the brainstorming you did as a 5-year old, where you were encouraged to imagine that anything was possible. Harnessing this unencumbered imagination during a negotiation requires people to recognize that every idea is a valid option so that the third zany idea eventually leads to the brilliant seventh idea that is mutually beneficial.
A client related an example of this type of brainstorming. Samantha’s communications team was meeting with their IT colleagues to determine how to support a client's new website. Some of the IT team’s participants started to suggest ideas about changing the existing website design, and a communications team member commented that it would be too burdensome for the client. The group started arguing about the resources it would take to support different designs. Samantha called a halt, and suggested they brainstorm ideas based on the client’s requirements, and leave the ‘resources’ issue until later.
“Stopping the flow of criticism allowed people to put themselves in the position of the client, ask better questions, and envision innovative solutions. It helped the team realize that the website could be designed to meet the client’s needs without changing most of the interface. This was something nobody had anticipated when the meeting started and totally changed the game.”
The next time you see others being critical of ideas during a brainstorming session, convince the group to focus on the interests and then use it as a way to build creativity within the group. This will lead to the best ideas surfacing during a discussion. Here are some tips on brainstorming from Mind Tools.
By Thomas Wood
Did you ever have a negotiation where you felt well prepared going in, but during the discussions you became frustrated? For most of us, frustration brings out our worst instincts and behaviors, ultimately leading to a poor outcome.
Here’s a quick quiz to help you see if you were held back by any of the common negotiator blind spots.
If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of the questions above, you may be suffering from one of the common negotiator blind spots. While teaching our negotiation workshops, we have found that participants often fall prey to these blind spots:
Battle Alert: He believes that it is important to pick his battles because negotiations are battles. He does not believe that a win-win outcome is actually possible, and thus approaches every interaction as a competition.
Give nothing/get nothing: She figured out what was fair long before the two parties started talking. She wants to achieve her goal, and show that she is a strong negotiator by giving nothing away.
There’s only one way to skin a cat: He has an idea of what will satisfy his counterpart, and has listened carefully to his counterpart’s idea. Both ideas were part of the opening offers. One of these ideas will win the day, or perhaps parts of each idea. Let’s decide and move on.
Can you hear me listening?: She has listened so much that she tires of the other side talking. Her counterpart feels that he hasn’t been heard. Was she listening loudly enough?
Just the facts, ma’am: He prides himself on his objectivity. The numbers tell it all. We just have to stick to the facts and the negotiation will progress.
Never let ‘em see you sweat: She feels intimidated by her counterpart’s experience or reputation. He’s known to get what he wants. She intends to show him from the start that she’s no pushover and is tough as nails.
These natural inclinations and defenses can blind us from success in our negotiations. See clearly now.
By Marianne Eby
Negotiations are serious business, which is why it is important to understand, and build trust with, the other party. Great negotiators know that no matter how serious the interaction, laughter is often one of the quickest paths to trust; it can relieve tension, create a bond, improve everyone's moods, and foster the creativity you want for mutually beneficial agreements to emerge.
Researchers in many fields, from medicine to psychology to communications, are increasingly interested in the social power of humor and the physical and emotional benefits of laughter. Public speakers are trained to open presentations with jokes or funny anecdotes. Political candidates are now expected to demonstrate their sense of humor on the talk show circuit to improve their likeability. In 2010 Comedian John Stewart was voted the "most trusted man in America." His social power derives from the fact that he is knowledgeable and funny, which makes him seem more trustworthy.
A sense of humor is useful during all phases of negotiation as well -- to signal confidence or shift power, to change the environment, to soften bad news, to avoid answering a question, to respond to a ridiculous offer, or to save face.
Telling a funny story or acceptable joke can also help you gauge whether the other party is on the same page with you. If the other side is not laughing, or even engaging in a joking conversation, pay attention: they are not where you hope they are. Not laughing in response to a humorous gesture is a sign of discomfort or disconnection.
So prepare with ice-breakers -- anecdotes or jokes that get a group to laugh before you begin bargaining.
Try these tips for opening an interaction with humor:
Tell a story on yourself: People love to laugh at absurd but real events. Carol Burnett famously said "comedy is tragedy plus time." A story you tell about yourself makes you more human.
Don't take yourself too seriously. Keep the humor light, and your expectations for laughter down. Nothing kills an attempt to develop rapport more than someone who can't laugh at him or herself. Mildly self-deprecating jokes imply trust.
Collect a few jokes that work for you. They're easy to find or to collect. Good storytellers and comedians prepare material in advance, to avoid hitting the wrong note, and to be ready to hit the right one.
What to avoid:
Sometimes puns (ambiguous play on words with multiple meanings) can be fun – just make sure your humor is understood. Let’s say you’re in a tense negotiation and everyone is frustrated. You might say:
“Does any one feel the way I do? Trying to figure out a solution that satisfies us all is like getting ready for a root canal – it’s unnerving!”
Keep these guidelines in mind for successful humorous stories and jokes:
Be real. Leverage your own style and personality. Be willing to laugh. See how it changes your negotiation results!
By Marianne Eby
What do the best negotiators and jazz musicians have in common? That question is inspired by a recent article on CNN Opinion: “What the best jazz musicians and business brains have in common.” The argument made, not surprisingly, is that business leaders are more successful when they are open to possibilities rather than stuck on certainties, and when they are empowered to improvise. Good negotiators know how critical this insight is to what they do.
We teach and write about the importance of creativity as a game-changer in negotiations, and the need for improvisation as a skill at the bargaining table. But here are three deeper parallels between great jazz and great negotiation:
• Exchange: In jazz, particularly in rehearsal, the musicians exchange musical ideas, take cues from each other, and find new paths through a melody or score. The more experienced they are, and the better they know their instruments and their partners, the more possibilities there are in the music. In collaborative negotiation, similarly, preparation is essential, but then bargaining is a genuine exchange, where the unexpected can happen, and new ideas develop. Open-minded listening, asking questions, and paying attention to the other party's real interests can lead to creative concessions and counter-offers that bring new value to the bargaining table. In negotiation, as in jazz, "Improvisation grows out of a receptivity to what the situation offers."
• Learning and finding new value: In jazz improvisation musicians learn more about the music -- about the melody, their instruments, their partners. Similarly, in a good collaborative negotiation both parties learn more about their own and each other's businesses. A creatively handled conflict between a buyer's terms and a seller's bottom line can bring in new elements of value: a seller might offer a new packaging or delivery method, innovative payment terms, a valuable training program. Buyers might offer sources of new business, coveted tickets to a game. A good negotiator, like a jazz musician, finishes an exchange with an expanded understanding of their own and the other party's value.
• The relationship: Another facet of the parallel between jazz musicians and great negotiators is that both understand the core value of the relationship. Jazz musicians treat music as something that is only fully achieved with and in relation to another musician -- they know that "creativity is a collaborative achievement," as Barrett puts it. Similarly, good negotiators know that one of the most valuable products of a collaborative negotiation is often the collaborative relationship itself.
In jazz musicians as in great negotiators, creativity and improvisation are not just skills or tactics, but they represent a whole mindset, or philosophy of negotiating: a collaborative negotiation itself finds or creates new value, just as an interactive, collaborative jazz performance creates new music. So let's jazz up our negotiating!
By Marianne Eby
Like me, many of you are returning from summer vacation. You relaxed, explored, and played. But you didn’t sharpen your negotiation saw. Or did you? Without realizing, you likely practiced your negotiation skills, and upped our negotiation quotient. Here’s my Top 5 negotiation lessons from summer vacation:
We’re refreshed upon our return from vacation. And without realizing it, we honed our negotiation skills in the process. Be sure to apply those summer lesson to your next negotiation.
By Thomas Wood
In our negotiation workshops, some of our favorite examples of effective negotiating strategies come from kids. They always get a laugh of recognition, because even our most experienced negotiators know that they can be outmaneuvered by a 4-year old.
There are countless parenting blogs and books devoted to negotiating with your kids, or avoiding negotiation with your kids -- all designed to help you handle the little wizards without losing your shirt. One blog, "Like A Dad," reviews a few common kid tactics as a way of helping parents recognize and prepare for them. But as negotiators, we need to ask -- what tactics can we learn from them?
Kids with caring parents do have a number of advantages over adult negotiators -- they won't do damage to their reputation if they are unprofessional, whiny, or outrageous in their demands. But here are five effective negotiation strategies kids use that we should too -- followed by a few we should leave to the less mature./learning-center-item/listen-loudly.html
Top Five Negotiating Strategies From Kids:
Childish Tactics to Avoid:
When I first became a parent, a final lesson from my mother: "Thomas, as a parent your goal is talk to your kids so they will listen. And listen to your kids so they will talk.