Negotiation Blog

Will I insult people if I start high (or start low) in negotiations?

By Thomas Wood

This is one of the most commonly asked questions I get when I teach people in Watershed workshops that they need to open the negotiation by asking for their MDO (most desirable outcome). At Watershed, we refer to the MDO as the highest position within the realm of reasonability. Sure, it is not likely you will get your MDO, but it is defensible, and under the right circumstances you would get your MDO, and that is why it is not objectively insulting.

Take a simple example: You ask for bids from 3 graphics art firms for a project. The firm you would like to use is top notch and by far the best of the three, and its bid reflects this at 22% higher than the next highest bid.  Are you insulted because the graphics art firm started at its MDO? You’re not insulted because you could conceive of paying for this high quality, even though you want a cheaper price.

Insults go both ways of course. Some people might be afraid to negotiate with the high-bid firm out of fear of insulting the bidder.  But there are so many moving parts to the agreement -- deadline, payment terms, scope of work, follow-up support, approval process, etc. -- that you can easily negotiate without being insulting. It is completely legitimate to say,

“I really like your work and would like to use you, but your prices are much higher than the other bids we received. Would you be able to move on your price by 20% if we had someone from our team do some of the grunt work and we pay you 50% up front?” 

You started “high” (low in this case) at your MDO. There is nothing insulting about your counter-offer.

On rare occasion your MDO will insult people. Let’s face it; people become insulted even though what we did is not objectively insulting. Last week I saw relatives become insulted by where they were seated at a celebration, even though their seating was given much consideration. It is just how they choose to see the situation. 

If someone tells me they are insulted by my offer, I simply apologize, tell them that it was not my intention to insult them, that I want to do business with them in part because I respect them, and then I explain why I think my offer is legitimate.  Insulted people typically calm down when given attention and information, and we are able to come to a mutually satisfying agreement.

Don’t let the fear of insulting someone keep you from asking for your MDO. Because it can get in the way of getting what belongs to you.  

Negotiating Tip

What does it mean to be an emotionally intelligent negotiator? It means your brain controls your mouth, not your-out-of-control emotions.


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Negotiation Blog

Identifying Emotions is a First Step to Resolving Difficult Negotiations - Part I

By Marianne Eby

It's no accident that we teach a full workshop on Managing Emotions as You Negotiate. Emotions are the #1 obstacle to a mutually beneficial negotiation. And when tensions flare between co-workers, the impact can reach far beyond the current negotiation, leaving you to solve an emotional puzzle. At some point you have to manage the emotional climate to return to a productive relationship.

The first step to managing emotions is to identify them.

Let’s take a concrete situation from one of our clients who used our Need Help Now web-based advice service (with name changes). Jess has the lead for an upcoming high-profile project. Jess had worked with the client before, but his plate is full with other priorities so he needs to rely on another team member, Lex. Jess still thinks of Lex as a trainee rather than a full member of the team, even though Lex has demonstrated success on previous projects. Lex is a more junior and less experienced engineer, but has spent more time with the client and is more in tune with the client’s needs. Lex feels ready for the challenge of taking on the role of lead engineer for this project.
 
When they met to discuss Lex taking on this new role, things went awry quickly. Jess was dictating tasks rather than offering guidance or listening to Lex’s plan. Lex made an excuse of another deadline to end the discussion early, and suggested that they schedule a meeting to finish the conversation. 
 
Stop and Think
Most people would prepare for battle, or engage in work-around tactics to deal with an awkward situation like this, but an astute professional understands the need to negotiate a solution. To do that effectively, Lex (our advice seeker) will need to understand more about the emotions presenting themselves. In order to sway Jess to relinquish control, Lex needs to better understand whether Jess is uncomfortable with Lex's ability to lead the project and why, or if this is all about Jess's ego need to control the situation. Either eay Lex needs a plan to gain insights before taking action.
 
What would you do?

See if your plan matches Lex's strategy.

Negotiating Tip

Summarize early and often.


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Negotiation Blog

Identifying Emotions is a First Step to Resolving Difficult Negotiations - Part II

By Marianne Eby

We return to the tense interaction between co-workers, often referred to as internal negotiations. The situation embroiling Lex and Jess was set out last week. Lex decided to make a few concrete changes for the next meeting with Jess. Lex realized that he needed to understand better what he was feeling when Jess takes over and treats Lex as a subordinate rather than an equal team member. And Lex needed to understand more about why Jess does this.

Identify one's own emotions
Lex decided meet with Jess on another and less important matter first, and take special note of his own emotional reactions to Jess. To ensure the space and time for this, Lex scheduled that discussion over lunch where he’ll have natural pauses while eating to note how he is feeling about Jess and his approach.
 
Identify the other party’s emotions
It is more difficult to identify your counterpart’s emotions, so Lex will have to rely on 
  • what he knows about Jess, 
  • what he sees: facial expressions, gestures, and posture, and
  • what he hears: tone of voice and emotional words.
Lex will be guessing from these clues what Jess is feeling, but will try to be exact. For example, is Jess angry or feeling irritated; disgusted or puzzled; distant or tired? See how good you are at reading facial expressions here.
 
Show understanding and empathy
Lex decided to use the low risk setting of lunch and discussion about another account to build rapport and provide Jess some allegiance, in the hopes that Jess will feel comfortable enough to give Lex more insight into his emotions. Les can do this in three ways:
  1. First, without being placating, Lex can seek Jess’s advice where appropriate to show that he recognizes him as the more experienced team member.
  2. When Lex disagrees with something Jess has said, Lex will restate Jess’s idea and ask questions about it rather than disagree with it. Questions, or probes, will lead to new insights.
  3. And third, Lex can suggest how Jess must feel about some things to see if he can learn more about Jess’s emotions. For example, “you must be proud of that success…or nervous about losing that client… or feeling overwhelmed with so many projects," etc. Jess will likely appreciate the empathy, or will correct it, either way building a bond with Lex.
Expose more of your own thoughts
Without revealing too much too soon, Lex could still reveal more about himself. People are naturally inclined to trust you when you reveal your own aspirations and fears. Lex could let Jess know that he is excited about increasingly challenging work now that he has had some definite accomplishments. Lex could also indicate his desire for a strong mentor so that this next stage of his development is fruitful.
 
Quick Analysis
Think of everything Lex gets from this conversation as clues to unlock the emotional puzzle. Any of us is certainly at risk of misreading the cues, especially posture (slouching is a lack of interest or a sore back?). When the least bit unsure, Lex can simply ask: "You seem tired; has your back been hurting?" But taking all the cues together will give Lex a better picture of how to approach Jess going forward and still achieve his goal.
 
Lex should do all of this with his own skin in mind, meaning that he needs to be himself (talkative, contemplative, funny, etc), and not some textbook stand-in on the lookout for Jess’s emotions. All of this discovery about emotions will only benefit Lex.
  
Being able to recognize that things are tense is easy; being able to identify the emotions present is much more difficult, but critical to finding the path to productive dialogue. Stay tuned to see what Lex did with his insights. 

 

Negotiating Tip

Reputation matters. Select a lead negotiator for the bargaining stage who is respected by both sides. They should be fair, firm, professional, experienced, trustworthy and ethical.


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Negotiation Blog

8 Tips for Successful Email Negotiation

By Thomas Wood

Email may well now be the dominant form of business communication, and increasingly unavoidable in negotiations. It has its advantages -- it saves money and time, allows you to ask questions that might be more difficult in person, and sometimes reduces stress because of the time allowed for contemplation and reaction. So why do half of email negotiations end in impasse?

Negotiating by email has pitfalls too many negotiators ignore. Research shows that negotiators experience less satisfaction with the process, less rapport, and less future trust in their partners. Why?

  • There is a greater tendency to lie, exaggerate, bluff, or intimidate with email.
  • Negotiators don't feel the pressure of "live performance," and thus often prepare less.
  • Because it is more difficult to build rapport and trust, there is often less focus on interests and more on positions and demands.
  • Communication challenges arise easily, including rudeness, ambiguous messages, misinterpretations, and ill-conceived reactions.
  • It is easier to say "no" and brainstorming is not possible, thus cramping creativity and the likelihood of value creation.

Because of these downsides, email negotiations can inhibit the trust and mutual understanding that builds and sustains rapport, so conflicts or misunderstandings can easily degenerate or worsen. Here are 8 tips for maximizing the value of email and minimizing the risk:

  1. Meet first. The first meeting is critical to establishing rapport. It gives everyone the chance to observe expressions and gestures, gauge likeability, style, and personality. Web-conferencing can work, but meet face-to-face if possible, especially for complex agreements.
  2. Continue to build rapport. Over the course of emailing, express emotions as you would in person, especially positive ones (e.g., excitement, confidence, hopefulness. Even a simple opening greeting and sign-off, as we naturally do in face-to-face meetings, can go a long way in maintaining essential rapport. Make “small talk” or “small text” as you naturally do in face-to-face conversations, before you get into the meat of your message. “Hope all is well.” “Were you hit by that tropical storm last week?” “Did your daughter’s team win their game?”
  3. Have a well-established goal. Think of negotiating as communicating with a goal in mind. Beware of stream of consciousness negotiation on key deal points. Share your expectations, and when you think things have gone awry. Always know the minimum and maximum parameters that make agreement worthwhile for your side, and return to those before responding to offers via email.
  4. Brainstorm offline. Email does not usually spark or encourage creativity like the back and forth of live conversation. When a solution is not apparent, schedule a phone call or in-person meeting to get the ideas moving.
  5. Stamp out conflict. If an email comes off as rigid, or rude, it may be unintentional. Don't respond immediately and don't respond in kind. Take a short break, then contact your counterpart by phone, or email a simple statement of concern or desire to clarify. If there is a problem, pick up the phone or schedule a face-to-face meeting as soon as possible. Conflict with emotional intensity is rarely solved over email.
  6. Ask more questions, not less. There is a tendency to limit questions over email because it appears tedious. Don't fall into this trap. To avoid lengthy and exhausting lists, start with broad questions, intersperse phone conversations to discuss the answers, and use shorter emails to group follow-up questions by topic.
  7. Keep the climate positive. Maintain a friendly tone in emails -- use emoticons, yes frown (but don't over use), if it feels friendly. Interpret email messages with caution and sensitivity, and leave room for personality, style, and cultural differences. Make sure to clarify any ambiguities right away, and use generally accepted best practices in email etiquette.
  8. Sprinkle in the personal touch. Share or ask something personal to connect with the other side -- even if it's only about the weather or a local team. Or look for other areas of common interest (try checking Linked In) and asking open-ended questions. Once you've found out their interests, send them URL's or articles that they might find interesting. Avoid religion or politics, though!

Business professionals continue to use email to further the negotiating and decision-making process, despite its drawbacks, so there's no avoiding it. Just use it carefully! And smile as you type.smiley

Visit Watershed's Negotiator's Learning Center to read more on Negotiating Over Email.

Negotiating Tip

Path to enduring agreements: build trusting relationships; share interests; create value as you address interests; distribute that value.


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