Do you have a clean, funny story or joke? Tell it in a negotiation. Laughter relaxes people. Relaxed people are less confrontational and say yes.
Negotiation Blog - Internal negotiations
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.
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.
- what he knows about Jess,
- what he sees: facial expressions, gestures, and posture, and
- what he hears: tone of voice and emotional words.
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:
- First, without being placating, Lex can seek Jess’s advice where appropriate to show that he recognizes him as the more experienced team member.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Connect with Your Negotiating Counterpart
By Marianne Eby
You are about to begin a difficult project at work in conjunction with your co-worker, and he asks, "Want to grab a cup of coffee before we get started?" You may not want coffee, you may be busy, you may be dreading working with this person, or you may think chit chat is a waste of time. But if you are going to successfully complete this project, you would be wise to respond with a resounding "Yes!" You have just received an "emotional bid" that holds the key to you getting more of what you want in the many negotiations that will unfold during this project.
As John Gottman described a decade ago in his book, The Relationship Cure, an emotional bid is a question, gesture, or expression that implies, “I want to connect with you.” The label "Emotional bids" may be 21st century nomenclature, but the idea is as old as the first negotiation between cave men setting out on a hunt who sharpen sticks together, and will later have to negotiate who gets the best meat of the kill.
Emotional bids are part of all developing relationships, including those between co-owrkers and negotiating counterparts. If your polite answer to such a bid is "sorry I don't drink coffee" or "thanks but I have too much work right now," you are missing an critical opportunity to connect in a way that supports your inevitable ask for something you want.
Many of us fail to recognize or extend emotional bids. As a good negotiator, you already know that relationships are critical in your negotiations -- with customers you can't afford to lose, suppliers you need, and partners you want. The relationship you develop with the other party, whether positive or negative, impacts every aspect of your negotiation. Yet we spend more time alone completing tasks, and avoiding interaction, only to lament, "We don't have a trusting relationship!"
Recognize emotional bids for what they are -- a prime opportunity to build affiliations, find common ground or interests, and understand each other outside the conflict zone.
Be on the lookout for "emotional bids" and use them yourself. An "emotional bid" can be an interesting "tweet" or funny story, sharing an industry related article, a recommendation for a good book or restaurant, and a million other ways to connect.
Remember, institutions don't negotiate. People do. And people give the best deals to people they connect with -- people they like.
How Negotiators Listen to Improve Workplace Dynamics
By Leslie Mulligan
By the time you are 90, my dad tells me, you are finally ready to listen, even if your hearing isn’t as good as it used to be. But that’s ok, because listening isn’t about hearing, it‘s about understanding. Negotiating in the workplace, however, requires us to have this skill well before we retire. The good news – better listening can be learned.
Recently, my 90-year old father asked me to buy Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for my 19 year-old nephew on his birthday. Now, as gifts go, my nephew was probably not overly excited, but I understand that my dad wanted to convey some important life lessons to his millennial grandson. I was happy to oblige, because that book holds pearls of wisdom that I often emphasize when I teach our Watershed negotiation curriculum, not the least of which is how well we listen to each other to understand, versus simply listening to respond.
Listening is a critical skill for negotiating at work for 2 reasons: Comprehension and Concession.
#1. Listening = Comprehension
If you don’t know why your colleague wants what they want, you can’t effectively solve the problem. Instead, you find yourself in a time consuming and dysfunctional trail of mutual positioning. Listening opens the door to real understanding of your colleagues’ needs.
Real understanding does not mean sympathy (feeling sorry for someone) or giving in because of some sympathy you may feel. Real understanding results from what Covey calls “empathic listening” -- listening that “gets inside another person's frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel.” Yet this is not how most of us listen!
Example: For the last few weeks, one of the two supervisors you manage has been arriving 5 to 10 minutes late to your weekly morning meeting with them and their direct reports. You prepare to talk to him armed with reasons why this is unacceptable (disruptive, team morale, productivity). The conversation is not likely to go well because you are preparing to position yourself - not to understand.
If you instead engage in empathic listening – state the problem and how it feels to you, and ask what’s going on -- you might discover that this supervisor has purchased his first house further out from work, and has been struggling to figure out an effective commuting pattern. Now you can discuss solutions that consider the problem from both points of view:
- Can the meeting be moved to mid-morning?
- Can we let the team know what the problem is and expect it to resolve itself in a few weeks?
- Does anyone else at the company commute from the same area that may have some ideas?
- How about shifting his hours to start earlier one day a week when the meeting is held?
- Or maybe if traffic is a problem for anyone on the team, can they call into the meeting, rather than attend in person?
#2. Listening = Concession
One of the greatest needs people have is to be heard. Sometimes no movement can happen until people feel heard. Authentic listening will always be perceived as goodwill – a concession, which often results in a concession back to you, a get to your give. At a minimum, your colleague will show some form of appreciation. In addition, without listening, we can easily give away unnecessary concessions, or reject something that ultimately benefits us.
Example: Your boss asks you to finish a project 1 month earlier than planned. You are ready to argue that this is not fair to you and your team after all the work and successes you’ve achieved. If you instead listen to understand rather than jump to respond, you would discover that finishing early means that your project will be on the upcoming quarterly Senior Management Staff Meeting agenda, giving the best chance for you to gain the needed headcount and budget increases the project deserves. And the exposure to your leadership role will help your career. Yet only minutes ago, you were ready to argue against your boss’s request.
Do you consider yourself a “good listener”? Most of us are told at some point (in our personal and professional lives) that we are not listening! Empathic listening is easier said than done – but it is a “learned skill”. You can teach an old dog new tricks.
Use these tips to improve your negotiations with more empathic listening:
Don’t get bored; get curious - sincerely curious
Ask big open-ended questions like
- Why, Why Not;
- What if, How about, What else could we do;
- What harm would come from;
- How could we change, avoid, resolve.
- And always test your assumptions by asking about them.
In addition to asking questions, you can also show your curiosity by encouraging your colleague:
- Tell me more
- I am intrigued by your idea
- My team (or boss) will want to understand that better
- What other thoughts were considered before coming up with that idea/solution
Remember: People love to talk, and are known to feel so good afterwards if you let them talk, that they give more than they get; but it won’t help if you don’t listen.
Passion for a position does not require an argument in return
Colleagues get passionate about an idea, especially if it is theirs. They become invested in an effort, an outcome, or even just the hope of avoiding a major problem. And if someone senses resistance, emotions surface and can sabotage agreement or blind you both to a perfectly good solution. This is especially true in the workplace when one’s professional status is at stake.
Be prepared to manage your own emotions – and to help your colleagues manage theirs. Managing emotions doesn't mean squelching them. Instead, BEFORE you oppose a co-worker’s position, acknowledge – with sincerity --
- Their conviction or even heartfelt belief;
- The work they put in already; and
- Their reputation or stature.
Don’t feel compelled to argue or persuade, or even negotiate, until you have allowed them to speak their piece- and be sure you listen. This may be your opportunity to make listening your only concession!
Make it personal
Even when dealing only with facts and data, getting personal is one of the most valuable ways to ensure you are communicating effectively. Just ask Alan Alda, the renowned TV actor of MASH fame. Alda joined Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism faculty in its Center for Communicating Science to study the challenges scientists face in effective communication. In his new book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face? he reminds us that speaker and listener are persons. In a June interview with Newsweek on his book tour, Alda reinforced this concept:
“If we aren’t concerned with observing or imagining what a person is thinking or feeling when we are trying to communicate with them, then we are leaving them out….. the person doing the speaking needs to pay attention to the audience, whether that’s one person or many.”
Alda notes that scientists who take a more logical, fact based approach to communicating are prizing accuracy over actual understanding. Making the experience personal – empathizing with our listener -- is crucial to ensure that our points will resonate with our audience. Alda’s book speaks mostly to the scientific community – helping them cross the divide between a scientist’s knowledge and the audience’s understanding of that knowledge.
But the general problem of effective communication is bi-directional of course, and nowhere is that more evident than in our current political landscape, where polarization is becoming the norm. Rob Willer, a social psychologist at Stanford University, has been studying political polarization in the U.S. for the last few years and gave a TED talk on the subject. In an interview in the Stanford News, he concludes that politicians “must take the time to really listen to one another, to understand one another’s values and to think creatively about why someone with different political and moral commitments from their own should nonetheless come to agree with them. Empathy and respect will be critical if we are going to sew our country back together.”
Politics aside, Willer’s comments effectively sum up how we all can be more successful in any negotiation – a win-win negotiation results when your proposed solution makes it clear that you see the situation or problem from your counterpart’s viewpoint.
Now back to my dad and my nephew – and that well-meaning, if not much loved, birthday gift. My father and my nephew have different life perspectives and views of the world, but they do listen to each other – for the most part. Having spent decades with my dad, I realize that he is not always the best listener himself. But I know he is genuinely curious about his grandson’s views. That is always the best place to start when you need to negotiate solutions, across conference tables or kitchen tables. And full disclaimer, I did buy a cool pair of sports headphones for my nephew, on my dad’s behalf – to make it a bit more personal!