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Check Your Negotiator Blind Spots
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.
- Are you good at picking your battles?
- Do you consider it a successful resolution if you get everything you or your company wants without making concessions?
- Do you think that usually the best solutions come from the options offered by you or the other parties at the start of the negotiation?
- Do you tire of listening to the other side’s version of events and perspective on their own needs, and prefer moving forward with the agenda?
- Do you value objectivity and pride yourself on sticking to the facts in your negotiations?
- Do you act in a certain way to ensure people know you are a strong negotiator?
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.
- Attitude is everything in collaborative negotiations! Enter your next negotiation as a discussion, and you may find the battle never was.
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.
- Negotiation is about getting, AND giving. Good negotiators come prepared to give concessions. You may get everything and give nothing, but don’t fool yourself. The party that feels "taken" will find a way to get it back.
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.
- The best ideas result from discourse, not solo genius. Very rarely does our first idea prove to be the best. Take comfort in knowing that the 3rd crazy suggestion might lead to a novel approach that is more mutually satisfying to the parties.
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?
- Listening is not a silent or passive activity. It involves attitude, body language and follow-up that convince the other side you wanted to hear what they had to say. Sometimes, active listening – sincere curiosity, leaning forward, obvious contemplation and asking relevant follow-up questions – is the largest concession you will have to give.
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.
- People, not institutions, negotiate. People have history – his-story. Some stories are personal (ego, mood, fears), and some stories arise from circumstances. Ask for your counterpart’s story, and tell yours. Stories engage, leading to more open discussion and mutually satisfying solutions.
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.
- Reciprocity is an ancient concept. You be bad and he be bad back. The best way to set the tone is to prove yourself as a worthy negotiator. Prove you did your homework. Prove you came to listen, learn, and give. Prove you can be creative. Prove you can be trusted. Your best leverage is your skill as a negotiator.
These natural inclinations and defenses can blind us from success in our negotiations. See clearly now.