“What kind of person would you say that you are – specifically, how do you treat others?” When I ask my course participants I typically learn that they are respectful, caring, emotionally balanced, objective and rational individuals who value relationships and are very capable of seeing things form other people’s perspectives.
Then I ask the same group of participants if they have ever experienced road rage. A sea of hands gets raised… rather tentatively 🙂 I then ask the same participants to jot down the exact words they had used in their past road rage episodes. And if I’m having a particularly fun day in class – at my participant’s expense of course 😉 – I may ask one or two of the participants to re-enact their experience in front of everyone… verbatim!
This usually causes quite a bit of embarrassment and cognitive dissonance. On the one hand we view ourselves as “good towards others”, and yet we behave “horribly towards others” in certain situations. What’s the go?
Relationship is the go. They key distinguishing feature of your interactions with others in traffic is that the other party is anonymous, you are anonymous, and you expect to never interact with this person again. Everything you know and feel about this person is distorted by one… single… action. There is no past, present or future relationship. Specifically, you don’t expect this person to play any role in your future.
This concept translates directly to negotiation. When parties envisage a joint future – a future in which they will each derive value from working together – parties have a strong incentive to be on their best behavior. Incidentally, this paves the way for self-fulfilling prophecies – being on our best behavior ensures the highest likelihood that we will realize the mutually beneficial outcomes we set out to achieve in the first place.
But what happens the moment one or both parties decide that they wish to cease the relationship permanently and walk their separate ways? In an instant parties change from looking for solutions that work for both (or all), and revert to just looking out for themselves – numero uno. The other party immediately becomes unimportant. And we demonstrate this in the way we negotiate with him or her…
The strength of the relationship between parties has a predictable effect on how easy it will be to influence each other, how pleasant the process will be, and how much value can be unlocked or created. This is why I have developed one piece of homework for any aspiring negotiator who doesn’t have the patience to learn all the other insights. And here it is:
Identify the most difficult person in your life, who dislikes you the most, or is the least cooperative…. And make him or her like you.
That’s it. And if you succeed, then I will happily refer to you as a master negotiator, because you can apply the same proven rapport, trust and relationship building skills to improve every single interaction (negotiation!) you have with any person.