Negotiating from a single perspective

There are multiple vantage points – or perspectives – from which we can view any interaction (a.k.a. negotiation). The perspective we adopt determines what we see. So in order to see more – and thus learn and understand more – negotiators choose to adopt multiple perspectives.

But what happens when I fail to consider other peoples’ perspectives and only stick with my own? Well, unsurprisingly the options, solutions or recommendations I come up with tend to only cater to my problem and my needs.

And if you don’t like my solution then there is a high risk that I will assume my job should be to persuade you to accept my solution. And when that doesn’t work I might instead resort to using power to force you to accept my solution.

And then we clash, deadlock, and get stuck in a potentially perpetual battle. All because I didn’t consider your perspective, and thus I didn’t (couldn’t!) think of a solution that would actually work for you as well.

With that little snippet of theory, let’s see a clear example of it in action. The key phrase to look out for comes about 55 seconds into the video that a reader sent me today.

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Removing the need for negotiation

“You pay $150 dolla!!”
“No, I’m not paying anything!”
“Your fault, you pay $150 dolla!”
“No, it was your fault. I’m not paying anything!”

I move over to the curb as my friend and an enraged taxi driver continue their dialogue in the middle of the street. Cars on either side are incessantly using their car horns to signal their frustration with the gridlock. Some try to slowly squeeze past in the small gap that is not taken up by the taxis. Meanwhile the line of cars is rapidly growing in length.

“You open door, you pay me $150 dolla!”
“Forget it. You’re the one who overtook us!

As my friend had exited our taxi, another taxi had overtaken us, resulting in a small collision. While our taxi was scratch free (well, no additional scratches from the collision), the side mirror assembly of the other car was now in pieces on the ground.

“You pay me $150 dolla!”
“Hey, there is no way that mirror costs $150 dollars!”

This move was a mistake. By engaging in the conversation about cost, my friend could be perceived as accepting responsibility for the accident and now the question is reduced to “how much will he pay”. The taxi driver quickly picked up on this.

“Ok, you pay me $120 dolla!”

How are they negotiating now? Yes, old-style bargaining over money. This battle of attrition continued for about 10 minutes. So please picture 10 minutes of standing in the middle of the road, emotions running high, and with cars passing within centimetres, in the dusty, hot and humid air of South East Asia.

Eventually my friend turns silent, disengages from the dialogue, walks up to the damaged taxi, leans forward, and picks up the pieces of the side mirror. While he slowly inspects the mirror, the taxi driver continues their negotiation:

“70 dolla. You pay me 70 dolla!”

And then we all hear a *CLICK*. Was that… Could it be… Yes, as I look over I see that my friend have successfully put the side-mirror back together.

“But it is not working. You pay me $70 dolla!”
“How do you know it’s not working? Try it!”

The taxi driver reluctantly tries the electric mirror control. And voila, it’s all working and no visible scratches!

What begun as a clumsy bargaining process was resolved using masterful negotiation. My friend had snapped out of the traditional “I’m right and you’re wrong” or “I want XYZ from you” mentality, and instead removed the need to have a negotiation altogether.

In our book we named this technique preventative options – options (or solutions) that allow us to prevent the need to have particularly difficult negotiations. While our example here was quite trivial, this technique becomes a very powerful option for values-based negotiations where parties will never change their mind or accept being “wrong” (e.g. on abortion, religion, global warming, gun control, etc).

“Yeah, but there’s just one problem…”

You make a proposal, you suggest and option or a solution…. And the first thing you hear is “Yeah, but there’s a problem…”

Oh no, not a PROBLEM! How can we possibly overcome a PROBLEM? Everything we’ve hoped for is ruined. We’re doomed!

Ok, I might be exaggerating here 😉 But the fact of the matter is that some of us are predisposed to focusing on the worst possible outcome – we’re on constant lookout for signs that we won’t get what we want. So when the other party raises a problem we instantly take that to confirm our worst fears. We extrapolate that to mean the deal is lost, that we won’t get what we want, and that we should cut our losses and walk away. And upon reflection we’ll get angry with ourselves for being so stupid to hope that anything good could ever happen to us.

In Negotiation Evolved – the book – we emphasise a situational approach, where we encourage you to acquire the skills that are most relevant for you, and most relevant in the current context. We think it is time to evolve past a one-size-fits all approach when it comes to negotiation and influence. And specifically, today’s insight will only be relevant for some of you – but perhaps very relevant.

For those readers who recognise themselves in the scenario above – I have a simple but powerful suggestion. How often in life is there only ONE problem between you and the outcomes you want to achieve? Might just ONE problem actually be good news…? Let’s try it out:

Other party: “Yeah, but there’s just one problem with doing what you propose…”

Negotiator: “That is fantastic news! I can’t tell you how relieved I am that we just have ONE problem. I was mentally prepared to have to work through a dozen, so one problem will be a walk in the park!

Overcoming negativity, resistance and objections

(This is a repost from Filip’s original blog)

So you are trying to influence someone. You are pretty certain that you have come up with an option or a solution that is in the other party’s interest (and of course, also in your interest!). Maybe this is to get her to enrol in a course, sell his motorbike, take a vacation or accept your business proposal. But for some reason he or she is on a repetitive loop of insisting on problems with your solution.

Whether you just want to help, or you want to influence out of self interest, this pattern of negativity can be frustrating to deal with.

Building on my previous blog entry, where I said negotiation and motivation rely on the same insights, we can recognise that we are either motivated to move towards a goal, or away from some undesirable outcome. How did we try to influence our friend above? That’s right, we sought to create an attractive goal for him or her to move towards.

So how about we change tact and instead help the other party understand why he or she at least wants to move away from the status quo. This can be achieved by merely letting the other party think through and verbalise to us how the future might pan out if he or she doesn’t take our desired action.

“I understand that you have hesitation with aspects of the option that I suggested. Can I just ask, how would you weigh the risks and responsibilities of taking action against the risks and responsibilities of not taking action…?”

Here the other party can realise for him/herself that he/she can’t get his/her desired career without attending that course, or might get seriously injured on their motorbike, might get more depressed or stressed from not taking a break from work, or will miss out on the tremendous value that your business proposal would enable.

Once we get the other party to accept that the present path they are on is undesirable, then they will realize that they have to change. This is p o w e r f u l. At this point their thinking changes from looking at problems with our suggestions, to actually looking for solutions themselves. And as I mention in my bookif the other party is looking for solutions – let them!