Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Negotiation: Mind Over Matter?


It’s kind of natural that we tend to think of negotiations as BIG stuff like union contracts, tenders for new business, going for a pay rise, renewing a corporate lease – you get the picture. Yet our everyday lives are filled with a series of little negotiations about even the smallest things, and the skills we could use for the BIG stuff are equally relevant for the small stuff.   

First, let’s look at one of my favourite kind of negotiations: negotiating with yourself.

If you are anything like me you might even have ‘treat’ negotiations. They go something like this: “When I finish this article, I’ll treat myself to a cup of tea and a bickie.” “If I clean the house today, I’ll treat myself to a lie-in tomorrow.” “If I go to the gym, I’ll treat myself to an extra piece of chocolate tonight.” “When my inbox is empty I’ll treat myself to a couple of games of Sudoku.”

Now, the reason I call these negotiations instead of statements of intent is what happens when I don’t actually finish the article, clean the house, go to the gym or empty my in-box?  That’s when the negotiations begin. “Well, I nearly finished the article, so I’ll have the tea and biscuit anyway.” “I’ll just give the house a quick dust and it’ll be fine – I’ll still have my lie-in.” “I did walk to work, so I don’t absolutely have to go to the gym and what’s one little chocolate anyway?” “I’ve already done a lot so one game of Sudoku will be OK.”

The fascinating thing about negotiating with yourself is that you don’t really need to. You could just have the lie-in, eat the chocolate, fill in the Sudoku grid without the justification.  Somehow the negotiation allows us to give ourselves permission to do what we wanted to do in the first place.  

The reason I’m even introducing the idea of self-negotiation is the impact our minds have on even the simplest negotiation and how all that chatter can actually get in the way of achieving what we want.

One key sack of coal that fuels that chatter is how much we assume about the other person when we are negotiating even a simple thing like which restaurant we should go to on Saturday night. The mind builds up so many arguments, counter-arguments, uncertainties, over-questioning, what ifs, that it stops us from cutting to the chase of what we actually want.

Here’s an example. What you really want: “I want to try that new Italian restaurant that opened a couple of weeks ago.”

What can happen: the yapping in your head might take over and tell you that the other person probably won’t want to go to the Italian restaurant because it might be too expensive or you just had pasta at home last night or she generally prefers fish and chips on the weekend or she’d probably rather chill out on the sofa with a take-away.

When you decide what the other person is thinking and feeling that definitely clouds your ability to present your negotiations clearly, simply and with an end goal in mind.

It’s really hard to negotiate with all that going on up there.

A far better approach to try to still those voices is to: 1) Determine what you want – the new Italian restaurant that just opened. 2) Find out what the other person wants without deciding ahead of time what you think that will be. 3) Decide what you are willing to give away – does it have to be this weekend for instance? 4) What would win-win look like? Fish and chips this weekend, Italian restaurant the next or even something completely out of the box: “Let’s not go out for three months and save that money for a fabulous weekend away.”

When you get stuck conversing with yourself about possible outcomes, it limits your ability to see what might be possible.

It’s clear that when you translate all of that into negotiating the big stuff the consequences can be significant. In the same way you negotiate with yourself over the biscuit or in your head over where to go on Saturday night, you start the bargaining process in your mind before you've even set the parameters of what you want. By doing that you create uncertainty, which is the last thing you need when you negotiate because the other person will sniff that uncertainty out and consciously or unconsciously exploit it to take advantage of your hesitation.

If you’ve already decided in your mind that the other person is going to say no or that they won't think you’re worth it or they'll think you’re too arrogant (etc., etc., etc.) then of course that will have an impact on the way you negotiate. You’ll give those thoughts away through your body language or your verbal language weaving in extra padding, not getting to the point, not giving a straight answer (Yipes! Sounds like a politician!!).

Cutting out that extraneous noise can be tricky. Most of us have lived with those naysaying voices most of our lives, so trying to shut them up can be very hard work. The first step is of course to pay attention when you do start those internal negotiations. I know that for the longest time I didn’t even notice the cartwheels my mind was doing because the prattling seemed so normal. It felt a real breakthrough when I could hear myself and perceive just what I was doing.

The second step is not to give yourself a hard time when you notice the brain-babble.  Notice it and move on.

If you can do steps one and two, guess what? Then the fun of negotiation can begin and you might actually get what you want – with the little stuff and the big stuff.



Check out Impact Factory’s range of One Day Negotiation Skills and Two Day Influencing & Negotiation Skills courses.



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