Definition: Ne-go-ti-ate: to confer with another so as to arrive at the settlement of some matter; to deal with (some matter or affair that requires ability for its successful handling); to arrange or bring about through conference, discussion and compromise
John Donne wrote the famous meditation No Man is an Island in which he illustrates how each of us are impacted by the actions of others. Consequently, each time one man “dies a little death” so we, too, feel his pain. If you can keep this concept in mind while negotiating conflict with a partner, you will understand that when one of you loses, you both lose, and when one of you wins, you both win.
Let’s review 7 principles and techniques to utilize for a “winning” negotiation that can resolve conflict in a way that can be satisfactory for both parties.
"Let us never negotiate out of fear.
But, let us never fear to negotiate."
~John F. Kennedy
1. Choose your desired outcome before you start. Determine your ideal outcome, as well as the points on which you’re willing to be flexible. Knowing where you want to go and what you want to achieve BEFORE you start allows you to avoid making snap decisions you may regret. Follow Karl Albrecht's rule, who said: “Start out with an ideal and end up with a deal.”
2. Know and understand to whom you are speaking. You know your partner’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as where all the “buttons” reside. Use this information to your benefit and steer clear of issues that you know will create a firestorm. If you can’t avoid them, at least approach them in a non-accusatory manner.
3. Don’t devalue yourself. Your contribution to the partnership is important, even if it may not look equal on the outside, for example, if one of you is a stay-at-home parent and the other is the breadwinner. Without support on the home front, the breadwinner would not be able to be as successful, for his/her focus would be split and scattered. Everyone has an important job to do and so each partner has an equal say/vote. Inspire confidence in your abilities by presenting clear, well-thought-out proposals.
4. Listen twice as much as you talk. We were all born with two ears and one mouth for a reason! Rather than being anxious to state your case, practice active listening when your partner presents his/her side. You can pick up valuable clues that can lead to an easy resolution.
5. Be a positive force. Robert Estabrook said, “He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of a diplomat.” Thus, enter your negotiations with the expectation that it can be resolved amicably, even if you have to agree to disagree. An optimistic outlook can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, just as a negative one can become one too. Choose to succeed!
6. Never threaten or make ultimatums. Don’t become emotionally attached to your solution; it may not be the best way. One sure way for negotiations to break down is uttering the statement, “It’s my way or the highway.” This accomplishes nothing except building a bigger wall between you and your partner. Remaining calm and patient, even if your partner is reaching a boiling point, can help to rein in the conversation to a manageable proportion. Joseph Joubert said, “Never cut what you can untie.”
7. Don’t focus on winning. It’s important for both parties to feel satisfied about the decided upon course of action. This most probably will involve some compromise, but that’s the name of good partnering. You want to leave a negotiation with both parties feeling good about the situation AND about each other (and his/her ability to work together). Henry Boyle said, “The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people half way.”
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