Quality of Negotiation… Quality of Life

Joel Lazer, CPA, CA, CIRPLeadership, Merger and Acquisition

Originally published on February 22, 2000.

If I were to suggest a bit of advice for successful negotiations it would be, build trust. If someone trusts you then they will listen to your communication. If they do not trust you then it does not matter what you say or do, it will be viewed with suspicion. On the other hand if someone has complete trust, even if they do not believe what you say, they will look for ways to believe – “It just might be…”

Trust is something you merit. People must give it to you. People make assessments of all your actions and words. If the things you do and say are consistent with their views, they are more likely to trust you. If they have had previous successful dealings with you, they are more likely to trust you. If they have known you for a long time and have had no bad experience, they will more readily trust you. If they have no information, then you start with no trust. They may check with others if they do not know you to see what their experience has been. Trust is delicate. It is so easy to lose. Never be casual with someone’s trust in you.

My second bit of advice is, listen. Listen again. Now listen some more. Are you listening? All too often in a negotiation we fail to listen to what is important to the other side. We think we know what their interests and problems are and we try to satisfy them. Even if you are bang on with your pre-negotiation research it still pays to verify that research. By listening. Listening will show the other side that you are interested. It will allow you to respond to their needs and interests. It will help you not to negotiate with yourself. If you think the other side is after lower prices, you’ll reduce yours to satisfy them. If you’re right, great. But what if faster response time was their concern? Now you have to produce a faster response and at a lower price. Because of course once you have offered a concession you cannot take it back. Listening in the first instance will have saved you a lot. Tying in with my first bit of advice, listening also builds trust.

Listening does not mean you have to be passive. By speaking first you will direct the conversation. By asking open-ended questions you will get to know what is on their mind. Asking yes/no questions will result in yes/no responses; not much to listen to there. Compare, “You like our new flange model, don’t you?” with, “What is it that you like about our new flange model?” You’ll learn more with the second question.

Finally, utilize your team. Team could include all internal people or it could include outside resource people or a combination. TEAM – Together Each of us Achieves More. It’s true. To do any negotiation without the assistance and benefits provided by your team is unwise. Together there will be a variety of ideas and viewpoints. It will be easier to see the other side’s point of view. Together there is less likelihood of overlooking something. In the above example, perhaps faster response will cost more. Your team could discover and discuss this before, not after, the negotiation. Others will also provide objectiveness. Perhaps you are too close to the subject matter. If so you will need assistance in the meeting itself. Your team can help, but you have to let them.

Now here’s the best part. Building trust, listening, utilizing your team – consider them in negotiations, consider them also in life. Apply each one of these in your family and friend relationships, in everything you do, and you can’t help but reap the benefits. It’s a win-win situation.

Negotiation and mediation are favourite topics of mine. I would be delighted to discuss the theory, your particular views, and your negotiation successes. I’ll listen – trust me.