The importance of stories in negotiations is often overlooked. Far too often, negotiation is seen as a battle to gain more than the other party. What negotiators don’t know or tend to forget is how powerful storytelling can be as a tool to humanize the conversation. Christine McKay digs deeper into this topic with, Dr. Joshua Weiss, co-founder of the Global Negotiation Initiative at Harvard University. Having worked with some of the best and brightest in the negotiation space, Dr. Joshua Weiss has a lot of experience and insights to share when it comes to leveraging the power of storytelling in the negotiating table. He also shares some points on the proper execution of negotiation and mediation at the individual, organizational, government and international levels. Join in and learn how these principles apply to everything from winning high-stakes business deals to maintaining everyday relationships.
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The Psychology And Importance Of Stories In Negotiations With Dr. Joshua Weiss
I have a guest that I was surprised by. I never thought I’d have a professor as a guest on the show. As many of you know, I went to Harvard Business School and I attended this great event that was sponsored by the Harvard Program on Negotiation. I got to listen to Josh Weiss talk. He has an amazing fin on negotiation that you, the audience, are going to resonate with, because it’s all about how to leverage storytelling in your negotiation. Josh is a senior fellow at the program on negotiation. He also is the Founder of Negotiation Works. He works with some of the best and the brightest in the negotiation field and has negotiated with governments and large corporations across the board. He’s got lots of experience and lots of great insights to share. Josh, thanks so much for being here. I’m excited to have you on the show. Tell us a little bit about you, how you got to where you started doing what you’re doing and all of those good things. Tell us about the book you wrote and the ones you’ve released.
Thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure. My path to this field and this world is not linear and most careers I don’t think are, despite the fact that people want to think that there’s a clear path. In many ways, I was always the peacemaker amongst my friends. There was something in me that knew that there was kind of some conflict resolution and negotiation element to me in my life. At university, I studied History and things along those lines, but after college, the formative event for me was that I ended up spending a year backpacking around the world. For those of you who haven’t backpacked, it’s not exactly luxurious travel. It’s buses and trains and I’m staying at youth hostels.
I was gone for one year and had what was called a round the world ticket. I went and that experience pretty much turned everything that I thought I knew about the world and my place in it upside down. What was also critical about that was that conflict seemed to be a theme that I kept running into. I was in India and there was a Hindu-Muslim riot. I was in Nepal and trying to go hike in a place called Pokhara, there was a truck driver strike and they’d stopped. The one road was blocked. We sat there for 24 hours while I watched these guys try to negotiate a deal. On to Europe, when the former Yugoslavia was coming apart at the seams, I happened to be there then. Finally, my grandmother’s family died in the Holocaust. She and a brother of hers escaped before, but she never found out where.
I spent about a month traveling from camp to camp, trying to find anything I could about them. When I got back, I thought that I had to do something to make the world a little bit better. I got into a Conflict Resolution program at American University. I quickly gravitated to negotiation mostly because I felt like it was something that everybody could understand and did understand. I didn’t have baggage or anything like that in terms of terminology. A lot of people saw themselves as people who negotiated on a regular basis.
I essentially got involved with the Program on Negotiation. I started working there writing cases, writing role-play simulations and editing them after my Master’s Degree. I started working with a guy named William Ury, who wrote one of the seminal works, Getting to Yes. I continue to work with him to this day. I decided having been at Harvard for a couple of years and everybody was doing something interesting. They either had a law degree or a PhD, I got sucked into that notion. It probably is not a great idea, but in the end, it turned out fine.
Law school wasn’t for me and I could tell that pretty quickly. I went and did my PhD at George Mason University and ended up back at Harvard with a fellowship. I was working there for quite a while and continue to do some things there as well as have my own consulting company. I also run a Master’s Degree at the undergraduate levels at a women’s university called Bay Path University in Western Massachusetts. There are a lot of balls in the air. It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy very much what I do, which in many ways, it’s trying to help people become better negotiators and understand that negotiation is something we do every day, all day.
I wrote a book which was the subject of the talk at Harvard called The Book of Real-World Negotiations. It’s 25 case studies of real negotiations. The goal of the book was to try to show people what effective negotiation looks like, not through theories or concepts, but actual negotiations, to pull those negotiations apart and cultivate the lessons and what we can learn from these kinds of things. Within that, I started getting interested in stories and the role of story and negotiation. I also published a series of children’s books on the past few years about two characters named Chickie and Emo. They essentially deal with a number of different conflicts and teach negotiation problem solving skills, creative thinking to 6- to 10-year-olds, through story, not through how to manual. What I’m finding and as I’ve been doing this more and more is that story is an underutilized tool and a tactic in negotiation that we all need to be thinking much more about and thinking how we can deploy this in our situations.
When you were speaking, you were talking about how story helps us define our humanity. It gives us a window into each other that is separate and distinct from the issue that we’re trying to deal with at that moment in time. It humanizes us. I loved when you said that. That was one of the biggest reasons why I reached out. I do a lot of work with minority and women-owned businesses, not exclusively, but a lot of my clients are minority and women-owned businesses. Oftentimes, my clients feel like they don’t have a voice, especially if they’re negotiating with a larger organization. I often tell them, “You’re not negotiating with an organization you’re negotiating with a person.” How do we create that humanity? What were some of the things that surprised you in writing your latest book in the stories and the case studies that you looked at?
In every one of them, I don’t know if it surprised me, but what was clear to me was that and this was something that I knew, but it was reassuring to see it in these cases was that there was little compromise that transpired in these stories. It was much more about understanding underlying interests and getting creative and thinking, “What do we do with this and how do we manage it in a creative way?” That’s the thing. Once you understand the benefit of creativity and negotiation, once you go there, the problem is, a lot of times, people are so fixated on uncompromising, what am I going to have to give up, to get where I want to go, that they never look and say, “Is that where I need to be going and thinking? Should I be thinking more about what it is that’s critical to them and how do I know that? Is there a way for me to find out all of those things?” Not just 1 or 2, but there’s usually a number of things that people value in negotiation.
The more you can be digging and understanding what those things are, the more you can put together better deals that meet your needs better and the needs of the other person better. For example, there’s a process that your folks may not be aware of called post-settlement settlement. It was started by a guy named Howard Raiffa at Harvard Business School. It’s not rocket science, but it’s an interesting idea. One of the cases in the book much focuses on this, but idea is that when you reach a tentative agreement with the other side, before you write everything down on the dotted line, asking a simple question can be truly beneficial. The simple question is, “Is there any way that we could make this deal better for me and you?”
Once you have a deal, then the pressure’s off on some level, you haven’t signed off on the dotted line yet, so the pressure of perhaps reaching an agreement abates. You can think a little bit like, “If we were to extend the length of the contract or if our delivery date was different or whatever it might be, gives people the opportunity to take a good deal and make it better.” That’s all about creativity and getting people to think a little bit differently. The cases in there have that. The other part that I’ve become interested in is you say when you’re negotiating, you’re not negotiating with a company. You’re negotiating with another person, which means that psychology is important in what we’re doing. What I found in all of the cases in the book was that there was always a face saving or face preservation element to the deal. A lot of times people don’t think about that. They often think, “This is business. I don’t care if the other person gets their feathers ruffled.” That’s not, to me, how negotiation works.
If somebody is upset or frustrated or angry, that’s going to get in the way of a good deal and a business deal that could otherwise happen. I want people to understand that you’ve got to be attuned to that level because in all of these cases and beyond that you could see a lot of scenarios where the roadblock had to do a lot with the psychology and the person’s lack of an ability to say, “How am I going to declare victory here for me or how am I going to save face?” It’s that intangible realm that is important and one that I don’t know if people focus enough on. They’re so focused on dollars and cents and schedules and other things that they leave that part out.Storytelling is an underutilized tool and a tactic for negotiation. Click To Tweet
One of the things that I talk about and people who are new to this show, they don’t know this obviously, but for people who knew my philosophy about negotiation is that it is nothing more than a conversation about a relationship. You cannot win a relationship. That applies whether the relationship is beginning, is in existence or is dissolving. There’s still a relationship and a dissolution. You had made a comment that I’ve been hearing so much lately. I got sucked into a little bit of the Clubhouse thing and listened to a couple of folks on Clubhouse. I keep hearing the statement and it drives me crazy and that is, “You know you’ve done a good job negotiating when both of you walk away from the table unhappy.”
As the negotiator, I fundamentally reject that. You know you’ve got a good deal when both parties walk away going, “That’s a good deal.” That’s when you have a good deal. Not when both parties are unhappy, but when does they both go, “That works. That was effective.” What is your reaction to that comment? How do we help people recognize that there’s a different way of negotiating that isn’t about if you win something that automatically means I lose, which is a lot of people feel about negotiation?
I’m right there with you and the problem is that if you have that in your head, we’re back to psychology, if you have that orientation in your head, then that’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for, “What am I going to give up in order to get something?” Maybe the reality is you don’t have to give up anything, but you’re so predisposed to thinking that negotiation is about each of us giving up something to get something that’s where you go. It’s a fundamental flaw in how a lot of people think about negotiation in there. There are a lot of myths out there that get in the way of effective negotiation. In part, the answer to your question of how we change that, is we have to be out there, and we have to be showing people why that’s not the case.
Part of the reason why I wrote the book, is because I want people to say, “I read this book.” These people didn’t give up something. They found a creative solution. What do I do with that now? It runs up against my view that I’ve got to compromise in order to get something? Generally, I agree, negotiation is an interdependent relationship. The other side has to get what they want like you do. I don’t always talk about win-win because I don’t know whether the world works like that, but we should be striving for you walking away saying, “This works well for me,” and me doing the same thing. There are times where some issues are zero sum, but then you also want to be thinking, “That may be zero-sum, but is there another way to expand the pie here?” Bring in other issues or other kinds of things.
It’s also getting us out there. Part of it is making sure that we’re speaking to the public, the broader audience, and not just to ourselves in the negotiation field. We’ve done a pretty good job of that, but we have to get better. In fact, part of the reason I wrote the book in the way that I did, which is in my mind, not exactly super academic-y, but I tried to make it as relatable as possible. I wanted somebody who wasn’t that interested in negotiation to be able to pick it up and go, “That’s interesting. That’s not what I thought about negotiation.”
I’m looking forward to reading it for that reason. I’ve read the children’s books you wrote, which I love, and I want to get into one of them in particular. I have a book coming out too soon called Why Not Ask? A Conversation About Getting More. It tries to take away that negotiation is something that is done at universities or international trade agreements or in hostage situations, but that we do all do it. I finished reading Tim Marshall’s book, Prisoners of Geography, because I used to say, everything’s negotiable. I realized, no, you can’t negotiate mountains or oceans or rivers and probably not your values, but outside that, that’s all navigable. You can figure it out. I thought that was cool.
One of the books you wrote was specific to conflict, one of the children’s books. For those in the audience who have kids, these three books that Josh wrote, I loved them. I read them. They’re cute. I love how they’re illustrated, but the messages in them are great. We start learning to negotiate as children. I have three children, and I wish that I knew more about negotiating when my kids were little so that I could give them a little bit better guidance and how to be more effective at it. How does the things that you talk about in the children’s books translate to the adult realm? What are some of the things that we could be doing more childlike that create better negotiation outcomes for us as adults?
There are three books in this series. The first one’s called Trouble at the Watering Hole. It’s about animals who are arguing over the water and who gets it and why. You hear the typical arguments of, “I’m bigger. I’ve been here longer.” The two lead characters, a baby bird and a baby bear, Chickie and Emo, essentially help the animals to problem solve and to think differently and to get to the underlying interest. That’s obviously applicable to adults. In fact, that’s the essence of the getting to yes approach, the interest-based approach to negotiation. The second book is on bullying and how Chickie and Emo helped their friend who’s being bullied. At the end of the book, there’s some questions that parents can ask their kids, but also is it designed to ask parents to ask themselves and to perhaps share stories where they’ve experienced something like that with their kids, so their kids know they’re not alone.
The role of Chickie and Emo in that are bystanders or not being active bystanders. We live in a world where bullying is still a big issue. Part of the challenge there and part of our hope was to help people who are in and around a bullying situation to know what to do and how they might help their friends. The last one is about a social media conflict, between Emo and Chickie and how one of them had a little bit of a fall and the other recorded it and embarrassed the other. If we turn that to the world where we are now, it’s fair to say that social media has a lot of benefits in terms of reach and informing people, but it also has added to the divide that we’re experiencing.
Thinking a little bit about that and thinking about how you can try to deal with that is important. All of the lessons are there for kids, but they’re also, without question, for adults. For adults, they’ll be able to relate to them and even to share with their kids, “This happened to mommy or daddy and here’s what I tried to do with it.” I agree with you that we have to get people thinking about this at a young age. There were no peer mediation programs when I was in school. Thankfully, there are now, and there are more of these kinds of things that are negotiation classes in high schools and things along those lines. The real key is getting this out there and mainstreaming it.
The problem is that negotiation is difficult. It’s hard, it’s a difficult process to be good at. It takes time and effort and study to become educated about how you do these different things. That’s a big challenge. Getting people to commit and wanting to improve as a negotiator and to understand how improving as a negotiator isn’t just going to help you at work, but it’s going to help you at home with your family, your parents, your kids, your spouses, but also the world around you. Every day we’re negotiating about something on many levels. That’s the big challenge. A lot of the books that are out there are readable and applicable to the average person. That’s a good thing. We need to keep doing more and more of that.
In your experience working and negotiation in a variety of different levels, when you think about smaller and mid-sized organizations, what are some of the things that you think that they could be doing to be more effective in their negotiation? Especially when they perceive that there’s disparity, power and leverage with whomever they’re negotiating with?When you’re negotiating, you’re not negotiating with a company. You’re negotiating with another person. Click To Tweet
The first thing and probably the most important thing is preparation. I don’t want to assume that they’re not doing this, but if you’re not preparing significantly for your negotiations, then you’re not preparing enough. I often like to say, to me, there are three phases to the negotiation process. There’s the pre-negotiation, the actual negotiation itself and then the implementation. If you take 100% over those three phases, 65% to 70% of your time ought to be spent in the preparation phase, and maybe 15% in the negotiation and 15% in the continued negotiations during the implementation. The vast majority of people don’t prepare like that. They don’t sit down and methodically go through that. You don’t want to come out of that preparation with a specific plan because it’s not how negotiation works.
What you want to be doing is more on contingency planning. It’s thinking, “What’s my goal, what am I trying to achieve here and then what are the different avenues that I can use to get there?” What I see and where people freak out or get challenged is when they go in with a plan and things don’t follow their plan. All of a sudden, people start getting nervous and they don’t know what to do, so they just agree to something and then they walk out of the room and kick themselves. When you’ve got your contingency plan, it’s different. You say, “That avenue is blocked. Let me try a different one.” As I like to describe it, folks play chess. It’s a little bit in thinking in that way as opposed to the specific A to B to C approach.
Preparation is huge. We talk a lot about that too. One part of preparation is getting clarity on what you want and need and how that might happen. Can you talk a little bit about getting clarity on and anticipating what your counterpart might need to be successful? I had someone who attended one of my events and she’s like, “This is the first time that I learned that I need to think about my counterpart,” because so often we don’t. Can you comment a little bit on that?
You can’t do adequate preparation unless you’re thinking about what the other person that you’re negotiating with needs because you have to be able to put something in front of them that says, “I’m pretty sure this is what you’re looking for.” To me, negotiation is much an iterative process. One of the things that’s important is to slow the process down. It seems like people are interested, for some reason, to reach an agreement as fast as they can. I don’t understand why and I don’t know where that came from because nobody that I know ever told anybody to do that. What I find is that the longer that you’re at the negotiating table, the more people get a little comfortable and the more they start revealing things. If you were to say to somebody, “I thought about what it is that you might be interested in, in this negotiation, and it’s X, Y, and Z.” They probably would say, “That’s interesting that you thought about what I need.”
On top of that, they’re more open to saying you’re partly right, but you left something that would be critical. You have to, if you recognize that negotiation is an interdependent process. I had somebody to say to me, “That’s your problem. When you figure it out, let me know. Otherwise, I’m not interested in discussing it.” I said, “If it’s my problem, it’s your problem because you’re not getting where you want to go, unless I say yes like I’m not either. We need to change our frame here on how this is going to go. I know I need you and you need me.” Sometimes you have to point some of these dynamics out to people. A lot of folks don’t think about negotiation in great detail like we’re talking about it. Sometimes you have to name what’s happening. Preparation and recognizing the interdependent piece of this.
To a small to medium-sized company, there’s a reason that they’re sitting with you. You are bringing value to the table. What is it? How are you unique? Why are they sitting with you and not somebody else? Creativity becomes critical because it’s a way of separating yourself out from other small and medium-sized businesses to be able to creatively come at a problem or a challenge. In the book, there’s a case study that I shared. I talked about a company in China dealing with a sole supplier. In that scenario, they had a bad BATNA and for those folks who perhaps don’t know, it is your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.
In other words, what are you going to do if you can’t reach agreement? For this company, they didn’t have any other alternatives because they were based in China. They had to buy this agricultural machinery. There was only one company in China that sold it. They had to negotiate with this one company. The story essentially goes that this company brought in a negotiation consultant and said, “What do we do? We have met with a company that sells this equipment. They’re trying to gouge us because they know they can. There’s a lot of practices in China that are restrictive. We can’t import the machinery. We’re going to go out of business if we buy this, what do we do?”
They started talking about BATNA, they said, “That’s our problem. We don’t have one.” He said, “Here’s your challenge. Your challenge is that I’m going to leave and I’ll be back in three days. I want you to assume that this sole supplier has gone out of business and you’re going to find a way to still meet that need.” They looked at him like he was crazy. They thought, “This is bad enough and now you want to take away the one avenue we have to satisfying our needs.” He’s like, “Yes.” He left. After half an hour of complaining, they got to work. Eventually, one of the people involved said, “I wonder if there’s any other companies within China that own this equipment.” They started a search for a company that might own this other equipment. They found one in Inner Mongolia.
They reached out to this company and said, “Would you be interested in any way in selling the used equipment?” It turned out that their business model had changed, so they said, “Yes, we would.” Now, they have a BATNA. They could purchase this used equipment for much less than what the other company was asking, but they didn’t buy it. What they did was they used it as leverage to go back to this sole supplier and say, “We’d like to do this with you, but we simply can’t afford what you’re asking. We think that you’re gouging us a bit here. We do have an alternative.” They shared that. The company was skeptical, and they said, “We want to investigate.” They did and they found out, but in fact, the other one was willing to share and to sell the equipment.
They ended up negotiating with the sole supplier a much better deal that worked for them. That’s an example of a small business that was up against a big problem and a big challenge from a company that seemed to hold all the cards. Through some creative thinking, they were able to come up with much better arrangement. The key is that you have to challenge your assumptions. I’m a big fan of that idea that we make assumptions all day, every day. In our negotiations, when we sit down, we think about what’s possible here. That often eliminates a lot of things that might be possible, but you’re making an assumption that it’s not. You have to check your assumptions and you have to engage in some brainstorming and spit-balling.
You say, “There’s got to be a way that we can do this better or differently.” When you start getting into that creative mode, I worked with a lot of parties and negotiation. I’ve been amazed, once I get them into that mode of thinking, what happens? All of a sudden, the blue sky is in front of them. They can start thinking about all kinds of things as opposed to being limited by their own thinking, or perhaps what somebody told them was possible. The preparation, creative thinking, but also challenging your assumptions and examining everything in great detail is the key for companies that are often up against a power disparity. A few years ago, I made a video. It’s called Power, Negotiation, and…Sir Isaac Newton?. It’s out there on YouTube if people want to look at it.
I used the analogy of Sir Isaac Newton in refracting light. Most people, when they think about power in negotiation, they think of it as monolithic and a concentrated beam that they have it and I don’t. In negotiation, power comes from many different sources. It’s important that you view the situation in that way and ask yourself, “Where’s the power that we have here and influence things? What are we bringing to the table?” When you start to do that, you start to break power down in a way that is helpful. Part of it again is back to that what your view of power is and what you think the other can simply do or not do. That’s important to consider for the companies that you’re working with.If somebody is frustrated or angry, that's going to get in the way of a good deal. Click To Tweet
I like that because the power is not absolute. I get into debates periodically about the notion of leverage. Leverage being the same as power, essentially, that it’s something we voluntarily give up. If you’re engaged with somebody, there’s a reason that they’re engaged with you. If you fold and let them get everything you want or the proverbial big company slides of contract across the table and says, “We don’t negotiate.” You believe them and folds, then you’ve abdicated your power. You have voluntarily given that away. That’s something that I love to talk about because you’re right, power comes in so many different ways in how we find different nooks and crannies of things to be able to leverage it.
I know a lot of people who’ve negotiated with Walmart as a great example. People in the negotiation world talk about Walmart all the time because they’re the big goat and gorilla and they beat their suppliers up. I know a lot of people who love negotiating with them because they switch out their negotiation team a lot. They do things to try to prevent or to limit building relationships are dead. That means that institutional knowledge goes away. You can rehash other things more quickly because they’ve moved people out of the negotiation team, but you still have that knowledge. It is finding that creative way to those creative opportunities to create leverage for yourself.
The other thing I like that what you talk about, I talk about getting curious. You have to be curious. You need to be curious about you because most people think they know what they want, but they don’t have a clear view of what they want. Few people in negotiation spend enough time getting curious about their counterparts. I love the question, “What’s going to make my counterpart so successful out of this relationship?” Negotiation is a hopeful act. We do it because we’re hoping that doing something together makes us better than not. It is a hopeful act. When you approach it from that perspective, it opens up possibilities and creates opportunities that you never thought would exist.
The hopeful idea is a good one too, because it gives people a sense that you’re looking out and you’re thinking, “What’s possible here?” A lot of times when people are continuing to say no or stalwart or pushing back against everything and anything. One of my favorite things to say is, “I’m clear what you won’t do. I’m wondering if you can tell me under what conditions you would do something. What is it that would make this possible?” You’re always having to try to find a different angle. The best negotiators that I’ve worked with over the years, they always do that.
They say, “We tried that and it didn’t work. Let’s go here. If that doesn’t work, we’ll go there.” What we’re talking about is viewing negotiation as a problem solving and saying, “Let’s look at the problem. The problem is not the other negotiator, it’s the issue in front of us. How do we then take that up and think differently and creatively about all the ways that we can solve that problem?” When you view it that way, it takes the pressure off. You don’t see the other as an adversary or somebody standing in your way, but somebody that you need.
I’m hoping that we can get more people thinking that way versus this win-lose. If you get something, I lose it. I’m hoping that we can move away from that. I get a lot of people who feel that they don’t have power. One of the things that they follow me as they’ve encountered different types of negotiation, they get to deal with people who are obnoxious, who can be mean and demeaning and bullying at the negotiation table. The book on bullying that you wrote for kids, but how did, as adults, do you deal with negotiation at the table or deal with bullying at the negotiation table?
You have to name it. You have to say, “I’m not interested in negotiating this way. We’re not going to reach a good agreement. I don’t see the point. I’m not sure I would want to do business with somebody who’s treating me that way.” I will say, “I’m not interested in a positional back and forth here. There’s a relationship to be had and a deal to be done, but that needs to be based on mutual respect and trust.” You have to be willing to walk away. That’s the problem and that’s the challenge for a lot of people who will say to me, “That’s all well and good if you don’t need the agreement badly.” One of the things that I’ve found is that lots of people are learning about the interest-based approach to negotiation, but there’s still a lot of people who don’t know about it, who’ve never heard about it.
When I sit down with somebody and they are taking that approach, the first thing that comes to my mind is they don’t know there’s another way to negotiate. They’ve learned or they’ve been told that this is the way to do this. The first thing that I try is to shift the conversation and now we’re back to stories. To me, one of the hardest things is shifting somebody who’s in a positional stance in negotiation into a more cooperative approach. I will try to think of stories that I can utilize that will help to demonstrate why it makes sense to take a different approach and share that. A lot of times it will be like, “Can I share a story from a previous negotiation that would be helpful here?”
I’ve had people who are trying to be bullies or trying to play a certain game say, “If you feel like you need to share your story, go ahead and do it.” By the time I’m done with it, I see a different person. There’s that. The other thing is that you have to show the other side that all of these antiques don’t bother you. That’s difficult, but it’s not impossible, because to me, as I often explained to my students, half of your challenges in negotiation are up there with the people you deal with the dynamics and the other half are in you.
If you’re prepared and if you know what you’re doing and if you’re clear about what your objectives are, all of the end text put you in a small chair with the sun in your eyes and all of these things are relevant. You see them. When you’ve done this for a while, you know what the tricks are that people try to utilize and they’re not effective when you know them. It’s an educational one. It’s self-awareness. It’s a self-management thing. This is why emotional intelligence is so important because you can’t keep emotions out of negotiation. I believe that they play an important role. It’s more of a question of how you manage it. That’s what we’re talking about when we’re sitting across from a difficult person, it’s managing our emotions, so they don’t get the better of us, whether that makes us angry or makes us want to accommodate, neither of which are good.
The last thing that I try to do is I always write down on a pad of paper on my computer screen, depending on what I’m using, to capture some of the negotiation. I always write down my objective so that I’m clear about what it is, and I can always look back at that and say, “Is what this person is offering me meet my objective or not?” If it doesn’t, then I have to say, “It’s a reasonable offer, but it doesn’t get me where I want to go.” Those are the different things that I do when I come up against somebody who’s difficult and challenging and thinks that’s the way to negotiate.
I hadn’t thought about the notion that they may not know that there’s a better way or more effective way of negotiating. I had never thought of that. When you get to the people who are screaming and yelling, I always say that a boiling tea pot eventually runs out of steam because there comes a point when they have to take a breath. At that point, the labeling is a big deal, like good cop, bad cop. Call that out, because at the end of the day, it’s not effective. Why are we playing this? We don’t need to play this game. There’s a different way of doing this.
When I go and shop for cars, I take a different approach. I go in and I say, “I’ve done my homework. I what I know the car is worth. I realize you’ve got some profit you need to make, but this is what I can afford. I’m telling you now, that’s what I can do.” That’s not a starting negotiation point. They often will go through their dog and pony show. I’m like, “You’re not listening. I’m not doing what you’re doing. I don’t care. I’m not going up $2,000 more because your boss said this and I don’t need all of those bells and whistles. I did my homework. This is what I’m going to pay. Can you do it? If not, I’ll go to the guy next to you and see if he can do it.” It’s changing the game and changing it in your favor. It’s a helpful analogy to think that of negotiation in some ways as a game and that it can be changed depending on framing and depending on how you view a situation and the tactics that you use.In negotiations, the problem is not the other negotiator; it’s the issue in front of you. Click To Tweet
I often tell a story in some of my audiences, I bought two cars for the price of one plus $5,000 once. It was a good deal, but it was all about preparation. That was what drove our ability to get that deal, and knowing what the dealer could do. Knowing and understanding their business and how they made money and how the salesperson made money and how the salesperson was going to sell to me or to my husband. That brings a whole lot of things from preparation to how to deal with difficult or high-pressure tactics that somebody might employ because they pull out their 2X2 matrix and they want to go with that. How can people find you and get in touch with you? What are some final thoughts that you’d like to leave with the audience?
I have a website which is www.JoshuaNWeiss.com. That has all the books and everything I’ve done. I also did a podcast for a number of years, this was 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007-ish. It was a bit of an experiment. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it. It was hard to keep up with, but there were 150 episodes that are out there. They’re on all the different aspects of negotiation. They’re short. Those are housed on the website as well as other kinds of things. Everything that you might want to know is there to explore. In terms of final thoughts, we’ve talked about a lot of the keys for small-medium businesses but investing in negotiation. I’ve worked with an engineering consulting firm for several years now. They’ve invested in dealing with conflict and negotiation because they know that it’s such an important part of their work.
They’ve saved many millions of dollars over the years as a result of people having this knowledge. It requires an investment. People will often say to me, “Could you come and do a day or two training?” I say, “I can, but if you want your employees to become proficient at negotiation, that’s not going to do it. You don’t go to the gym for a day or two and think that you’ve built a new muscle. You have to keep working it.” I always try to build follow up sessions and things along those lines that say to the other like, “Let’s meet in a month and two months and three months and six months. You’re going to tell me the negotiations you’ve had and the things that we’ve talked about and how you applied them.” That’s the expectation.
For companies, invest in it. It will be worth your while. You want to make it part of people’s metrics so that they understand they’re not just going to a training, but that they’re going to be judged in one sense on how they do in this realm. There’s an expectation, but you help them along the way. You don’t give them a couple of days of training. You have set up these forums where your organization, especially small, medium-sized companies can do this well, because they can have monthly brown bag and people bring their negotiations.
Collectively, as an organization, you talk about those challenges and you help that person who’s dealing with that to think about things differently. Not only is it possible to have people become better negotiators, it will happen if you invest in it, but take the long view. I often say that I don’t think being a good negotiator is a destination. It’s a journey. It’s something that you continue to do over and over again and keep learning as you go. If people go into all of this with that kind of an orientation, they’ll be in good shape.
Thank you so much. I appreciate you taking time to be here with us and. To the readers, thank you for spending time. We appreciate it. That’s the most valuable gift you can give us, so thank you. Check out Venn Negotiation at VennNegotiation.com. You can check out our programs and all the things that we do to help you, the small business, medium-sized business, elevate your negotiations. Negotiation is nothing more than a conversation about a relationship. You cannot win a relationship that you can level up and there’s more for you to have. I’m excited to see you get there. I look forward to seeing you on the next episode. Have a great day, everybody. Thanks again, Josh. I appreciate it.
- Josh Weiss
- Getting to Yes
- The Book of Real-World Negotiations
- Prisoners of Geography
- Trouble at the Watering Hole
- Power, Negotiation, and…Sir Isaac Newton? – YouTube
- Podcast – Negotiation Tip of the Week
About Dr. Joshua Weiss
Dr. Joshua N. Weiss is the co-founder, with William Ury, of the Global Negotiation Initiative at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Negotiation Project. He is also the Director and creator of the Master of Science degree in Leadership and Negotiation at Bay Path University. He received his Ph.D. from the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in 2002.
Dr. Weiss has spoken and published on leadership, negotiation, mediation, and systemic approaches to dealing with conflict. In his current capacity, he conducts research, consults with many different types of organizations, delivers negotiation and mediation trainings and courses, and engages in negotiation and mediation at the organizational, corporate, government, and international levels.
Dr. Weiss’ newest book, to be published by Wiley Press, will be available in August of 2020 and is entitled The Book of Real-World Negotiations: Successful Strategies From Business, Government, and Daily Life. The book shines a light on real-world negotiation examples and cases, rather than discussing hypothetical scenarios. It reveals what is possible through preparation, persistence, creativity, and taking a strategic approach to your negotiations.
Dr. Weiss is also the co-author of a storybook trilogy for children ages six to 10 to learn negotiation and conflict resolution skills. The books are part of the Emo and Chickie series. The first book is entitled Trouble at the Watering Hole: The Adventures of Emo and Chickie and seeks to teach children creative problem-solving. The second book, Bullied No More: The Continuing Adventures of Emo and Chickie addresses the difficult issue of bullying, addresses the problem of bullying. The third and final book, Phony Friends, Besties Again: The Continuing Adventures of Emo and Chickie focuses on a social media conflict and how best to address it.
Dr. Weiss is the creator of a number of innovative products that use the power of technology to convey negotiation and conflict resolution knowledge and skills to a broad audience. In addition to teaching numerous synchronous and asynchronous courses and trainings over the web, he has developed two products of note. The first is the Negotiation Tip of the Week (NTOW) podcast. The second is the Negotiator In You Audiobook and eBook series. The NTOW was in the top 100 iTunes Business Podcasts from 2007 to 2010 and has been downloaded over 2 million times. The Negotiator In You series was published in January 2012 and was in the iTunes top audiobook category for two months.
Dr. Weiss has conducted trainings and consulted with a number of organizations, companies, and governmental entities, including Microsoft, General Motors, United Auto Workers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, Christies Art Auction House, CDM Smith, Deloitte, Genzyme, Harvard University, Mass Mutual, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale Medical School, the United Nations (Mediation Unit, UNAOC, UNITAR, and UNDP), Government of Canada, the US Government (State Department, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Park Service, and Transportation Security Administration), and various state governments.
Lastly, Dr. Weiss delivered a Ted Talk in 2018 entitled “The Wired Negotiator” about the role of technology in negotiation and how to use it most effectively.
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