A Negotiator’s Best Friend: Time To Think

by drjim on January 29, 2009

Negotiators Need To Develop Patience In Order To Be Successful

Negotiators Need To Develop Patience In Order To Be Successful

Quick – what is the most important characteristic of a negotiator? Sorry, that was a trick question – there are a number of correct possible answers. However, one trait that needs to be on that list is patience. Although being an American can often be an great asset, in negotiations sometimes it can be a hindrance because we are impatient!

So what is patience? In short it’s the ability to wait, the ability to not rush to a conclusion. Although this can be very difficult to do, it is a trait well worth developing. With patience you can cause the following things to happen:

  1. Get the other side to grant concession after concession.
  2. Discover new issues that need to be negotiated.
  3. Cause the other side to have internal divisions.
  4. Cause the other side to redefine their objectives.
  5. Provide time for both sides to accept new ideas.

So if we can all agree that patience is a good thing for a negotiator to have, the big question that comes up right off the bat is just how does one develop patience? Since pressure and patience are so closely linked, the ability to develop patience often comes down to how your organization works.

In order to build patience, here is what you need to do:

  1. You need to make sure that you have made sure that everyone on you negotiating team is made aware of the value of patience.
  2. You need to take the time to plan ahead.
  3. Get an inch, when you really need a yard. Time is something that you can always use – buy yourself more whenever you have an opportunity.
  4. Establish milestones that are future based so that everyone has the same view of the future.
  5. Manage the expectations of upper management so that pressure on the negotiating team is minimized as much as possible.

Speaking of upper management, as with all negotiating tactics, patience has two sides to it. Your upper management will be well aware that too much patience may result in the negotiating never reaching a conclusion.

Given the way the world works, there is a good chance that you’ll encounter a situation in which the other side of the table starts to use patience as a tactic against you! In these situations, there are several ways to defend yourself:

  1. Internally understand that his using patience may turn out to make things tougher on the other side than on you.
  2. Set a deadline in order to negate the other side’s use of patience.
  3. React by making sure that you are relaxed and make yourself comfortable.
  4. Prepare your internal team for a long march (also make sure that your senior management does not expect immediate results).
  5. Develop a strategy that will send signals to the other side that let’s them know that patience won’t work out for them.
  6. Make patience both costly and risky for the other side.
  7. Walk out!

Using simple patience is a tatic that is often overlooked in today’s go-go business environment. That’s one of the reasons that it can work so well! Make sure that you communicate the importance of patience to your entire negotiating team and you’ll be well positioned to do well during your next negotiation.

Have you ever used patience as a negoitiating tool? Was it successful? Has the other side ever used patience as a tool against you?  How did you react? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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