Are You Hindering Your Next Negotiated Deal?

Is it possible that you are blocking your way to the deal that you want?
Is it possible that you are blocking your way to the deal that you want?
Image Credit: Geep tillmechanic

Let’s face it – not all of our negotiations go the way that we want them to go. We can easily become upset, angry, or frustrated with the way that things are going. Although these reactions are fairly standard reactions to things that can happen during a negotiation, we need to understand that both our actions and our reactions can conspire against our ability to create win-win negotiating outcomes. We need a way to solve this problem and it turns out that a self-examination might be the way that we can do it.

Are You The Problem?

Take a moment and think back about some of the disappointments and stressful moments you’ve faced in your past negotiations. Perhaps you have walked out of discussions with the other side because you felt too upset to continue working towards a win-win situation — a choice that only ratcheted up the tense atmosphere. Perhaps you’ve failed to speak up for your needs in a negotiation, only to feel your dissatisfaction growing. In dealings with the other side, anger or impatience may have led you to make some concessions you later regretted.

I’m pretty sure that we all have negotiation memories that make us wince. One of our biggest obstacles in any given negotiation usually isn’t a difficult partner, bad timing, or a lack of power. Rather, and this is the surprising part, it is ourselves. All too often we sabotage ourselves by reacting in ways that do not serve our true interests. All of us have these destructive patterns that we tend to fall back on in a negotiation, such as losing our temper, withdrawing instead of communicating, or even saying yes when we need to set limits.

So how can we go about solving this problem? What we need to learn how to do is to replace our win-lose mentality with a win-win situation, including more-creative agreements and stronger relationships. However, when we watch other negotiators at work we may see them continue to “get in their own way”. What we need is a way to overcome the blind spots that may be holding us back in negotiation.

How To Solve Your You Problem

Ok, so if you are the one thing that is standing in between you and a successful negotiation, what can you do about it? The first thing that you need to understand is that to create a win-win situation in a negotiation, your self-awareness is critical. Experienced negotiators understand the importance of taking the time to understand other party’s perspective. By imagining how we would act and react in someone else’s position, we are able to get a step closer to empathizing with and influencing the other party. Unfortunately, our focus on our own problems and concerns often prevents us from being able to put ourselves in the other side’s shoes. What we need to do is to listen to ourselves first, identify our deepest needs, and think about how they can be met.

We need to understand that there is value of “going to the porch” – disengaging ourselves during heated moments in our negotiations and viewing them with detachment. If we can observe the negotiation from the metaphorical porch, we can gain the distance we need to see the other side’s behavior more clearly and overcome the urge to react destructively. Likewise, it’s just as important to view ourselves from the porch. When you feel your anger, fear, or other upsetting emotions rising during a negotiation, you need to try to step back and observe the feelings with a spirit of curiosity and inquiry.

Something else that we have to do in order to be able to get out of our own way is to develop our “inner BATNA.” When negotiators find themselves in conflict, all too often they blame one another. Refusing to recognize our own contributions to the problem at hand, we feel a sense of righteous indignation that comes from holding others accountable. Yet if we view ourselves as victims, then this requires us to sacrifice our own sense of power and typically diminishes our outcomes. The good news is that we can avoid this destructive spiral by cultivating our inner BATNA. By enhancing our alternatives outside the current negotiation, we are able to gain the sense of freedom, power, and confidence we need to walk away from any agreement that doesn’t serve our best interests.

Even when our BATNA seems weak, it is possible to foster a sense of power in ourselves – and avoid the “blame game” – by creating an inner BATNA. We define this as being “a strong, unconditional commitment to ourselves to take care of our deepest needs, no matter what the other side does or doesn’t do”. By giving up the blame game and assuming responsibility for our relationships and our needs we can go right to the root of conflict and take the lead in transforming our negotiations.

Finally, in order to remove ourselves from blocking us from getting the deal that we desire, we need to reframe our picture. In training classes, negotiators are often advised to look for a win-win situation and ways to “expand the pie” of resources before trying to carve it up. But because of our “mind-set of scarcity,” we tend to believe that the pie of resources is really fixed in size. When negotiators feel there isn’t enough to go around, that is when conflicts break out. To move us beyond a scarcity mind-set, we simply need to reframe the situation. Such shifts often require us to look not only at the specific situation but also perhaps at how we approach life in general. Do we normally expect things to generally go our way or are we anticipating roadblocks at every turn?

What All Of This Means For You

The goal of every negotiator is to be able to reach a deal in every negotiation that we participate in. We all understand that at times this can be difficult to do – the other side blocks us, won’t agree to our demands, or simply doesn’t seem motivated to reach a deal with us. When things like this happen, we need to take a step back. Is it possible that we are the ones who are causing this problem?

When we are involved in a negotiation, we need to start things out by being self-aware. We have to be able to view the negotiation from the other side’s perspective. We also have to be able to disengage ourselves from the negotiations if things get heated. This will allow us to see where the other side may be coming from. Finally, we need to need to go into our next negotiation with an inner BATNA. This will allow us to walk away if things are not going our way.

Understanding that we may be the ones who are blocking ourselves from getting the deal that we are looking for is a big breakthrough for negotiators. With this new understanding, we can start to take steps to eliminate this problem. The good news is that we are in the driver’s seat – getting rid of the problem is up to us. Keep your eyes open during your next negotiation and if you find yourself blocking a deal, step aside.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: If you find yourself blocking a negotiation, should you take a break?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So convincing the other side to agree to the proposal that you have made to them may come down to how they view what you have presented. You want them to see your offer in a favorable light, but there is really no guarantee that this will happen. As a negotiator, you’d like to be able to control how the other side views your proposals. It turns out that you can. You just need to know how to go about framing your next negotiation.