Let’s face it: conflict happens in every negotiation. The very process of negotiating using our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques with someone seems to open the door to allowing conflict to come in. How do we deal with conflict when it shows up? All too often our first response is to try to find a way to correct the way that the other side is seeing the world. We’ll take the time to tell them why they are wrong and, of course, why we are right. The problem with this approach is that it rarely works and will often make the current situation even worse. What we need is a different way to deal with conflict situations.
Our Understanding Of What Is Fair Is Biased
One of the most important things that we need to realize as negotiators is that everyone at the table arrives with a biased sense of just exactly what “fair” means. This becomes very clear when we start to understand that during any conflict that shows up, both sides are going to think that they are right and the other side is wrong. The reason that everyone is thinking this is simply because they are not able to think outside of their own heads. What we are running into in this situation is something that is called egocentrism, or the tendency to have difficulty seeing a situation from another person’s perspective
So how should we be dealing with this situation? The experts tell us that when we find ourselves in the middle of a conflict, what we need to do is to try to overcome our thinking. We want to find ways that will allow us to not be so self-centered in our view of what fairness really means. How can we do this? One way would be to hire a mediator who could work with us to help us to see how things look from the other side’s perspective. We could also reach out and find an unbiased expert and have them share with us how they see the facts of the negotiation.
Don’t Make Things Worse
I must confess that when a conflict arises in a negotiation, my irritation starts to go up also. What I really need to do is to learn to avoid making things worse by allowing tensions to escalate and using threats and provocative moves to try to get my way. The reason that I feel this way is because I start to feel that I’m being ignored by the other side or that I’m being pushed out of the way. I will try to take charge by trying to capture the other party’s attention by making a threat, such as saying I’ll take a dispute to court or trying to ruin the other party’s business reputation through social media.
It turns out that these kinds of actions are often a mistake. What ends up happening is that the other side takes offense at my actions. It is a basic human tendency that we treat others the way that they are treating us. This means that if I start to threaten the other side, then they will retaliate by threatening me. What all of this leads to is an escalatory spiral and worsening conflict. Before making a threat, we need to be sure we have exhausted all of our other options for managing conflict.
It Is NOT Us vs Them
When we show up for a negotiation, what we are thinking about is what we are going to be able to get out of the negotiations. This can easily lead to a “us versus them” type of thinking. It can be powerful and effective to be part of a group because we can create strong relationships with our team members. However, one downside to being on a team is that it can make us hostile and suspicious of anyone who is not on our team. The result of all of this is that we generally don’t understand how the other side sees the world and we believe that they have more extreme views than they really have.
In order to overcome this way of thinking, what we need to do is to take the time to find a common identity or a goal that you are both working towards. When the negotiations start, you are going to want to make sure that you highlight the fact that both sides are motivated to try to find an agreement that is both sustainable and fair. You need to see if you can find and talk about things that are similar between both sides of the table. The motivation for this is that the more connections that you can establish with the other side, more collaborative and productive your negotiation is likely to be.
What All Of This Means For You
Conflict is a part of every principled negotiation. As a negotiator you need to make sure that you have a set of conflict resolution techniques that you can use when you encounter conflict. It’s going to be these techniques that are going to allow you to move beyond the conflict and create a deal that both sides can live with.
During a negotiation we can get stuck inside of our own heads and we won’t be able to understand how the other side sees the world. When this happens, we need to get help from someone outside of the negotiation so that they can show us how the other side is seeing the issues that are on the table. When things are not going our way during a negotiation, we may be tempted to make threats in order to take control of the negotiations. Don’t do this because it will cause the other side to make threats against you. Conflict during a negotiation can be caused by a “us versus them” mentality that we adopt because of the group that we are part of. We need to look for points of connection between us and the other side in order to get rid of this way of thinking.
Conflict will always be a part of every negotiation. As negotiators we need to be able to recognize conflict for what it is worth and then take steps to deal with it. The good news is that when conflict shows up, we can easily take action to resolve it. Take the time to become a good dealer with conflict and you’ll be able to reach a deal with the other side more quickly!
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™
Question For You: When conflict shows up in a negotiation, do you think that you should take a break to let everyone calm down?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
One of the most powerful negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that a negotiator has available to them is what is called “anchoring”. Anchoring occurs when a negotiation is starting and you make an initial offer to the other side. This offer does not have to be one that you think that they would actually accept. It can be quite arbitrary. The power of an anchor offer is that it pulls the discussion in its direction. How can you use this powerful technique to your best advantage?