You Can’t Negotiate What You Can’t See

You have to be able to see what is being discussed during a negotiation
You have to be able to see what is being discussed during a negotiation
Image Credit: Lead Beyond

We all know that we have 5 senses with which we take in what is happening around us (some of us may have 6 senses but that’s a different movie). Which one of these senses is the most important in terms of negotiation styles and negotiating techniques to you during a negotiation? I’m pretty sure that most of us would say that our hearing is critical. However, after that – what comes next? How about vision? If that’s true, than what happens when we negotiate on the phone?

You Can’t Know What You Can’t See

When we are sitting in a negotiation with the other side, we have a lot of options available to us when we want to make a point. In order to convince them that your position is valid, you can simply hold up the proof that will show them that you are correct. Where things start to get interesting is when you are negotiating on the phone – all of a sudden you no longer can “show” the other side what you mean nor can they show you anything.

Often during a phone negotiation, the party that you are talking with will tell you “wait just a minute, I have those papers here somewhere”. The next thing that you’ll hear is a rustling of papers while they appear to be searching for something. Even if he claims to have found what he was looking for, you won’t be able to see it. Likewise, if you have to go looking for a piece of paper, they won’t be able to tell if you ever find it.

The challenge here is that during a telephone negotiation, you’re going to discover that both sides of the table are working at a disadvantage. You won’t be able to push back against anything the other side says because you can’t see the material that they are using to justify their position. If you were in the same room, then you could examine the document that they claim supports their position.

Despite Not Seeing, We Still Want Resolution

Another problem that not being able to see the other side of the table creates is the simple fact that it can be all too easy when we are engaged in a telephone negotiation to expect the negotiations to be resolved at the end of the call. This is not something that happens when we are meeting with the other side face-to-face.

One of the big differences between negotiating on the phone and negotiating in person is that you can put things on hold. It’s very common during a face-to-face negotiation for things to reach a point where you say “I’m going to need some time to think about this”. This is almost expected.

However, when you are negotiating with someone on the phone, this type of behavior is not as common. In all honesty, both parties are really in a mood to try to settle this issue – one way or another. A lot of this has to do with the simple fact that we feel as though we’ve invested the time and so we have the right to get an answer right now.

What All Of This Means For You

You often don’t know how important something is until it gets taken away from you. In the world of negotiating this applies to the sense of sight. When we find ourselves negotiating on the phone with the other side of the table, it is only then that we realize that we are really blind.

One of the big problems with trying to conduct a principled negotiation over the phone is that we can’t see anything. We often don’t realize just how fundamental the ability to see what the other side is talking about is to our ability to negotiate until we realize that we can’t see what they are referring to. This allows them to make up stories that we can’t disprove. Additionally, even if we can’t see what the other side is talking about, just because we are talking on the phone we have the desire to conclude the negotiations at the end of the phone call.

Awareness is half of the battle when it comes to negotiations. We need to be aware of what the limitations are when we are negotiating on the phone. Additionally, we need to understand that when we can’t see what the other side is referring to, we have to slow things down and not attempt to wrap the negotiations up. Keep all of this in mind and make sure that the next time that you negotiate that you keep your eyes open!

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

Question For You: If you are negotiating on the phone and the other side makes a reference that you can’t see, how should you react?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

These days we all spend so much time on the phone we really don’t give it another thought. However, perhaps we should. For you see, not only are we spending more and more time on the phone, but we have also started to include using the phone in our negotiations. Negotiating on the phone is different from negotiating face-to-face. One of the biggest differences in terms of impact on negotiation styles and negotiating techniques is the role that your ears play in the negotiations…