According to lawyer-turned-negotiation-consultant Nierenberg, the first step in learning positive negotiation skills is the acceptance of a “win-win” philosophy of negotiating.
“My basic philosophy is that you leave the other fellow something of his own. If you don’t, you’ve planted dragon seeds for the future. What we’re trying to do is replace the out¬dated win/lose approach with a creative approach that will be in the best interests of both parties,” he emphasizes.
This approach to negotiation is often referred to as the need theory of negotiation; Abraham Mas-low refers to it as “….inclusive or synergic negotiating in which all people win.” Nierenberg and others have simply dubbed it the win-win approach.
The idea of need fulfillment negotiating, selling and/or management has been around for awhile, and most of us have a good idea of what it means to arrive at a win-win solution to a relationship problem. But under¬standing and execution are horses of distinctly different shades of gray.
There may be many a slip twixt cup and lip for the novice negotiator at¬tempting to find a win-win solution.
Homework: Key to negotiation success
The negotiation experts we consulted tended to agree that every successful negotiation is one part face-to-face discussion and nine parts homework. By homework these experts mean learning as much as possible about the opponent and his or her needs prior to meeting.
Another lawyer-negotiator, John Ilich, author of Power Negotiating (Addison-Wesley, 1980), recounts that General George S. Patton, the famous World War II tank corps commander, attributed much of his success in the defeat of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the German “Desert Fox,” to Patton’s intensive study of Rommel’s book on armored-unit tactics.
Besides reading things the opponent has written or speeches he or she has delivered, the would-be negotiator has several other good in¬formation sources to draw upon.
• Third-party experiences with the individual. If two or three people tell you that, in their experience, “Smith is devious” or “Smith is a straight-shooter” or that “Smith has certain nervous habits that give his [or her] hand away,” you know a lot.
• Simple demographics, such as educational background, number of children and/or grandchildren, political leanings, leisure-time activities and hobbies are useful clues to Smith’s values and needs.
• Advance knowledge of the opponent’s cognitive and behavioral “style” can help significantly in pre¬paring the kinds of arguments to use and the tempo and timing the meet¬ings should take.
• Getting your facts straight is paramount. Hearsay and impression are the stuff of poor plans and lost negotiations. Once an opponent can actually prove you wrong, your negotiation stance loses considerable credibility.
Other important aspects of homework are making negotiating team assignments, specifying team member roles, selecting the propesite, preparing time schedules an agendas, and developing a sign-and signal vocabulary the negotiation team can use at the table.
Setting objectives, strategies and tactics
The final pre-meeting preparation step should be the preliminary choosing of strategies and tactics. A strategy requires establishing objective and laying plans.
What is the goal c this negotiation? What does our side need to achieve? What do we hope t achieve beyond baseline? What doe the opposition need and/or hope t achieve? What is our mini-max position? Do we come out throwing?
Should we play a waiting game? An aggressive one? Should we look reluctant or eager? All shape and form of strategic planning and effort must be clearly enunciated and accepted by all participants prior to the opening-round handshakes.
Once strategy is established, tactics, those things we will say and do to motivate the opponent toward our objectives, must be thought through and tentatively selected. How long can we wait? How much reluctance or silence or insolence will the opponent tolerate? What resources do we have available for working our plan? Tactical questions such as these must be considered before discussion begins.
Plenty of tactics to choose from
Just as every golf pro has a favorite set of clubs, every negotiation pro has a favorite set or tactics. But, unlike the golf pro, the expert negotiator tends to evolve an idiosyncratic set of names for his or her tools.
John Ilich has 14 favorites in his tool kit, and they bear such colorful names as the “Great Fear” technique, the “Rainy Day” technique and the “Vinegar and Honey” technique. Nierenberg, who tends to refer to tactics as gambits, has developed a matrix of strategies, tactics and needs; his tool kit contains 19 separate negotiating techniques, with names ranging from the esoteric to the mundane— for example, “Forebearance,” “Association” and “Salami.”
Despite the somewhat hoky handles, these experts’ tactics are ex¬tremely clever. Take, for example, the “Double Reversal” tactic, which Nierenberg describes this way:
A few years ago a major airline was building a large complex in New York City and wanted lower electric rates than Con Edison charged. Con Edison turned them down, saying that the Public Service Commission would not permit it, that the rate schedule would not sanction it.
The negotiations came to a standstill. The air¬line then engaged a group of engineers to determine costs for an independent electricity-producing facility. The airline saw that the cost was not too high and that the investment could probably be amortized, so they were ready to go ahead and build. When Con Edison heard of this, they reversed their position at once.
They applied to the Public Service Commission for a much lower rate for this type of user. The Commission immediately approved the new rates. To Con Edison’s consternation, the airline would not now buy at the new rate but insisted they were going ahead with their plans for a generating plant.
Con Edison reversed itself a second time, went back to the Commission, and obtained a still lower rate. Only then were they able to close a deal with the airline. The airline, however, was not the only beneficiary of these negotiations. Now all commercial users of large quantities of electricity in New York Coty are entitled to the same reduced rates that Con Edison offered the airline.
Asking, looking and listening
Following fact finding, planning and strategizing, the. interpersonal deftness of the would-be negotiator becomes paramount. The skills experts stress most frequently are questioning, listening, and reading body language.
Questioning consists of both what you saycontent—and the way you say it— style. A good question, ac¬cording to Nierenberg, helps you secure immediate attention, maintains interest in the topic being discussed and directs the course of the conversation. Furthermore, questioning often helps the opposition better understand your objectives. But questions can boomerang unless they are thought out.
The question “When were you born?” seems harmless enough— unless the person asked is overly sensitive about age. In that case, this might be a better alternative: “On this form, they require a statement of your age. Some people prefer to state 21 plus. Do you have a preference?”
One goal of the homework phase should be to determine the type and tone of your questioning. Nierenberg evolves a rather large matrix of questions, but each can be related to what he calls the “Five Functions of Questions.” According to Nierenberg, questions can do the following:
1. Cause attention. Provide preparatory conditions for the operation of the other’s thinking. Example: “How are you?”
2. Get information. Provide the questioner with information. “How much is it?”
3. Give information. Provide the other with information. “Did you know you could handle this?”
4. Start thinking. Cause the other’s thinking to operate. “What would your suggestion be on this?”
5. Bring to conclusion. Bring the other’s thinking to a conclusion. “Isn’t it time to act?”
Listening, according to Henry H. Calero, coauthor with Nierenberg of How to Read a Person Like a Book and Meta Talk, may be the hardest skill for neophyte negotiators to learn. They want so badly to jump in and make their points that they ignore the words of others.
To become better listeners, negotiators should, according to Calero, keep their hands away from their faces and tilt their heads. Active listening training and restating and paraphrasing skills are also important for the novice negotiator.
Equally important is the under¬standing of “meta-talk,” or the meaning behind and beyond the literal meaning of what people say. Most people know that it’s time to head for the storm cellar when they hear such phrases as “To be perfectly frank…” or “I wouldn’t think of criticizing but….”
Typical of the problems that can occur when one misses the meta-meaning of a conversation is this tasty dialogue: “Do you still love me?” “Of course, I love you!” “Then why don’t you talk to me anymore?” The “of course” is the villain. It is suspect and may indicate an absence of absolute assurance and a need for self-reassurance.
Body language, the “silent language” as cultural anthropologist Edward T. Hall calls it, can provide telling clues to the feelings that lurk behind an agenda item or an idea. For example:
A person with his hands or arms folded is not open to your words nor to any bar-gaining. Generally. And while a person’s hand next to his face is a bad sign if you’re talking to him, to see that same person sucking on a pencil is a good sign because it probably indicates he wants more information.
A person tugging on his ear likely is trying to interrupt so you might as well give him a chance— be¬cause he’s not listening to you anymore. If we’re telling the truth, we tend to look another in the eye more often than we do if we’re fibbing a bit.
Putting our hands behind our head denotes superiority as does peering over our glasses or pointing. All these acts make the other uncomfortable and in no mood to strike a deal.
Calero suggests a bold approach if you’re the victim of such antics: “If you’re not comfortable, just tell the other person. ‘You’re making me uncomfortable.’ ” Then, says Calero, the person normally will spend the rest of the session trying to make up for his errant ways and you will be in a stronger bargaining position.
There are myriad ways our gestures telegraph our feelings. If we’re ready to cooperate, our hands are open; if we’re nervous, we will clear out throat; in frustration we will rub the back of our neck; fighting for self-control, we will clinch our hands; to show acceptance we will touch another; and we will say a nonverbal no by buttoning our coat.
By now you may have the uneasy feeling that win-win negotiating can be very close to win-lose negotiating in process and proceeding. And you’re absolutely right.
The tools are the same; only the application— the objectives, if you will—are different.
To support and maintain a truly win-win negotiating philosophy, the would-be negotiator must believe that his or her best interests and those of the organization or persons he or she represents in a negotiation situation, as well as those of the person or persons being negotiated with, are best served by holding fast to long-term objectives and dancing the compromise waltz with short-term needs and wants.
To paraphrase Nierenberg, nobody gets too excited when you or I begin a sentence with “I want”— unless, of course, we end it with “to help you get what you want. How can I do that?”