Most negotiation tips you are going to get are going to hurt you more than help you, so you have to be very careful. Before you follow any negotiation tip, the first thing you have to ask yourself is what do you really want? Without doing that, you may eventually end up getting what you want but then later realize that you did not want when you get entrenched in your positions and not your interests. But to know your interests, you have to first know what you want, and then you can focus on what others want, so you can come up with creative solutions to reach an agreement.
What is the first thing you have to take care of in any negotiation?
Before you can negotiate with others, you have to first negotiate with yourself, which is what William Ury (an American author, academic, anthropologist and negotiation expert) recommends in his book, "Getting to Yes Yourself: (and Other Worthy Opponents)." Until you get this right, you are going to find it difficult to negotiate with others and resort to a "win-lose" attitude that can be destructive to both you and the other party. We can't control what the other party's inner needs are, but we certainly can get grips of our inner needs to help us negotiate effectively. Theodore Roosevelt once observed, “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”
You want to practice mindfulness over mindlessness. Mindfulness is a buzzword associated with meditation, yoga, and spirituality. These are all means of getting to know yourself better and get control of your mind so you can better understand yourself without being judgmental. You can even do this by practicing silence, writing your thoughts down or recording your thoughts while going for a walk. The main thing to remember is that you want to get control of your thoughts and feelings and focus on what is is that you want.
One of the most stressful thing we do at work, in relationship or purchasing something is negotiation. To make things worse, we are trying to juggle other things which puts us on auto pilot on conducting negotiation like reaching a destination. Unfortunately, real life is not like flying a plane in a good condition where pilots are just going for the ride. You are going to face turbulence and have to navigate through it. If you are not completely focused, your negotiation will crash and burn.
Some may ask won't practicing mindfulness make me a weak negotiator. Isn't negotiation like going to war as Mika Brezinski (co-host of "Morning Joe" on MSNBC) advises to women on her "Knowing Your Value" tour so they get what they want? How are you going to find out what you really want? It's not that simple. Why waste time on something that is not going to satisfy your inner needs? We often get stuck on positions and are looking to vanquish the other party into agreeing with our position. The other party will also get stuck in his position and make it difficult to come up with creative solutions to reach an agreement. To prevent that from happening, you have to know and understand yourself well before you try to understand the other party. William Ury writes, "If we can learn to influence ourselves first before we seek to influence others, we will be better able to satisfy our needs as well as to satisfy the needs of others."
Based on his lifetime of personal and professional experiences, Ury identifies the six steps toward taking care of yourself. The first step that I would like to talk about is "to put yourself in your shoes."
We have all heard that to be an effective negotiator you have to put yourself in others' shoes. But before you do that, you must put first put yourself in your shoes in understanding your deep needs and interests. You have to ask yourself a question that Ury asked one of his client, "What do you most want right now in your life?"
I worked with a client who was in her mid-50s and was negotiating her salary for a very good job in New York City. When I asked her what she wanted, she immediately brought up salary. I pointed out to her that she is making a big move, and there will be plenty of challenge and a lot of hours she will have to put in; salary may not be that important later on. I again asked her using Ury's question, "What do you most want right now in your life?”
This time she gave it some thought and said that she would like both challenge and freedom and would be willing to compromise on the salary. She wanted to work more days from home, get more days in vacation, opportunity to attend at least two company paid seminars, etc. When we worked it out, she may not want to hold her position on the salary if she could get the other things she valued more. As it turned out, she got the salary and other items we had discussed. She was able to get the challenge she was looking for and the freedom, hence, pulled the trigger and accepted the job.
To put yourself in your shoes, Ury recommends three actions to follow: First, see yourself from the "balcony"; second, go deeper and listen with empathy to your underlying feelings for what they are really telling you; third, go even deeper and uncover your underlying needs.
1. See yourself from the “balcony”
When things get heated during a negotiation, instead of attacking, Ury recommends stepping into a balcony, a metaphor for a place where you can calm yourself down and look at the situation objectively. Ury suggests you have to identify your emotion whether it is fear, anger, hatred, etc. and acknowledge it and manage it with thoughtfulness so you can remain calm and continue your negotiation with a clearer perspective. Going to the "balcony" is like when a teacher used to ask a nursery student to go in a corner for a time-out. But as adults, you have to do it yourself and take a time out. Once you are on the "balcony," take a few deep breaths, gather your thoughts and focus on what's important.
Ury writes, "the balcony is not just a place to visit from time to time, but rather a home base. In your interactions with others, you can learn to be on the stage enacting the drama while at the same time watching it from the balcony. That takes practice, of course, but the more you can live your life with clarity and calm, the more effectively you will be able to deal with others and to pursue your interests with ease and success."
2. Go deeper and listen with empathy to your underlying feelings for what they are telling you
This step is hard since we don't know how to listen to our feelings. Often we don't want to. But it is something we must learn to do if we want to find out what we really want. You have to listen to yourself with empathy, trying to understand what you are feeling. When others lose jobs, you may sympathize with them, but the only way you can empathize with them is if you have gone through a similar experience or are currently going through it yourself.
Listening with empathy is very difficult for all of us since we do tend to be very judgmental and not try to understand ourselves. And when this happens it affects our negotiation negatively since we don't have a solid inner base on which to stand. During conflict, it is too late to listen to your inner feelings as you get into "win-lose" mode. You have to practice so that you have clarity in what you are doing and remain calm. If you remain calm, it will affect the other party to do the same and come to a "win-win" agreement.
For example, when you are negotiating for a job, ask yourself, what are you really feeling? Do you fear that you may not have marketable skills in the future to get a good job? Are you fearful that you may not get both personal and professional satisfaction with your job? Do you fear that you will not like your boss or colleagues? There is a lot that goes inside ourselves that you need to bring out before you are ready to negotiate. If you don't do this, then you will end up focusing on the wrong things and resort to a "win-lose" attitude that will not lead to a successful negotiation.
Ury asks, "Could it be that the secret to listening to others is to listen to ourselves first?" He suggests that "instead of judging yourself, accept yourself just as you are." If you can accept the way you are, then you will end up being the linchpin in any successful negotiation.
A good way to do this is to write down your feelings or thoughts. Once you identify it, you can ask several whys to get to the root of your feelings or thought. I tend to take an audio recorder with me when I am going for a walk and come back with at least 20 to 30 minutes of what I am thinking and feeling. It helps me get it out of my system and I am often amazed later when I listen to it that I expressed what I was feeling and thinking in such detail.
3. Go even deeper and uncover your underlying needs
To get this requires asking simple two questions: "Why?" "Why do I want this?" If you ask this to yourself, then you may be able to come up with creative solutions. The reason this exercise is important is that we tend to focus on positions rather than our deeper interests. Questioning yourself gets to your deeper interests that you alone can answer.
I was once offered a job by a big software company. But when I asked myself what did I want, I realized that I was looking for more responsibility. I knew I could not get that by joining a new company right away, so I had a talk with the CEO of a company that I was working for. I explained to him that I have a job offer, but what would make me remain with the company is more responsibility. If I can get more responsibility, then I would prefer to remain with the company. He appreciated my candor and said he would see to it that I got more responsibility with a new title. Did I negotiate a raise? No. I did not care about money than getting some experience leading a project. I got what I wanted, and the CEO got what he wanted (a good employee who was willing to take an initiative) and no one was resorting to a "win-lose" approach. Because of the experience I gained, I became more marketable and six months later was offered an excellent job by a big software company that I accepted.
"Among our basic psychological needs, two universal ones stand out in particular. One is protection, or safety, which promises the absence of pain. Another is connection, or love, which promises the presence of pleasure," Ury writes. Sometimes these are hard to get but you have to go deeper within yourself since they will matter later on. If you focus on your outer needs, you will be happy in the short term, but will not be happy in the long term. It is better to spend time doing this before the negotiation.