A successful lawyer, she had left her practice to start a family. And she loved it, but it was a tough adjustment.
While practicing law, she had staff who reported to her and she made decisions affecting thousands of people. At home, she discussed most significant decisions with her husband and these decisions largely affected just her family.
On one level, it was deeply satisfying. But something was missing. That something was a greater sense of autonomy and control over her environment.
As a negotiator, why should you care? Because a sense of autonomy is a core concern that, in family and business negotiations, can drive the emotional elements in a negotiation toward a healthy agreement or off the edge of the cliff.
As Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro explain in “Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate,” core concerns are what generate and stimulate the emotions and are the “human wants that are important to almost everyone in virtually every negotiation.”
Also, Fisher and Shapiro write, they “offer you a powerful framework to deal with emotions without getting overwhelmed by them.”
What are these concerns and how can they help you achieve your negotiation goals?
According to Fisher and Shapiro, five core concerns tend to impact many negotiations: appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status and role. Each affects relationships between parties in both positive and negative ways.
It’s thus important to a) understand these concerns, and b) use them to positively affect your relationships and generate positive emotions.
Fisher and Shapiro recommend the following, each of which can make a difference.
1. Express appreciation.
Expressing appreciation sounds simple. Just say “thank you,” right? Wrong. To adequately generate positive feelings connected with sincere appreciation (which include higher self-esteem, more openness to listening and greater motivation to cooperate), actively listen, ask good questions and explicitly express your understanding of your counterpart’s viewpoint.
Also, find merit in what your counterpart thinks, feels or does. And don’t forget to share your feelings. It doesn’t help much if you keep them to yourself.
Importantly, to express appreciation does not mean you are agreeing with your counterpart or conceding on any substantive element. Instead, you are solely communicating that you “understand” their perspective and “appreciate” their feelings and thought processes or hard work.
2. Build affiliation.
Fisher and Shapiro note that affiliation describes our sense of connectedness with another person or group. How can you build affiliation? Find personal connections and common interests and other ways to develop personal rapport. And find these connections before you meet with your counterpart so it doesn’t just happen fortuitously.
Also find informal environments — where appropriate — in which to develop negotiation relationships. It’s easier to build rapport there than in a stark business setting.
3. Respect autonomy.
Autonomy relates to how parties make and affect decisions. And we all want an appropriate amount of autonomy in different parts of our lives. But how much is enough? It depends. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.
However, regardless of the amount of autonomy a party has, their counterpart should — to generate positive feelings — respect that level of autonomy and not impinge upon it.
To do this, consider what levels of autonomy the various parties can exercise before the decision-making begins. Fisher and Shapiro suggest dividing issues into three buckets: I — issues a party can decide alone; C — issues that require consultation; and N — issues to be negotiated.
Doing this before the negotiation begins can prevent serious misunderstandings and negative emotions down the line.
4. Acknowledge status.
Everyone has a high status in relation to someone, and acknowledging that status can have significant benefits. For instance, someone might be an engineering expert while someone else is very detail-oriented or a big picture thinker.
The important point? Acknowledge relevant status in your counterpart where deserved and, if appropriate, find an area on which to ask them for advice.
But also remember, be sincere. Any effort to use this manipulatively likely will backfire.
5. Choose a fulfilling role.
In any negotiation, you and your counterparts will have roles to fulfill. Some will be formal — such as the internal expert or negotiation team leader. And some will be informal — such as the creative one who generates options.
Regardless of your role, do two things. First, bring to your role an energy and excitement and make it fulfilling for you. If necessary, expand your role to include elements better suited to your needs and interests.
And second, evaluate your counterpart’s role and don’t infringe on it.
Emotions are a big part of almost every negotiation. Use these suggestions to control and manage them to help you succeed.
Published November 3, 2006 The Business Journal