My wife says I’m driving her crazy. I’ve been cooped up working from home and off the road since mid-March, a common predicament during this pandemic. I typically travel around 10 days a month doing in person keynotes and training programs. Not now. It’s all online. We haven’t spent this much time together in all our 18 years.
I call it a classic lose-lose negotiation. While the pandemic rages, we drive each other up the walls. And once a vaccine arrives (hopefully soon), I will hit the road again and – assuming there’s pent up demand for in person programs – will be gone a ton. That’s not good either. (I’m joking, honey!)
Assuming you share these challenges, that means a great deal more negotiating with family members, loved ones and roommates than usual. We typically negotiate multiple times a day. If you want someone else to say yes to anything, you’re negotiating. If they want you to say yes to anything – like early access to Halloween candy – you’re negotiating. If you want or need something from another person you’re in a negotiation.
With so much additional communication in close quarters, how can we keep the peace and turn a possible lose-lose into a win-win? Here are my Top Five Tips for Daily Negotiations. (I should credit here my 10-year-old daughter Valerie, who helped with this column. A budding negotiator!)
1. Ask and Probe Interests and Feelings.
My wife has never had a problem telling me how she feels – and she’s very sensitive to others’ interests. These are great traits. I, on the other hand, do not naturally tune in to this level of communication. So I’ve had to train myself to ask more probing questions, become more aware of non-verbal signals, and empathize and engage more effectively on this deeper plane. I’m still learning, as my wife will tell you.
This is crucially important in your daily interactions, especially during times like this.
Research shows that effective negotiators ask at least twice as many questions as others. That’s an incredible statistic. Reflect back on your last significant negotiation. Who asked more questions?
2. Deeply and Regularly Listen More.
Some believe negotiation is about convincing and persuading the other side to give you what you want. While actively persuading others can sometimes work, there are other tactics that produce better results on average. Negotiation power goes to those who ask and listen, not those who argue and persuade.
So actively listen more and really hear what is being said. You might be surprised at how it can change the entire dynamic of your interactions.
3. Don’t Just React. Take a Break for Consideration.
Thomas Jefferson said “When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, count to 100.” This is especially true in times like these, when folks tend to be more on edge due to challenges to their and their loved ones’ health, finances, relationships, politics, etc.
Visceral reaction when upset and angry – no matter the cause – can easily lead to harmful escalation and damaging words that cannot be unsaid. Personal attacks have consequences.
Take a break. Walk away. Don’t immediately engage. Time spent reflecting and considering how to most effectively respond or address the issue will almost always be invaluable.
If you’re on the receiving end of an outburst, do the same. Avoid escalating, and cut everyone some slack in these stressful times.
4. Use “Fair and Reasonable” Standards.
One way to depersonalize negotiation environments involves using “fair and reasonable” standards and benchmarks like market value, precedent, expert opinions, costs, etc. These can be especially powerful in daily negotiations (my regular readers will recognize my Third Golden Rule of Negotiation: Employ “Fair” Objective Criteria).
Here’s an example. I have seen my in-laws more in the last 6 months than ever before. We do not generally share the same political beliefs. We do share, though, a solid belief in science and the expertise of health care professionals (my father-in-law is a retired orthodontist).
By focusing on expert-based benchmarks and evidence, we have found common ground in how to communicate about what has become a partisan life-and-death issue that has torn apart millions.
5. Be Honest, Trustworthy and Credible.
Honesty, trust and credibility form the fundamental basis for all strong and healthy relationships. Period.
Latz’s Lesson: Successful daily negotiations require that you probe interests, listen deeply, avoid visceral reactions, use benchmarks and be honest. Do this and we can get through this together.
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Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation, a national negotiation training and consulting company that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He also has two bestselling books Gain the Edge! and The Real Trump Deal: An eye-opening Look at How He Really Negotiates. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or Marty@LatzNegotiation.com.