Continuing the focus on leadership influence, this post explores the topic of negotiation. I sense it is a topic most people don’t look forward to. It is not something I enjoy. The thought of buying a car comes to mind. When I bought my first car in the US, a second hand Honda Civic, the process took several hours. It was painful and we ended up negotiating over $50 if I recall correctly. All I wanted was a fair price. If I paid the same as the average customer than was fine, but I didn’t want to lose out. It was the fear of losing or looking stupid that made it a very uncomfortable process.
Resorting to compromise
My fear of losing out usually leads me down the path of compromise. How can we split the difference and both be happy? As I’ve explore this topic, I realize that compromise isn’t a good result for either party. Neither of us gets what we want. Is that a lose/lose?
On the plus side, at least I avoid conflict when I compromise. And there lies the problem. Avoidance of conflict. We tend to think conflict is bad, but consider we are all different. We have different histories and experiences. Different personalities and emotions. Because we are different, we are in conflict with each other all of the time. By framing conflict this way, it is neither good or bad.
Conflict is a key part of negotiation. It is the process by which we manage our differences and agree how we will move forward. In his exceptional book “Never split the difference – negotiating as if your life depended on it”, Chris Voss explains negotiating is all about gathering information about the other party. Knowledge is power.
By listening actively, we can uncover the other party’s motivation. With this information, we learn what the other person cares about. Now we can address that with the offers we make. Is there a win:win outcome available? This doesn’t mean compromising. It means truly figuring out if we can satisfy each others needs. Their needs may also not be material. For example they could be social (how others view them) or emotional (how they feel inside.)
Negotiation is a necessary part of leadership influence, and leadership is all about listening well. By reframing conflict as neither good or bad, we can learn to embrace negotiation as an everyday occurrence. As Chris Voss states ‘Life is negotiation’.