Charlie took another sip of his hot chocolate. I have never seen a person who loves to drink hot chocolate so much. We were talking about my horrible experience when launching my wedding chocolate boxes experience. Charlie and I were talking about how to negotiate. I already knew I must do it, and now it was time for me to learn how to do it right.
As I said in my last post, many of my learning came from an amazing book called “Getting to Yes”. If you have not done so please read it! In the first part of this post (I really like reading blog posts with part 1 and 2, it makes me think a bit between the posts, come up with good questions, I hope you like it too :-)) I wrote about my first learning and the first step of negotiation.
Step one – separating the people from the problem
I told Charlie that many times I let my perceptions about a specific person or specific situation cloud the real facts. I get so upset when things don’t work out as I want, which lead me to end up with the blaming game. In this game, I try as hard as I can to find someone to blame for the situation. Great game right? I have to admit I am very good at it, but my goal is to never play it again.
I got so angry on the delivery guy, I forgot about my goal and I only focused on the person in front of me and why he always tries to cheat me. My interpretation of the situation was based on a wrong perception. I Knew (really Liz?) the delivery guy didn’t care about my store and this is why he brought me the cheap black ribbons.
When I talked about it with Charlie, he smiled and said “Liz, what do you think the delivery guy’s perception of you was?” Wow, that was an interesting question. Maybe understanding the other side is the best way to start a negotiation? I know, I know, it is not easy, and who really wants to understand the other side, let the other side understand me! But I know without understanding the other side, I can’t negotiate and find a solution to a problem, I really just “negotiate” to find that I am right and he is wrong.
Charlie explained to me the other 2 problems when people negotiate: Emotions and Communication. I remembered telling Charlie that when the delivery guy brought me the black ribbons, I was so fearful, I was afraid I would ruin the most special day in a girl’s life, the wedding day, I wanted it to be a special day and I was so afraid I would spoil it for my customer. Oh it was a horrible feeling. A tear came to my eye as I remember it.
Charlie told me the key in negotiation is not to hide the feelings but to acknowledge them. It is ok to tell the other side how you feel, it is ok to let the other side you understand their feelings, it is ok to offer sympathy. I was shocked. I always thought you need to be strong and show no emotions when negotiating. Charlie solution from “Getting to Yes” sounded much better.
Charlie then went ahead and talked about communication. He told me that many times in the heat of negotiation we are so consumed in what we want to say that we completely ignore the other person’s words. Hmmm, that never happened to me (just kidding…). Charlie smiled and said, “sometimes this is the reason of failed negotiation, your goal Liz is not to leave the room the strongest, the goal is to understand and be understood”. The book taught me a trick on how to force myself to listen. The trick goes like that, before I start to talk about my points, I go ahead and repeat (or summarize) the other person’s points. Please promise me to try it, it might sound weird at the start but believe me, it works!
I was ready for the second learning. Charlie opened the book and read out loud:
Step two – Focus on Interests
“Good agreement focuses on people’s interests not their position”. I jumped and said “Charlie let me try this one”. My position was that I wanted white ribbons while my delivery guy’s position was that he provided me with expensive ribbons and he wanted to be paid for his hard work.
I thought for a second and then told Charlie, “I think I understand, my position was I will pay only if I get white ribbons but my interest was to provide an amazing and sweet moment to the wedding guests”, this is a bit different right? I understood from the book and from Charlie’s teaching that my goal is to find the other person’s interests and to communicate my interests to the other person (asking a lot of questions helps me in discovering the other person’s interests). I have to clearly explain and talk about my interests with the other person. We have to do that if we want to move to the next step.
Throughout the years, I also found out we all share some basic interests, we all want to feel secure, we all want to be understood, we all worry about our well being, we all want to be loved. We are all people.
Step three – Generate opinions
Charlie flipped a few more pages and said, “In this step you and your other party need to generate creative opinions for mutual gain”. I looked a bit puzzled and told Charlie “Do you mean we decide on the solution which we both agree on, right?” Charlie shook his head and said “One of the obstacles to achieving a win-win situation, is that we try to jump and decide on a solution before exploring as many alternatives as possible”.
He continued and told me that the goal is first to generate as many proposals as possible and only after running out of ideas, then and only then do you start evaluating the proposals and narrow it to the most promising ones which fit both of your interests.
I asked Charlie how do you find many creative ideas and he smiled, stood up and said “brainstorming!” my first thought was of a boat sailing inside my head in the middle of a tropical storm (silly me). I promise to write about brainstorming in a future blog, for now let’s just think about it as an environment in which wild, crazy and creative ideas are encouraged to be discussed.
Step four – Use objective criteria
Charlie said “sometimes interests are directly opposed. I have seen many good relationships destroyed because of opposite interest and inability to reconcile the interests”. He continued and said “However, there is another way to tackle this situation. Both sides agree on objective criteria – it can be using professional standards, legal or scientific findings”.
I find it very useful after generating the proposals to use objective criteria (big words Liz, big words), it’s funny, deciding on the objective criteria is almost a new negotiation on its own, however it really helps me when I explain my reasoning behind my criteria and of course listening to the other person’s reasoning. It might take time but eventually you will agree on the objective criteria, hurray!!
At this point we are almost at the happy ending, don’t you like happy endings? Who doesn’t like a happy ending? I’m sure he also doesn’t like chocolate, probably he is just a nasty Decepticon (the enemy of the transformers).
It is simple right? Once we narrowed our proposals to the most promising ones, and we agreed on objective criteria which we will use to find the win-win solution, an almost magical moment happen. We agree on a solution. We agree on the best proposals in which both of us might give a little, but we both will gain a lot! It was a good day painting the ribbons in white. It was a funny day. It was a day in which a new friendship was formed. I like Joe the delivery guy. I like him a lot.
Charlie and I are now sitting quietly. We are discussing a new business venture I am considering. It will not be an easy negotiation. I am not afraid, I am ready. I can’t wait to start it. I can’t wait to form a new partnership. It will be a good day! Don’t ever back away from a conflict, embrace it, you might find a new you!
Liz (A beginner in negotiation, and now a fifth time reader of “Getting to Yes”)