Why We Need to Rethink Day-to-Day Negotiation Strategies
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Sounds like a smart strategy for getting along with others and earning their favor, doesn’t it?
There’s one problem with this concept….
It doesn’t create a deep and trusting relationship with other people.
How can I say this?
Am I so arrogant to think I can disagree with a sacred belief that comes from the Bible?
I don’t think so, and if you’ll stay with me to the end of this article, you can fairly answer those two questions.
What’s Wrong With ‘Do Unto Others…’
This year, I’ve taken a serious interest in effective negotiation strategies. I’ve become a huge fan of experts like former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss.
One idea that keeps appearing in my research is that many people do not get the best possible deal when negotiating, whether it’s a major business transaction, buying a car, or determining which restaurant to eat at. I believe a root cause of this comes from The Golden Rule. This problem has been exacerbated in our current social media culture. That’s the ego-centric world constantly screaming out messages like, “Look at me!” and “This is how I see the world and that’s all that matters!”
What does that have to do with, “Do unto others?” and why do I say this is a problem?
Doing good to others is an honorable way to live, right?
It is, and I don’t have a problem with that part of the Rule. It’s the second half — “as you would have them do unto you” — that doesn’t work for me.
Why This Isn’t Effective
“As you would have them do unto you” makes the assumption that everybody in the world is just like you — they have the same desires, goals, and life experiences. That is not the way the world works. This has never been more evident than the events of 2020. Politically, socially, and medically we are seeing extreme differences of opinion from all walks of life.
For instance, consider two individuals, Emma, who lives in the rural south of the United States, and Bill, who lives in a major East coast American city. When social distancing, isolation, and business shutdown became the unofficial law of the land, they saw the situation from different perspectives.
Emma lives in a sparsely populated area which has experienced very little impact from the Covid virus. She’s angry — “Why did I have to shut down my business (and my livelihood) for something that I can’t see and has had no impact on my community?
Conversely, Bill is in a high-risk group and feels most safe in isolation. “Everyone should take proper precautions and only go out in public for essentials like food. I know it’s tough out there, but we can’t be too safe.”
If Emma and Bill were to be thrust into a negotiation, is Emma going to make any headway with Bill by treating him the way she wants to be treated?
Will Bill make inroads with Emma?
The answer to these two questions is obvious.
What’s The Answer to This Dilemma?
At this point you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with me as a leader, salesperson, or negotiator?”
The answer comes from experts like Chris Voss. A disclaimer before sharing it:
If you believe that ‘winning negotiations’ involves getting everything you can, steamrolling your negotiation partner(s), and having no consideration for the other party, stop reading now. This strategy isn’t for you.
Positive negotiation outcomes that also create long-term mutually beneficial relationships occur when you “Do unto others the way they want to be done unto.” Treat them the way they want to be treated.
How do you do this?
By listening, I mean focus completely on what the other person is saying so that you can understand her point of view. Some people call this empathetic listening and it’s an effective tool to help you build trust with the other party and lay the foundation for an effective outcome.
This is not typical, “I understand” type of response that you give immediately before answering with a pre-packaged set of rehearsed responses. It means completely shutting down that little voice in your head and following up with questions that encourage the other person to elaborate on their answers. Do this well and you’ll fully understand what is important to your negotiation partner. And you will take a huge step towards a successful outcome in which each party feels s/he got the best possible deal.
Why This Works
More than anything else people want to feel like they’re being heard and understood. This is especially true when people are feeling more isolated than ever, not just because of COVID, but because we don’t have face-to-face interactions the way we used to. We hide behind our technology. When people don’t feel heard or understood, their emotions will rise in negotiations. And that lessens the opportunity for a positive outcome. A perfect example of this is the protests occurring all around the world. Groups who feel that for too long they’ve not been heard are taking to the streets because their emotions are at a high-level.
Truly listening to other people is one of the hardest activities you will ever engage in. It’s a tough habit to create because you’ve been conditioned to respond to others in a quick back-and-forth dialogue. This creates an atmosphere where it’s difficult for people to hear one another at a deep level because they’re too busy thinking about what they want to say next.
However, if you’re willing to create this new habit, you’ll feel a greater level of connection with others and you will feel better because, at the very least, you’ll understand the other person’s point of view through an unemotional lens. This does not mean you have to agree with that opinion or change your own. But, be warned that when you do effectively listen you might see the world in a whole new way.
So, should we ditch the Golden Rule? Not the first part of it, but, if we want to experience less stress in our personal negotiations, or business dealings, and society as a whole, it’s time for us to stop expecting everyone to see the world the way we do. Instead, take the time to listen and understand others’ experiences and points-of-view. You will lay the groundwork for a better negotiation experience that will be better for all parties involved.
I HIGHLY recommend you study the videos, books, and interviews created by members of the Black Swan Group. You will discover a new perspective on negotiations and the psychology behind it. Start with Chris Voss’s book, ‘Never Split the Difference.’
Excellent point Mike. One of my favorite listening skills drill states: Reflect facts; Reflect feelings; Don’t fix. I say if we can “study” the person or the situation before we go into negotiations, then apply “reflect facts and feelings”, we’re good.
Thanks for that important point, Jim. It’s all about the other person feeling heard and understood. This can take the emotion out of negotiations and make for a better ‘playing field.’
“Thank you” – first of all for your willingness to take the time to share your insights and information. Second, for your work in helping us all learn how to better and more effectively communicate with one another. This is likely THE most important part of human interaction and the resultant consequences of having either an effective dialogue or an ineffective one, which depending on the situation at hand, could have disastrous consequences for us all.
I have been getting your newsletter for some time now, but have just made learning how to become a more effective speaker and I truly appreciate your input. Keep up the great job, I’m sure many more of us need to learn from you!
Michael R. Mackay
Michael, thank you for your kind words and insights. Improved communication is more critical and important now than ever.
Keep being a student and moving forward!