Joint problem-solving revolves around interests instead of positions. You begin by identifying each side's interest - the concerns, needs, fears, and desires that underlie and motivate your opposing positions. You then explore different options for meeting those interests. Your goal is to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement in an efficient and amicable fashion.
The essence of the breakthrough strategy is indirect action. It requires you to do the opposite of what you naturally feel like doing in difficult situations. When the other side stonewalls or attacks, you may feel like responding in kind. Confronted with hostility, you may argue. Confronted with unreasonable positions, you may reject. Confronted with intransigence, you may push. Confronted with aggression, you may escalate. But this just leaves you frustrated, playing the other side's game by their rules.
Accept whatever they say and reframe it as an attempt to deal with the problem. For example, take their position and probe behind it: "Tell me more. Help me understand why you want that."
While it may not be possible to obtain your position, it is often possible to satisfy your interest.
What do you aspire to?
Begin by asking yourself: "What agreement do I aspire to? What would genuinely satisfy my interests and at the same time meet enough of the other side's basic concerns that there is at least a chance that they would agree?"
What would you be content with?
It is useful to ask yourself a second question: "What agreement, perhaps far from perfect, would still satisfy my basic interests sufficiently that I would be reasonably content?"
What could you live with?
The third proposal should be based directly on your assessment of your BATNA: what agreement would satisfy my interests only marginally better than my BATNA could? What agreement could I live with but just barely?"
The mistake, a common one, is in trying to reason with a person who is not receptive. Your words will fall on deaf ears or be misconstrued. You are up against the barrier of emotion. The other side may feel distrustful, angry, or threatened. Convinced they are right and you are wrong, they may be unwilling to listen.
Know Your Hot Buttons
The first clue that we are reacting usually comes from our bodies. Our stomachs get tied up in knots. Our hearts start to pound. Our faces flush. Our palms sweat. These are all visceral responses signaling that something is wrong and that we are losing our composure in the negotiation. They are cues that we need to go to the balcony.
Each of us has certain emotional susceptibilities, or "hot buttons." Some of us react bitterly to even minor criticism, or see red when we think someone is making fun of us. Some of us can't stand to have our ideas rejected. Others of us give in because we feel guilty, or because we are worried people won't like us, or because we don't want to cause a scene.
We live and work in competitive environments. So expect verbal attacks and don't take them personally. Remember that your accusers are hoping to play on your anger, fear and guilt. They may want you to lose control of your emotions so that you cannot negotiate effectively. As children we learned when a playmate insulted us to say: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but worlds will never hurt me." It is a simple lesson we would do well to remember as adults.
When you are being attacked, it may help to see your component as someone who doesn't know any better. Consider the approach taken by a woman whose boss periodically savaged her in front of her peers: "I was carrying him home in my head, driving myself and my family crazy …. But then I decided he wasn't my life. I began to detach myself and say 'Poor guy, he doesn't know a better way to behave.'" No matter what he did, she wouldn't react: "He saw that he wasn't getting to me and his bullying behavior began to subside."
A movie producer had a boss who used to blow up over the most trivial matters. The producer told a friend that he felt like punching his boss in the nose. The friend counseled, "Think about it this way. He's not yelling at you, he's yelling for himself. Next time he shouts at you, this is what you do. You lean back in your chair, fold your arms, and let his screams wash over you. Tell yourself how much good it's doing him to get it out of his system." The movie producer reported later that the plan worked wonders.
Follow the biblical dictum: "Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to act."
Rewind the Tape
To buy more time to think, try rewinding the tape. Slow down the conversation by playing it back. Tell your counterpart: "Let me just make sure I understand what you are saying." Review the discussion up to the point.
Suppose you have just concluded a sale and you are going over the contract with the customer. "I think we have a terrific package here," he says, "and I'd be willing to go ahead if you will throw in the service contract, you know, gratis. What do you say? Can we call it a deal?" The customer extends his hand.
- If you react to the trick and decide yes or no on the spot, there is a good chance you will make the wrong decision. To give yourself time on the balcony, rewind the tape. Look the customer in the eye and say, "Hold on, Larry. I'm not sure I'm following you. Let's back up for a minute and review how we got here. We started discussing this deal three months ago, back in March, right?"
- "I guess so," Larry says.
- "At the start I thought you said you wanted to negotiate the service contract separately from the purchase."
- "Yes, but I've changed my mind on that."
- "Larry, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you and I reach the final agreement on all the clauses the day before yesterday?"
Whichever way Larry responds at this point, you are on the balcony, no longer reacting to his last-minute demand. You have not fallen for the trick. In fact, you have now caused Larry to shift from being on the offensive to being slightly on the defensive.
If the other side overloads you with information, hoping you will overlook a hidden drawback in their proposal, don't hesitate to say, "You've given me too much information to digest so quickly. Let's back up."
If you can't think of anything else to say on the spot, you can always resort to the rote phrase, "Let me make sure I understand what you are saying."
If you are buying a car, tell the high-pressure salesperson, "My wife and I would like a moment to think about the decision. We're going to go for a walk around the clock. We'll be back in half an hour."
The secret of disarming is surprise. To disarm the other side, you need to do the opposite of what you expect. If they are stonewalling, they expect you to apply pressure; if they are attacking, they expect you to resist. So don't pressure; don't resist. Do the opposite: Step to the side. It disorients them and opens them up to changing their adversarial posture.
Stepping to their side means doing three things: Listening, acknowledging, agreeing. Listen to what they have to say. Acknowledge their point, their feelings, and their competence and status. And agree with them wherever you can.
Stepping to their side may be the last thing you feel like doing in a confrontational situation. When they close their ears, you naturally feel like doing the same. When they refuse to recognize your point of view, you certainly don't feel like recognizing theirs. When they disagree with everything you say, you may find it difficult to agree with anything they say. Although entirely understandable, this tit-for-tat response is a recipe for stalemate.
To break through the other side's resistance, you need to reverse this dynamic. If you want them to listen to you, begin by listening to them. If you want them to acknowledge your point, acknowledge theirs first. To get them to agree with you, begin by agreeing with them.
If the other side is angry or upset, the best thing you can offer is a full hearing of their grievance. Don't interrupt - even if you feel they are wrong or insulting. Let them know you're listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding occasionally, and responding with "uh-huh" or "I see." When they wind own, ask quietly if there is anything more they would like to add. Encourage them to tell you everything that is bothering them by using such phrases as "Yes, please go on" and "Then what happened?"
Paraphrase and Ask for Correction
I bought this answering machine from you barely six months ago and now you can hardly hear the voices. It's not the tape - I replaced it. What kind of lousy machines do you sell here? I'm losing business because of you. I want it replaced right now with a quality machine or this won't be the last you hear of me.
- Salesperson:Okay, let me make sure I understand. You bought this machine here 6 months ago to use in your business. But now you can't hear the voices. You need a working machine, and time is of the essence. Have I got it right?Customer: That's right.
- Salesperson: Let's see what we can do for you.
Acknowledging the other person's point does not mean that you agree with it. It means that you accept it as one valid point of view among others. It sends the message "I can see how you see things." It is conveyed in phrases such as "You have a point there" or "I know exactly what you mean" or "I understand what you're saying."
Take the words out of their mouth. Tell them: "If I were in your shoes, this is the way I'd see it." Former US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara used this approach at a 1989 meeting of key American, Soviet, and Cuban participants in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Sensing that the Soviets and the Cubans were defensive about why their governments had decided to secretly install nuclear missiles in Cuba, he announced, "If I had been a Cuban or Soviet leader at the time, I would have concluded that the Americans intended to invade Cuba. From the evidence you had available to you, you were right to reach that conclusion. But I must tell you that we had no such intention." By preemptively acknowledging what the Soviets and Cubans were thinking, McNamara made them more receptive to hearing his viewpoint.
Acknowledge Their Feelings
Imagine that an employee storms into your office and rages, "I'm sick of being cheated! I just found out that Dayle Turner gets 2000 dollars more a year for doing the same job that I do. I'm through!"
Trying to explain why Dayle earns more money, even if the reason is a good one, may only make your employee angrier. Instead, you must acknowledge his feelings first: "You think we're taking advantage of you. I can understand that. I'd probably feel angry too."
This is not the response your employee expects. By acknowledging his feelings, you have helped him calm down.
- He then asks, "Why shouldn't I make every penny as much as Dayle does? I do the same work!"
- By asking you a question, albeit an angry one, he shows that he is ready to hear your explanation. Now you can proceed to reason with him.
Tell them "I appreciate how you feel" or "I were in your shoes. I'd be just angry"
Your apology need not be meek, nor an act of self-blame. To a disgruntled customer, you could say, "I am sorry you've had this problem. You're one of my favorite customers and the last person I'd want to see unhappy. What can we do to make it up to you?"
If you are seeking an exception to company policy from a self-important or insecure bureaucrat, you might begin by saying, "I've been told that you are the most knowledgeable person on this policy." To make your acknowledgement more credible, base it on facts. Instead of telling a departmental rival "You're the best salesperson around" - which she may dismiss as mere flattery - you might say, "Your presentation to the board was succinct, persuasive, and to the point. I don't think I've ever seen it done better."
The key word in agreement is "yes." "Yes" is a magic word, a powerful tool for disarming the other side. Look for occasions when you can say yes to them without making a concession. "Yes, you have a point there." "Yes, I agree with you." Say yes as often as possible.
You should also try to get as many yeses as you can. One public speaker uses this technique effectively to handle hostile comments from the audience. If someone says, "Your proposal is utterly unrealistic," he responds, "Are you saying you don't see how my budget proposal can possibly erase the deficit within 5 years - is that what you mean?" The audience member says yes, and as he does, the relationship between the speaker and the critic changes. The "yes" transforms an antagonistic argument into the beginning of a reasoned dialogue.
Each yes you elicit from the other side further reduces tension. As you accumulate agreement, even if only on what they are saying, you create an atmosphere in which they are more likely to say yes to a substantive proposal.
Express Your Views - Without Provoking
The secret lies in changing your mind-set. The standard mind-set is either/or: Either you are right or the other side is. The alternative mind-set is both/and. They can be right in terms of their experience, and you can be right in terms of yours. You can say to them, "I can see why you feel the way yo do. It's entirely reasonable in terms of the experience you've had. My experience, however, has been different." You can acknowledge their view and, without challenging it, express a contrary one. You can create an inclusive atmosphere in which differences can coexist peacefully while you try to reconcile them.
Don't say "But," Say "Yes … And"
Make "I" Statement, Not "You" Statements
Suppose you are dealing with a difficult teenager who promised to come home by midnight but didn't show up until 3 o'clock in the morning. You could express your views by saying, "You broke your word! You're irresponsible." Or, "You only care about yourself. You never think about your family!" These are called "you" statements. The teenager naturally becomes defensive and angry. He tunes out the familiar parental lecture.
Suppose that you were to say instead: "Ken, I felt let down last night. I worried myself sick that something terrible had happened to you. I even called the highway patrol to see if you had been in an accident." Instead of attacking, you express your feelings and experience. These are "I"-statements. The underlying message is the same, but phrased this way, your feelings are more likely to be heard.
"I've been trying to understand your concerns. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but as you and your colleagues at Boeing see it, we've been misleading you, saying we're prepared to give all this service but not to put it in writing and be held liable for it. That seems to be bad-faith negotiating. So naturally you get angry and don't see the point in continuing. Is that right?"
"That's right!" the Boeing buyer replied with fervor. "How can we trust what you say? If we were negotiating an aircraft sale and told the buyer the safety specifications but then said we wouldn't put them in writing, the buyer would walk right out the door. And he'd be right to leave. If we won't be held accountable, we shouldn't be in the airplane-building business. If you won't be bound by your promises, you shouldn't be in the communications business!"
"You're absolutely right," acknowledged the AT&T sales chief. "I'd feel the same way I were you!"
Surprised, the Boeing negotiator asked, "Then why won't you agree to put your promises in writing and agree to pay damages if you don't live up to your commitment?"
The AT&T representative answered, "We will of course put our promises in writing. Damages are an issue we have trouble with but are at least willing to discuss. First I want to see if I can clear up what's gotten us struck. I think I'm only beginning to understand it myself. I hear you saying that Boeing has what you might call an 'engineering culture.' There's no tolerance for ambiguity or error when people's lives are at stake. So if you promise a certain safety specification, you'd better be sure you're on target. And, of course, everything has to be clearly specified in writing. Am I making sense?"
"Yes, what you're saying is right, but I don't see what it has to do with our problem," said the Boeing buyer.
"If you'll bear with me, I'll try to explain why I think it has everything to do with our problem. You see, at AT&T we also have our engineers, but we're primarily in the business of providing a service. We're more of a 'relationship culture.' We see our relationship with our clients as all-important - if the client's not happy, we're not happy. That's why people tell us 'Ma Bell.' Now, when your mom tells your she's going to make your lunch and drive you to school, you don't say to her, 'Now, Mom, put it in writing and I'm going to hold you liable for damages,' do you?"
"Of course not."
"You just expect that she'll do the best she can. Now obviously there's a big difference between a household and a business, but this gives you a sense of where we're coming from. We make oral promises and fully expect to deliver on them. Our track record, you'll have to admit, is very good. It's a new experience for us to meet with a lot of skepticism and a demand of damages from a client. That's why we sort of collided with each other at the last meeting - you were coming from one place, which was absolutely right for you, and we were coming from another. Does this make any sense to you?"
"It's beginning to. Let me ask you …" And so the negotiations got back under way.
Budget Director: I won't accept anything less than a 10% cut in your budget. So let's get to it, okay?
Marketing Chief: That's impossible. We can't survive on that.
Budget Director: I'm sorry, but I've already told the other department heads you'll take the cut. If you don't, all the other deals will unravel.
Marketing Chief: I understand your problem, but try to understand mine. I've just instituted a new plan in my department that will bring about greater productivity and substantial cost savings - but I can't implement it with a 10% cut. Can't we cooperate and try to arrive at a solution that's good for the company?
Budget Director: That's what I want - your cooperation. Let me put you down for that cut. Deal?
Marketing Chief: I'm sorry, but I just can't agree on that.
Budget Director: Look, I don't want to get you into any trouble. But I need that budget cut now.
Marketing Chief: Suppose we take a 6% cut. That goes a long way toward meeting your target. How about this?
Budget Director: Well, that makes it easier. Now you've only got to find 4% more.
Marketing Chief: 6% is as high as I can go.
Budget Director: The president is going to hear about this.
Since the other side's demand seems unreasonable, your natural temptation is to reject it out of hand. You respond to their position by advancing your own. They, of course, reject your position and reasserts theirs. Even if you come back with a reasonable compromise, they may interpret it as your fallback position, pocket the concession, and press you for more. Before you know it, you are once again playing their game of hardball - precisely what you wanted to avoid.
To Change the game, change the frame
Do the opposite of what you may feel tempted to do. Treat your opponent like a partner. Instead of rejecting what your opponent says, accept it - and reframe it as an opportunity to talk about the problem.
How you ask something is just as important as what you ask. If direct questions sound confrontational, put them in an indirect form: "I'm not sure I understand why you want that," "Help me to see why this is important to you," or "You seem to feel pretty strongly about this - I'd be interested in understanding why". It helps to preface your question with an acknowledgment: "I hear what you are saying. I'm sure the company policy has a good purpose - could you please explain it to me?" In showing your interest and respect, remember that your tone, facial expressions, and body language are just as important as your words.
Ask "Why Not"
If the other side is reluctant to reveal their interests, take an indirect tack. If asking why doesn't work, try asking why not. Propose an option and ask "Why not do it this way?" or "What would be wrong with this approach?" People reluctant to disclose their concerns usually love to criticize. If you are immersed in a budget negotiation and ask "Why shouldn't we cut the budget for marketing?" the marketing chief may well answer, "I'll tell you why. Sales will plunge, the board will start breathing down our necks, and I'll end up typing up a new resume." Without being aware of it, she has just given you valuable information about her interests - her concerns about sales, her worries about pressure from the board, and her fear of losing her job.
Ask "What If"
Your spouse insists on going to his or her family's home. Instead of rejecting the proposal, you could say, "That's one possibility." Propose an option or two yourself and invite your spouse to suggest others: "Another possibility, of course, would be to spend it with my family. Or what if we divide it between the two - Christmas with yours and New Year's with mine? Got any other ideas?"
If your counterpart begins to criticize your options, you might say, "I'd like to hear your criticism, but can we put it off until we have all the options on the table? Then we can see which works best." Since judging inhibits creativity, invent first and evaluate later.
Ask for Their Advice
Another way to engage the other side in a discussion of options is to ask for their advice. It is probably the last thing they expect you to do. Ask "What would you suggest that I do?" "What would you do if you were in my shoes?" Or "What would you say to my constituents?"
If he responds by reasserting the policy, acknowledge his concerns and continue to ask for his advice: "I recognize the reasons for this policy. It's important that you uphold it. Still, this project is very important for the company's future. How would you suggest we get it accomplished?" If Mr. Talbot says there is nothing he can do, then say, "I understand. Could you advise me about who could grant an exception?"
Ask "What Makes That Fair?"
The other side's position may strike you as unreasonable. Instead of rejecting it, however, you can use it as a jumping-off point for a discussion of standards of fairness. Act as if they must believe their position is fair - they usually do. Tell them: "You must have good reasons for thinking that's a fair solution. I'd like to hear them."
Ignore the attack
Drawing attention to the threat would just make it harder for him to back away. Replying "Don't be ridiculous. You'd never do it!" may only spur him on to prove he meant what he said. Instead, you should ignore the threat and focus on the company's financial plight: "I know you're under pressure to make your numbers look better. Tell me a little about our situation."
Make Your Questions Open-Ended
Not just any question will do. A problem-solving question needs to be open-ended and eye-opening.
How you phrase the question determines the answer. When a company or government official says, "You can't do that; it's against our policy," you may be tempted to ask, "Can't the policy be changed?" And the answer you will undoubtedly receive is a resounding no. If you had thought about it beforehand, you might have anticipated the answer. In effect, your question set you up for a no.
Preface your question with "how," "why," "why not," "what," or "who." Your counterpart cannot easily answer no to questions such as "What's the purpose of this policy?" "Who has the authority to grant an exception?" and "How would you advise me to proceed?"
Ignore the stone wall
If the other side declares "Take it or leave it!" or "You have until five o'clock, or the deal is off!" you cannot be sure whether they mean it or are just bluffing. So test their seriousness by ignoring the tactic. Keep talking about the problem as if you didn't hear what they said, or change the subject altogether. If they are serious, they will repeat the message.
Reinterpret the stone wall as an aspiration
Suppose a union leader announces to you: "I've told my people that if I don't come back with a 15% raise, they can have my head on a silver platter." He has locked himself in. If you challenge his commitment, you will only make it harder for him to back away. Instead, reinterpret his commitment as an aspiration and direct attention back to the problem: "We all have our aspirations, I guess. Management is under pressure from the downturn in the economy and would love to cut wages. But I think we'll both be better off being realistic and taking a hard look at the merits of the pay issue. What are other companies paying their workers for the same job?" Your reinterpretation makes it easier for him to make a graceful exit from his commitment.
Or imagine you have to deal with a rigid deadline laid down by your opponent. Instead of rejecting it, you can soften it by reinterpreting it as a target: "We would all like to conclude this negotiation by then. That would be ideal. We'd better get to work immediately." Then turn to the problem with great gusto to show your goodwill.
Reframe an attack on you as an attack on the problem
A second approach is to reinterpret the attack. Suppose you are trying to win departmental approval for a new product, and a co-worker takes you to task: "Don't you know any better than to submit a proposal that will never fly?" You could become defensive and hostile. Or you could ignore the personal criticism, acknowledge the point, and reinterpret it as an attack on the problem: "You may have a point there. How would you improve the proposal to make it fly?"
Your attacker is making two claims: first, that your proposal is no good; and second, that you are no good. You have the power to choose which claim you want to address. By choosing the more legitimate concern about the proposal, you can effectively sidestep the personal attack and direct your opponent's attention toward the problem.
Reframe from past wrongs to future remedies
Your opponent's attack often takes the form of blame. In a discussion of the household budget, a husband accuses his wife: "You waste money on useless knickknacks! Remember that seventy-five-dollar ceramic cat you bought?" The wife retorts, "Well, what about you, Mr. Showboat, taking all your pals out for drinks last week? How much did that cost?" And on they go for hours, sniping about the past. The budget is forgotten.
The opportunity always exists to reframe the issue from the past to the future, from who was wrong to what can be done about the problem. The wife can say to her husband: "Yes, Ben, we both agreed it was too much to pay for the ceramic cat. I won't make the same mistake again. Now what about next month's budget? How do we make sure we keep to it?" When your opponent criticizes you for a past incident, don't miss the opportunity to ask "How do we make sure it never happens again?" Reframe the blame as joint responsibility for tackling the problem.
Ask clarifying questions
If you are purchasing a company and the seller has included outstanding accounts receivable in the company's net worth, say in a nonjudgmental tone, "You must have good reasons for believing that these accounts receivable will in fact be paid. I'd be interested in knowing why you think so."
If you spot a contradiction, don't challenge it directly. Just act confused: "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I don't understand. Could you explain how this relates to what you said before?"
In this instance Liz responds by saying, "That's interesting …." She pauses for a second, giving herself a chance to think. Then she suddenly bursts out laughing and exclaims admiringly, "You guys are terrific! That is the best good guy-bad guy routine I've seen in years. Did you plan it, or was it just a coincidence? Seriously now, let's see if we can establish a fair price for the books."
Bob and Charlie don't quite know how to respond. They can't really be offended, since Liz is complimenting them and they aren't sure whether she is serious. In any case, to pursue the tactic would be pointless. It works only when the other person is not aware of it. Having neutralized the tactic without alienating their opponents, Liz and Pam can proceed to discuss the purchase on its merits.
By showing admiration for Charlie and Bob's skill and making light of the tactic, Liz helps them save face. Her interest is not in scoring points, but in purchasing a set of law books for a fair price and in fostering a working relationship with an established law firm.
If they are being particularly rude, point it out by offering them an explanation or an excuse: "It sounds like you're having a rough day." If they threaten you, respond as one businesswoman did. Instead of challenging her opponent by saying "Don't threaten me," she asked in a calm and somewhat surprised tone, "You're not intending to threaten me, are you?" Her question of clarification offered her opponent a graceful way out.
Budget Director (digging in to a position): I won't accept anything less than a 10% cut in your budget. So let's get to it, okay?
Marketing Chief (asking a problem-solving question): I recognize the need to cut the company budget, and my department is prepared to contribute its share. Just help me understand why you need that much.
Budget Director (presenting a fait accompli and making a threat): The only way we can get the required savings is if each department takes a 10% cut. I've already told the other department heads that you'll take the cut. If you don't, all the other deals will unravel and the president will hear about it.
Marketing Chief (ignoring the threat and reinterpreting the fait accompli as a problem to be solved): I understand what you're saying. If I were to cut any less, you'd have a big problem explaining that to all the other departments, right?
Budget Director (applying pressure): That's right. So let me put you down for that cut. Deal?
Marketing Chief (ignoring the pressure and reframing the problem as a joint opportunity): You know, we've got a real opportunity to save more than the 10 percent. It would really help the company and make both of us look very good.
Budget Director: Oh, what's that?
Marketing Chief (asking for advice):
As you know, my department has just instituted a new plan that will bring about greater productivity and substantial cost savings. Bu there are startup costs we've calculated at five percent of our budget. You have more experience in these matters than anyone else. How can we find the funds to implement the plan and still keep your other deals from unraveling?
- Budget Director: I don't know ….
- Marketing Chief (asking a problem-solving question): Could we explain to the other department heads that my department is taking a 5% cut this year in order to bring even greater savings next year?
- Budget Director: I don't think that will work.
- Marketing Chief (asking a "what if" question): What if I were to commit to a specific figure of just how much we'll save next year?
That might help. But that still doesn't solve the problem this year of where to make up the extra savings if you take only a partial cut. Look, I see what you're getting at, but what am I going to tell the president? It's not going to fly.
- Marketing Chief (asking another "what if" question): What if I talked to the president and sold him on the idea?
- Budget Director: Good luck!
- Marketing Chief: I know. It may not be easy. But can I have your support?
- Budget Director: Let me see your plan again. I want to check and make sure your numbers aren't pie in the sky.
- Marketing Chief: I'll have it to you within the hour. Thanks for giving me this chance.
Ask for and Build on Their Ideas
The great temptation in negotiation is to tell. Tell the other side the way to solve the problem. Tell them why your solution is good for them. Neuharth dealt with the sensitive issue of the new company name by telling Wymann in a draft press release that it should be called Universal Media. Not surprisingly, the idea didn't fly.
Negotiation is more about asking than it is about telling. The simplest way to involve the other side is to ask for their ideas. How would they solve the problem of reconciling both sides' interests?
Remember the Chinese proverb: "Tell me, I may listen. Teach me, I may remember. Involve me, I will do it."
When you think you have reached agreement, take a moment to sum up: "Let's make sure we both have the same understanding of what we have agreed on." Then go over each issue carefully. If possible, set down your agreement in writing.
"I'm sorry, but the way in which we have been negotiating is not likely to lead to a constructive outcome. I'm ready to negotiate anytime you are. Here's my phone number. Please give me a call when you're ready. Until then, I guess I'll have to pursue my alternatives." Leave the door open for the other side to call you back, or for your boss to call their boss, or for a third party to bring you back together.
If the person says "Trust me," you can answer "Of course I trust you," and explain that it is just normal business practice: "Personally I am sure nothing will go wrong with our arrangements, but my lawyer insists on the routine of including the following guarantees." Or, if your future employer insists a handshake and an oral promise of a golden parachute is sufficient, say, "You're absolutely right, and I have full faith in what you are saying. Writing a memo to the file will be helpful and I get a new boss."
Employee: Mr. Pierce, Can I talk to you for a minute?
Employer: If it's about that raise, Elizabeth, don't waste my time. The answer is no.
Employee: I haven't even asked you yet.
Employer: You don't have to ask. There is no money in the budget.
Employee: But it's been a year and a half since my last raise.
Employer: Didn't you hear what I said? There's no money in the budget. Have I made myself perfectly clear?
- Employee: I realize we've got a very tight budget and we're all under a lot of pressure now. I'm not asking you to take money out of the budget to give me a raise.
- Employer: You're not?
- Employee: No, I don't want to put you on the spot. I know you're doing the best you can for all of us under trying circumstances.
- Employer: That's right. I wish I had the money but I just don't …. So what is it you're asking for?
- Employee: I'd just like a few minutes of your time at your convenience to discuss how I'm doing for you, what I could do better, and what I can expect in return knowing there's no money in the budget right now.
- Employer: Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to talk. Come around tomorrow at ten but, remember, a raise is out of the questions.
The employee has not yet won agreement on a raise, but she has defused some of her boss's resistance. She has created a more positive climate in which they can then negotiate. Their next morning proceeds as follows:
- Employee: I appreciate your taking the time to meet. I've been thinking about what you were saying about the tight budget we're operating under. I was wondering if there was any way I could help us save money by taking on additional responsibilities ….
- Employer: Well, that's an interesting question. Let's see now ….
Instead of rejecting her boss's position on the raise, the employee reframes it into a discussion of how to meet his underlying interest of cutting costs. Only after this conversation does the employee bring up again the possibility of a raise:
- Employee: Now I realize a raise right now is out of the question, but if I'm able to help us cut costs, could we then think about compensating me out of those savings for the extra tasks I'll be undertaking - understanding, of course, that we'll stay within budget?
- Employer: I'm not sure any of this will actually work.
- Employee: What if we made it a bonus conditional on realized savings?
And they are on their way toward an agreement that will satisfy both their needs. The employee is busy building her boss a golden bridge. If the employer still resists, the employee may need to let him know about her BATNA, in this case, the other job offer she has sought and obtained. If she wants to stay and maintain a good working relationship with her boss, she needs to avoid provoking him:
Mr. Pierce, I'd like your advice. I've enjoyed working here and I'd very much like to continue, but I'm having a lot of trouble paying for my kids' college tuition on my current salary. I've received a job offer that would provide the extra funds. Ideally I'd like to stay on here. Is there any way we can work this out?