- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 4, 2007

In a sunny afternoon, Tom Wood and his daughter decide to walk to the zoo to meet friends. When his daughter decides she wants to push her new stroller to the zoo, it takes twice the amount of time to get there.

In this hypothetical example, Mr. Wood, president of Watershed Associates Inc., a firm in Northwest offering training in negotiation, says he could impose his power as an adult and say “No,” or he could negotiate with the girl and avoid a temper tantrum. Negotiating, if done properly, would surely take less time than withstanding a temper tantrum.

“I could ask open-ended questions,” Mr. Wood says. ” ‘Why do you want to take your stroller to the zoo?’ The answer: to show her cousin her new stroller. Good negotiators always focus on interests, not demands.”

Basic negotiation skills can help people in almost any conflict. Negotiation doesn’t just happen in conference rooms. Everyday conversations are filled with negotiations like where to eat, where to take a vacation and what kind of car to buy.

“The principles apply across the board,” Mr. Wood says. “It’s always about the process and the people — following the process with discipline and engaging people respectfully.”

When negotiating, people extend the most consideration to those they respect and trust, Mr. Wood says.

Watershed Associates is a training and consulting firm that focuses on business negotiations, delivering workshops in more than 30 countries to business and government audiences, including Global 1,000 companies.

Although two large companies may work together, the people in the companies make the deals, Mr. Wood says.

For instance, when former President Jimmy Carter led the 1978 Camp David peace talks, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat could not agree.

After the first three days of the talks, Mr. Sadat threatened to leave, Mr. Wood says. After Mr. Carter prayed and asked God to help him, he confronted Mr. Sadat and said it would be a personal betrayal if the leader left.

“Carter had a good relationship with him,” Mr. Wood says. “He brought it back to ‘you and me.’ ”

If both persons simply stick to their positions, ignoring the other person’s interests, the best solution will probably be overlooked, says Ron Straight, professor of business, teaching supply chain management at Howard University in Northwest. He has a doctorate in business administration.

If two people each want the same orange, one of them could want the orange peel for baking and one could want to eat the orange, he says.

“The dilemma is how much do I reveal and how much do I believe what the other person has told me,” Mr. Straight says. If you are worried that showing your interests would put you at a disadvantage, “you stick to your position that you want the whole orange.”

Instead of rehearsing a speech for a negotiation, a person should listen to the other party before responding, says Daniel Shapiro, assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston. He is co-author with Roger Fisher, of “Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate.”

It is a mistake to assume what the other party will say, Mr. Shapiro says.

“You don’t know what you don’t know,” he says. “Ask questions that help you to learn.”

Being a good problem solver is key to being a good negotiator, Mr. Shapiro says. Look beneath the person’s position to the underlying interests.

“Don’t perceive a negotiation as adversarial,” says Mr. Shapiro, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology. “Everyone can get what they want most of the time. It just takes creative thinking and a good emotional tone.”

Instead of viewing negotiating as a win-lose situation, people should view it as a win-win situation, says Gerard Nierenberg, president of Negotiation Institute Inc. in New York City, which offers negotiating-skills seminars and training. He is the author of “The Art of Negotiating.”

If the negotiating philosophy deals with everybody winning, then the parties will succeed in bringing about something that works for the needs of everyone, he says.

“People have been taught that life is a game,” Mr. Nierenberg says. “The theories of checkers and sports don’t apply to life.”

Even if a person isn’t expressing dissatisfaction, pay attention to nonverbal communication, he says.

“A person will respond to you nonverbally or verbally,” Mr. Nierenberg says. “If a person says, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ everybody should get worried.”

In a long-term relationship, trust should be built at any cost, says Frank Acuff, director of Management Development International in Olympia Fields, Ill. He is author of “How to Negotiate Anything with Anyone, Anywhere Around the World.”

“Negotiating is communicating back and forth for the purpose of reaching a joint agreement,” Mr. Acuff says. “Manipulating gets into trust issues. Trust is hard to repair.”

Because trust issues usually never get better, a person should lose a whole deal in order to maintain trust, he says.

Two or three main arguments should be prepared to present a point, Mr. Acuff says. Weak arguments always dilute strong ones.

“People don’t remember more than two or three of anything,” Mr. Acuff says. “Be brief. Be bright. Be gone. Don’t overwhelm the person.”

Honesty and integrity from both parties make negotiating easier, says Damon Jones, president and managing director-international at Miller Heiman Inc., headquartered in Reno, Nev. The company trains sales teams, offering a “Negotiate Success” workshop.

Otherwise, negotiating becomes a poker game, where people won’t show each other their cards, Mr. Acuff says. If both parties work hard to find the best options and outcomes, they won’t feel compromised.

If people can’t agree, they need to have alternatives and be able to walk away from the deal, he says.

“We believe it shouldn’t be a manipulative-type process,” Mr. Jones says. “It should be an open, mature, pragmatic process. If both parties have that spirit, they will work harder to find a solution that fits both parties interests.”

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