As an introduction, think about the following situations:
It is 4:20 p.m. on a Wednesday. Your counterpart, your client’s Project Manager, sends you (for the nth time) an e-mail showcasing a delayed-activities list, which only one is justified. The team is very tired, and you can picture in your mind (in fast flashes) the number of situations and conflicts you will face.
It is 9 p.m. on the same day. You find yourself in an interesting debate with your spouse about who is in charge of choosing the movie to watch that night. Clearly, you lose the debate and John Wick will have to wait to crush villains.
What do both situations have in common considering such different contexts?
The clue is in the title: negotiation. In both situations, it is necessary to reach an agreement on the divergences of opinion and position between the two sides in order to reach, as far as possible, a mutually beneficial consensus. In the words of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) and according to one of its definitions, negotiation is “To deal with public or private matters, trying to achieve better outcomes.”
Why is this an art? Because negotiation turns into art when we make creative use of a set of techniques and principles with the ability to perform a certain activity.
However, this “art” goes unnoticed in our daily activities. We do it all the time, in every decision-making, in our personal relationships, but we are not aware of its importance and how we can improve our negotiation styles in order to improve relationships and outcomes for both work and personal affairs.
We are witnessing new technologies and methodologies tested at an industrial level that improve performance, certifications, and best practices. However, what is the purpose of all these resources, if the tools to solve the human conflicts that arise in their implementations are lacking? Machines do not have conflicts, human beings do.
Among the great experts in this regard are William Ury, Roger Fisher, and Bruce Patton, who, in their book “Get the Yes: The Art of Negotiating Without Yielding,” establish an action framework for effective negotiation, seeking the much desired “win-win.”
For practical purposes, the main premises could be summarized as follows:
· Don’t be an extremist. Using “hard” (I don’t give up anything, you do) or “soft” (I give up everything for fear) attitudes are not the solution. There is a third way to negotiate, a way neither hard nor soft, rather both hard and soft, based on principles. It does not matter if you are Chilean, German or Japanese, we all have universal principles and values that should be immutable (respect, honesty, honor, etc.).
· It urges us that whenever possible, we seek mutual benefits.
· Where there is a conflict of interest, webase it on fair arguments and criteria that are independent of the desire or profit intent of either party.
· This method changes the approach from being hard on people (back to the “personal” topic) to being soft with the counterpart and severe with the circumstances. This allows us to obtain what we are entitled to while remaining honest and being considered as unfair with who we must reach an agreement.
It sounds logical, right? Think for a few minutes about the endless situations. Like those raised at the beginning of this article and analyze its course of action. Would it be logical and easy? If your answer was no, join the club, and do not feel ashamed. The negotiation process is closer to soft skills than to the hardest ones, which are polished with experiences and situations.
In my experience, a counterpart who has a “hard” attitude during negotiation , it is recommended to generate a dialogue in which the counterpart can “empty” their arguments, without refuting in the first instance. It causes the pressure to drop and focus on active listening. Then, you can showcase your points of view with honesty and applying the necessary principles to take your interlocutor to a fair and promising ground for agreements.
Try to practice these principles. Thus, when you discuss what movie to watch with your partner at night, talk with your boss about a salary increase or clarify with your client the delays of the project and manage to win without giving in. You may be the only one who teaches us something of this “art.”