3.2 Behaviors that Make a Difference
Successful negotiators possess and intentionally display certain behaviors that enable them to build trust, maintain power, stay focused on interests, and create high value agreements. Self discipline also allows the negotiator to stay focused on the topic, and value point at hand, not to revert to selling when power appears to be slipping, and not to get sidetracked by personal interests. In order to work through a wide variety of options and potential combinations requires creativity as well as the comfort with a fair amount ambiguity regarding the outcome, at least in the early stages.
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Successful negotiators possess and intentionally display certain behaviors that enable them to build trust, maintain power, stay focused on interests, and create high value agreements. The most common traits you will find amongst successful negotiators are confidence, self-discipline, assertiveness, patience, analytical reasoning, curiosity, and creativity. Each negotiator uses and displays these traits to a different degree in each negotiation. The first of these is confidence. Confidence in a negotiator is the outward display of understanding of the issue at hand. Being prepared and qualified to address it, and willing to take a stand regarding the needs, requirements and expectations of his or her organization. A confident negotiator remains calm, is not disturbed by tricky or hostile tactics, and presents his or her position without hesitation or qualification. Confident negotiators are also comfortable using silence to their advantage. They will state their position, or make an offer, and remain silent. Self discipline refers to your ability to separate emotions from behavior for you and your counterpart. You do not have to be a different person. But, you do need to have awareness of the signals you are sending through expression of emotion, and body language, which your counterpart can read and interpret. You need to be in control of, and choose what signals you wish to send, using your emotional expression. A self disciplined negotiator also uses timing to his or her advantage. This negotiator carefully considers when to divulge certain pieces of information. When to concede a point. When to make an offer. Self discipline also allows the negotiator to stay focused on the topic, and value point at hand, not to revert to selling when power appears to be slipping, and not to get sidetracked by personal interests. This trait also enables the negotiator to keep the proposal and counter proposals from progressing too quickly, and without careful consideration. Be aware of what your gut is telling you, and take the time needed to make careful considered decisions. Don’t be pressured to rush into decisions. Another expression of self-discipline is the ability to listen without an agenda. It is a challenge for most people to listen deeply to their counterparts without listening primarily for a break in the conversation in order to insert their point. A self-disciplined negotiator listens only to hear and consider what the counterpart is saying. And, not to make a specific point once the counterpart stops talking. Self disciplined negotiators also hold their position, and are not worn down by tactics used by their counterparts. Great negotiators are assertive, but not aggressive. A negotiator, who is well prepared, with a well constructed strategy, and strives to proactively implement it, will gain considerable power and control in the negotiation. This is assertiveness, and is shown by being firm and authoritative, yet, respectful and polite, perhaps even amiable. Assertiveness is achieved by being confident, and explaining your position without being patronizing or arrogant. And, in such a way that your counterpart does not feel compelled to respond to your proposal with defense, or counterarguments. Somewhat related to assertiveness is persistence. A good negotiator understands that sometimes a counterpart will allow an issue to be dropped out of a desire to avoid a discussion, but not allow the issue to be forgotten. Also, persistence might manifest itself in terms of revisiting a point that gained a negative response in the past. An assertive negotiator knows that no doesn’t mean no forever. And, that additional information and discussion might change a no to a yes. Therefore, a persistent and assertive negotiator will bring the topic up again, if it is relevant, and there is reason to believe the counterpart might have changed his or her position. Persistence is the understanding that hearing no is not the endpoint. It is a sign that the negotiator must be patient, and continue the dialog until it is time to try again. This is one aspect of negotiation in which teenagers excel. Anyone who has a teenager knows that most of them wholeheartedly espouse the philosophy of no just means not yet. Arguably, teenagers are the most persistent negotiators on the planet, and we can learn from them. Recognize that a no can mean a lot of things, not now, not today, not in those terms, not if it takes three weeks. In negotiation, no usually means not with the terms as we currently have defined them. It means it’s time to look at value, and determine how you can add value to your offer. Patience is an important trait of a successful negotiator. Great negotiators don’t rush to agreement before the timing is best. And, they use their knowledge and information resources to identify the best time to act. Great negotiators also know that counterparts and their organizations often don’t proceed at the same pace as their own organizations. And, that rushing things causes them to lose power. Patience also allows the negotiator to be comfortable with silence when waiting for a counterpart to react to a suggestion or respond to an offer. Skilled negotiators utilize their innate curiosity. They don’t assume anything, and they seek depth of understanding through research and questioning. Curious negotiators learn about the history, the market position, the human resources, the array of products and services, and a wide variety of other informational items about their counterparts, and counterpart’s organization. Such negotiators are also sure to be very clear about everything that is said and offered. If something is unclear, they ask for clarification, not just for clarity, but for situational understanding and motivations. If your counterpart says something, or makes an offer that seems incongruous with the goals, is too good to be true, or outlandish in some way, you may wonder why they did so. This is when it’s a good time to use good questioning techniques, and ask questions until you understand why he or she said what they offered, said what they said, or what they offered. Analytical reasoning is something that comes more easily to some than others. A good negotiator needs to be able to make quick mental calculations that are necessary to understand what is being proposed, and compare it to what has gone before, or what you had in mind. Giving careful consideration to the numbers in advance, as part of your preparations, will help this tremendously. A little bit of being comfortable with being uncomfortable comes into play when we talk about the characteristic of creativity. In order to work through a wide variety of options and potential combinations requires creativity as well as the comfort with a fair amount ambiguity regarding the outcome, at least in the early stages. Creativity also comes into play in the case of the deadlock, or significant changes in the parameters of the negotiation. Good negotiators constantly seek new points of value and creative value combinations to engineer high value agreements. Confidence, self discipline, assertiveness, patience, analytical reasoning, curiosity, and creativity are not the only beneficial traits of negotiators, but they are certainly amongst the most common ones. Your ability to remain in control of your emotions and intentionally exhibit these traits will strengthen your position, strengthen your position in a negotiation, and maintain or even enhance your power.
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