“The most dangerous negotiation is the one you don’t know you’re in.”
– Hostage Negotiator Christopher Voss
The idea: How do you reduce tension during difficult negotiations? The literature states that people with higher emotional intelligence create a more productive, trusting atmosphere, conducive to building longer-term relationships and win/win discussions. How this is handled matters more than you think. Does your mindset serve you or trip you up during intense negotiations?
Negotiations are inherently filled with emotions, risk and tension, Moshe Cohen reminds us. Mindset, not mechanics, drives success. One of the biggest mistakes we make is trying to eliminate discomfort within negotiations. This includes competitive pressures, price demands, deadlines, and combativeness in a buyer/seller discussion. Pressures can cause us to concede too quickly and hinder our ability to stay present. We must all learn to be “comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Negotiations are driven by pressure from ourselves and our counterparts. The iconic negotiator Herb Cohen is famous for sharing that, to negotiate well, “one must care, but not that much.” In other words, we need perspective to be in control of our emotions.
Research by Wharton and MIT found that people with high (EQ) Emotional Intelligence are more likeable, self-controlled, and self-aware. This helps them thrive in negotiations. They set a positive, improvisational atmosphere of win/win. They see negotiations like jazz: adapting, morphing, playing off their partner, occasionally leading and sometimes following. People with higher EQ see negotiation as a dance rather than a race.
The research is very clear: self-centered people who disregard other’s views fail to consistently create win/win outcomes. They miss the interpersonal cues that are vital to winning hearts, minds and trust with another person. They are playing the game in the dark. My research leads me to believe there are three pillars supporting the ultimate negotiation mindset.
Pillar #1 – Necessity: Most people are driven by necessity, not opportunity. The fear of losing something has much more power than the possibility of gaining something new. Research shows that 70% of the buying decision is made to avoid loss rather than to achieve gain. Don’t be afraid to help your partner understand what they will “lose” if they don’t move forward on your proposal. The fear of loss is a powerful catalyst.
Pillar #2 – Empathy: We all must continue to grow in empathy. This expansion aids in our ability to understand unstated motives and the interests of others. It helps us solve difficult problems and allows the flexibility to create new options for our partners. Each of us must try to understand what something looks like from the other’s perspective. We must get in their shoes and “feel” what they are feeling. Empathy is the glue that holds relationships together.
Pillar #3 – Discovery: Which of these two questions would you rather answer: “What’s the problem?” or “Do you have concerns we should discuss?” One question is harsh while the other is open and conveys concern. A thoughtful discovery question uncovers unstated needs, eliminates defensiveness and removes barriers and insecurity, while tapping into the deepest interests of the person you are addressing. Discovery questions help both parties understand personal goals, hidden constraints, and context.
Many of the best communicators I know are skilled at thinking through discovery questions prior to big engagements. Their toolbox is filled with pre-determined inquiries, allowing them to stay present when it truly matters. If you don’t want transactional relationships, practice embracing a discovery state of mind.
All negotiations are multi-faceted, comprised of multiple levels and interests. Give yourself room to breathe and maneuver. The ultimate negotiation mindset is being present.
“Negotiation skills are perishable, they erode.”
– Hostage Negotiator Christopher Voss