You know that feeling you get when you’re in a negotiation and you feel like you’re not being heard? You talk and talk but no matter what you say you feel like the other side isn’t listening. They may be feigning interest, but you know that they’re not really hearing what you’re saying. You become a little agitated and try even harder to get them to listen. Eventually you feel like your heart is beating faster and your collar is getting tighter. Is this all in your head? No, it’s actually a proven effect.
The following is an excerpt from the book Bullies, Tyrants, and Impossible People by Ron Shapiro, Mark Jankowski, and Jim Dale. It shows that changes in your emotions can change your physiology and vice versa.
Psychologist James J. Lynch, director of the life Care Health Center and former faculty member at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is one of the first researchers to use a technology that measures patients’ blood pressure, almost word by word, during conversation. What he discovered is something we have long sensed, that speaking has an identifiable, measurable effect on our bodies, specifically on our cardiovascular systems. Put simply, talking tends to cause blood pressure to rise and it continues to climb until the speaker senses that he or she has been heard or understood. Sometimes, of course, that never occurs, leaving the speaking not only frustrated but with markedly increased blood pressure.
Lynch first observed this in crying babies. Adults react just like crying babies except that we have learned to socialize without crying (most of the time). As with babies, when adults are heard (or comforted), their blood pressure tends to decrease. Lynch says, “The biggest misconception. . .is that talking is a mental process. You. . .talk with every cell in your body.”
The bottom line is that while talking without feeling you are communicating or “getting through” can raise blood pressure (and possibly do physical harm), the converse is also true. When the relationship between talker and audience or listener is positive, it can be healing. Both parties communicate and derive a psychological as well as physical benefit.
It can be challenging for most of us to come up with solutions that allow the other side to save face. It’s not an easy task to step outside of ourselves and think like the other side. (Hey, they are the other side after all. How could they be right?) One technique we have used to bridge the gap to the foreign territory is the exercise of “writing the other side’s press release.” In other words, as you come up with options that they may find attractive, give yourself the hypothetical assignment of crafting a statement to the press that explains why the resolution is a “win” for the other person, as if you are the other person. Forcing yourself to go through this exercise will ensure that you frame proposals or options from a point of view that demonstrates benefit to the other side. It is rare that you will ever be in a situation in which you are writing a real (not just hypothetical) press release, but this practice can really make the difference when you are explaining how your proposal allows them to win as well.
That being said, there was one time Ron actually did write the press release to announce the other side’s “victory” (which, in reality, he had shaped and defined on behalf of his client). Ron represented a well-known news anchor that happened to be the single most desired local anchor in the country at the time. The news anchor was happy where he was and didn’t want to leave, but he wanted to be compensated accordingly. He also didn’t want too much attention on the dollars involved in the contract. The news station wanted to pay him, but they didn’t want the backlash of the largest contract of all time. So what did Ron do? He wrote a press release focusing on the length of the contract, which also happened to be the longest of all time. This made the news station’s management look like they had won the deal, since they would be able to keep him basically for life. Ron handed the press release to them, and they liked it so much that after a few tweaks they actually used it themselves.
If you prepare before a negotiation, you will be more confident. Confidence greatly improves your chances of negotiating a good Win-win deal. But sometimes the stance you take in looking at the negotiation is important too. Is the glass half full or half empty? Are you getting most of the provisions you wanted, or are you losing a few? Don’t disregard how important having a positive outlook on things can be when trying to find that perfect balance for a WIN-win negotiation.
The following is an excerpt from the book “The Power of NICE” which tells a story about a very confident young boy who sees the scoreboard through rose-colored glasses.
“Never underestimate how far confidence and a positive attitude will take you. Some people are born with this outlook. My 6-year-old nephew is one of these people. I went to see him pitch in a Little League game. First, he walked the first five batters. He then struck out two kids who could barely hold their bats up. The next kid bunted the ball but ended up with a home run because of all the fielding errors. After several more walks and hits and errors and lots of runs, my nephew struck out one more kid. The inning, mercifully, was over. He had given up 12 runs. As he walked over to me, I expected tears. I said, “Nick, are you okay?” He broke into a broad smile and said, “Yeah! Did you see that? I struck out the side!!!” That’s looking at the positive side.”
Have you ever suffered from “negotiation fever”? You probably have. It’s where you get so caught up in the heat of making a deal that you lose sight of the quality of the deal. As an outside observer you may know it’s a bad deal,but since your directly involved you forget about your objectives.
If you ever catch yourself in a deal where any of the following occur, a large red sign should appear.
- When the other side forces you below your bottom line
If you’ve prepared before sitting down, you know your starting point for a deal and you know your ending point. This is the point past which you not only don’t want to go, but literally can’t. At this point, the deal no longer pays out, has a return, works, or makes sense for your side.
- When you have better alternatives than the one proposed
Ask yourself if it’s a good deal by absolute standards or merely as good as it’s going to get with the other party. If you know there’s another buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, supplier, shipper, or partner with whom you can make a better deal, don’t get drawn into a lesser deal just because it’s the one at hand.
- When you’re confident the other side cannot abide by the terms of the deal
Don’t think you’re the only one who can get seduced into making a deal just because it’s the one on the table. Make sure that at some point you take a step back and survey the situation. Can the other side really do what they say? Can they deliver? Or will you spend as much time and effort enforcing the deal as you have making it?
- When long-term problems can outweigh short-term gains
Have you ever eaten a fudge brownie sundae because it’s in front of you and then hate yourself in the morning when you get on the scale? This is a similar situation. If the terms of the contract are going to become a problem for you in the future, don’t sign the contract so you can get the instant gratification of finishing the deal.