We are all in the business of negotiation. Whether you are bargaining for more lucrative business deals or debating with your girlfriend on where to go for dinner – negotiation is a skill that is essential in everyday life.
Some people forget that we see negotiation taking place, and indeed take part in ‘deal making’ all the time and in every walk of life, from the everyday holiday maker haggling with market stall owners on vacation in Egypt all the way to FBI hostage negotiators interacting with criminals over life and death situations or presidents of countries contending over nuclear missiles…
When we enter business and corporate environments, negotiation is around every corner. No matter what role you find yourself in, from sales to human resources. The skill of effective negotiation is a valuable tool to have in our arsenal and one that is most certainly worth developing.
After all, why wouldn’t you want to get the best deal for yourself and your business?
– Cameron Scott
But like any skill, the art of negotiation is complex and intricate. It requires attention, care and honing over time combined with an overall strategy and set of tactics to ensure that the best deals can be made consistently. There are a multitude of tactics that can be developed over a lifetime of negotiating.
Whilst effective negotiation is a skill that can and will be developed over a lifetime, there are also a couple basic laws of negotiation that I have found that when followed will go a long way in improving the chances of better deals being made.
Apply intense empathy
In the NY Times best selling book ‘Thinking Fast And Slow’ – The noble prize winner Daniel Kahneman found through decades of research into the psychology of the human mind, that every individual on the planet suffers from a phenomenon known as ‘cognitive bias’. That is, we all see the world through our own individual lens, which is the result of our own collection of experiences, beliefs and personality traits.
Cognitive bias literally distorts the view of our world from that of others – no one person will see the world through exactly the same ‘lens’ as you do, due to this phenomenon. Reality is perception and we all perceive it differently.
Cognitive bias can be a severe hinderance in relating to others. In fact, it is the reason for conflict and war across the world – we are all seeing the world from different perspectives and thus conflict arises. But we can also use and leverage cognitive bias to our advantage, to create alignment with others, encourage collaboration and increase our chances of negotiating better deals.
By applying intense empathy during a negotiating situation and really trying to see the world through the cognitive lens of our counterpart, we can begin to identify with or at least understand their own world view. Importantly, we can establish their key motivations to do a deal. This is a strategic advantage when in the process of negotiation, because we can find our counterparts pain points and leverage their individual motivations to create bespoke solutions that target their unique needs and desires at their very core.
Perhaps even more importantly, by seeking to understand the world view of others we can empathise with them on an unconscious level. Showing empathy creates a sense of trust and connection between us and our counterpart. It signals to them that we are on the same wavelength and that we understand their perspective.
“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” – Stephen Covey.
It is key to highlight, that to be empathetic we do not need to agree with our friend, coworker or prospect – we simply need to understand and relate to where they are coming from. If you’re a millennial and you are negotiating with someone 30 years your senior then there will be a clear cognitive bias divide – it is your job to understand things from the viewpoint of your counterpart.
What may seem clear and obvious to you may not be true for the individual that you are engaging with and vice versa. When people feel like they are being listened to and understood they feel more comfortable and they are more likely to be open to what you have to say. Thus increasing the chances of a beneficial outcome as a result of the negotiation.
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want. “– Zig Ziglar
Focus on the right side of the brain
A common psychological theory is that our brains are made up of two parts – the logical, rational left side and the emotional, instinctual right side. The left side is responsible for weighing up decisions, calculating situations and rationalising what is going on. Whereas our right side is more random, creative and instinctual – it runs on pure emotion not logic and rationality.
On the surface, it might make sense that when negotiating with others that the best course of action would be to try and appeal to their rational left side of the brain. After all, we need to inform our counterpart and explain in detail exactly why our viewpoint, product or deal is the best option, right? Wrong.
The first port of call when negotiating should always be to tap into the emotional and instinctual right side of the brain. We need to spark emotion in our counterpart before using logic.
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” – Dale Carnegie
The reason for this is simple. Our emotions are inherently tied to our desires and motivations. Humans are not logical beings, we are inherently emotional and instinctive. We are motivated by our feelings – ambition, greed, fear, desire. These are all emotions that cause us to take action and they are the basis behind the actions that we take.
In the negotiation process, by tapping into the right side of the brain first, we are able to captivate our counterpart by appealing to their emotions. Only when this has been done should we begin using logic and rationale to further strengthen our argument.
The way to tap into the emotional right side of the brain is to paint a picture with words, create a scene in which the individual you are trying to persuade is already enjoying the benefits of the decision they are about to make.
To consider this concept through a purely business perspective – a common sales mantra, is to sell the benefits of a product not the features. This runs parallel to captivating the emotional side of a prospects brain. If the prospect can imagine themselves enjoying the benefits of a product then they are already in buying frame of mind and this is where deals are done and sales are made. Not through logic, through emotion.