Closely tied to the art of negotiation is the art of communication. If you want to get more of what you want in life, up-levelling your communication skills is key. I recently interviewed conversation expert, Debra Roberts, and it quickly became clear we share similar philosophies about the importance of getting intentional about how we choose to communicate and negotiate. I thought I’d share some of her insights and hot tips on how to have conversations to get the best outcome.
All of life is a negotiation. Those all-important communications with your intimate partner, kids, friends, and business associates are all a form of negotiation. We're always trying to influence and persuade each other in some way. Getting better outcomes is all about bringing more intention to the table.
Debra is the creator of The Relationship Protocol communication model. At its heart, there are two key elements. Every healthy interaction relationship has to have these two key elements: commitment and ‘turning towards’.
Commitment is how you show up. It can be a felt sense, but it's also your behavior, your actions, how you treat someone, how you make the other person feel. It's making that connection where people around you know that they can count on you, that you're reliable. It's the essence of how trust grows.
The second mandatory ingredient is shifting your thinking to turning towards. If I'm interacting with you, I want to connect with you. I want to connect with your experience as much as I want you to understand mine. If I go into an interaction distracted, annoyed or biased, I'm turned away. When we're turned away, there's a disconnect. Part of what has to happen for the sake of the relationship is to shift your thinking and turn towards the situation.
Your relationship is more important than each of you as individuals. But if you are not committed and you don't show up shifting your thinking and turning towards the relationship, the situation, the organization, you cannot have healthy interactions. You cannot have a thriving organization or a healthy marriage relationship without these two key elements.
The golden nugget to remember is that the more important the relationship is to you, the more important it is that you demonstrate an understanding of the other person's experience. If your energy is on wanting to get to know the other person and listening to and validating them, you’ll be connected.
Once you’ve mastered the key concepts of commitment and turning towards, you can explore the four ‘how to’ steps to put them into practice. How do you have these conversations? How do you build trust? How do you deal with conflicts and confrontations? How do you initiate a conversation?
Step 1: We initiate conversations by stating our intentions upfront. For many people, this notion seems counter-intuitive as they’ve been led to believe they need to hold their cards close to their chest. In fact, this approach creates suspicion and mistrust. By contrast, being open about your intentions will build trust and a solid foundation for effective communications.
Step 2: Be kind. Kindness builds trust. Note that if you’re mean or distasteful or betray the other person in some way, that safety net is gone and you’ll have to rebuild – and it takes longer to rebuild than it does to initially grow something.
Step 3: Own your part. If you notice the other person getting upset, stop and ask about it. Take the time to acknowledge their experience and own your part. i.e. "Hey, I didn't mean it the way you heard it, or I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings. That really wasn't what I was setting out to do. That wasn't my intention." In order for the other person to accept your acknowledgement of wrongdoing or mistake or whatever took place, you have to demonstrate accountability and ownership.
Step 4: Give the benefit of the doubt. Stay open and out of judgment. This also includes being able to move on and letting go.
When we can express ourselves with ease, we get to have our needs met. We get to resolve conflicts and we can improve the quality of our life and have much less stress in our lives and in our organizations. Instead of having something building up inside of you or feeling ill-equipped because you don't know what to say, how to say it, or you’re afraid that if you do say something, the other person is going to react so you say nothing, that offers your relationship nothing. You start to disconnect. The other person gets annoyed. You can see how things just build. Whereas if we know how to communicate, we show up with confidence. We get our needs met.
Having effective communication in your life is transformational. It’s expected that as adults, we know how to communicate effectively. And yet we’re not taught it. These are simple concepts and easy to apply when you bring your intention to it. It’s worth the shift. With better communication, you’ll get better buy-in, better relationships, and better outcomes.
Imagine the world as a kinder, more peaceful place where we can talk about our differences and people can feel a sense of belonging in their organizations.
If you're looking to up level your negotiation skills, I have one on one, group and online coaching programs available. I'm on a mission to help you leverage your natural or innate power to get more of what you want and deserve in life.