How to Give it and Get Respect in Negotiations

R-e-s-p-e-c-t. In 1967 Aretha Franklin belted out this powerful little word, rocking a nation and taking it to the top of the charts. It became a feminist anthem, a black-power anthem and a personal anthem for many. The word resonates for me as it reminds me of my late father. My dad loved Aretha, and he always preached at my sister and I to remember that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

In my last article, I talked about building trust in negotiations. I mentioned that respect and trust are closely connected. Respect breeds respect and in so doing builds trust. Respect is an important element of negotiation. It’s important to give it and to earn it. In fact, I’d postulate that you have to give respect to earn it.

I’m not talking here about the misuse of the word, where we speak of ‘grudging respect’ for someone. Grudging respect is usually fear-based at its core. When people comply, obey, demure out of fear, that’s not really respect. And it’s not a healthy basis for negotiations in a relationship, whether personal or professional. When people try to exert power over another, even when they’re successful, they haven’t earned respect, and so have not created a strong foundation for effective negotiation or superior outcomes.

Having said that, you can respect someone’s achievements without liking how they got there. And you can respect someone’s achievements and how they got there, and still not like the person.

So, how does respect show up? It’s recognizing someone else’s humanity or personhood. It’s seeking to listen and understand the other person. It’s ensuring you don’t see the other person as a mere means to an end. Many think this is tricky in negotiation, but I invite you to consider that this view likely comes from a win-lose/zero-sum/positional/distributive approach to negotiation as opposed to a collaborative/principled/integrative approach. 

This fixed mindset approach to negotiations can interfere with your ability to bring the requisite level of respect to the table and so interfere with your ability to get better buy-in and better outcomes. We often come from this place based on our conditioning and the myths we’ve accepted about negotiation i.e. that negotiation is all about toughness, about never ceding any ground, about competition. Not true. Not true. Not true.

Self-protection is another key source of interference in our ability to give (and so receive) respect in negotiating our relationships. When we come from our ‘lower loop’ in self-protective mode as opposed to our ‘upper loop’ of self-leadership, we’re less likely to be able to show up as the best version of ourselves and show respect to other party.

I challenge you to consider whether you have been showing respect to the other party/parties in your negotiations. In particular, I’d like to challenge you to consider if you’re showing up with respect in the following scenarios:

I           Dealing with Children

In negotiating with children (whether your own or others) do you truly listen and seek to understand and meet their needs? Do you drop all distractions, give undivided attention, listen without interrupting or interjecting your opinions/suggestions/interpretations? Do you use body language and other nonverbal cues to demonstrate that you’re listening? Do you reflect back what they’ve said to ensure you understood correctly?

If you’re like most people, and if you’re being honest, the answer to those questions is likely a resounding no. We tend to exert power over children rather than seeking to establish power with them. We assume we know best and no matter how well-intentioned we may be, it signals a lack of respect to our children. It makes them feel unvalued, unimportant, ‘less than’. It also interferes with the ability to come to mutually superior solutions. Perhaps most importantly, as noted earlier, if we’re not giving respect, we’re not likely to earn authentic respect.

I encourage you to get intentional about bringing respect to all discussions when negotiating your relationship with your children (or others). You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

I also caution you to beware that this approach becomes even more challenging as our children transition into adulthood. Letting go can be difficult. As we resist, we fail to give the much-needed respect to ensure their self-esteem and ability to grow in healthy ways (in their relationship with us and beyond).

As noted above, our lack of respect often comes from a place of perceived love and caring. It is our fears, hopes and dreams for our children that drive us to interfere, overwhelm and smother them rather than taking a pause, a deep breath, and a perspective shift to put ourself in their shoes, or allow them to let us see through their eyes. It’s only when we allow ourselves to see from that vantage point that we can give them the space to get creative. When we value and respect their viewpoint, we’re more likely to trigger reciprocal respect.   

II          Dealing with the Elderly

Much like the challenges in transitioning as our kids grow into adults, we tend to drop the ball in negotiating our relationship with our aging parents (or other seniors) as well. Again, this often comes from a place of fear. As we see our once all-knowing and powerful parents decline, it shakes our foundation. We respond by imposing our views and our will. We don’t show them the respect they earned after a lifetime of contribution.

III         Dealing with Co-workers

Likewise, in the workplace, as our co-workers grow, develop and transition to next levels, it can be difficult to navigate these changes. We may continue to treat them as underlings and in so doing disrespect them and damage our relationship in the process.

IV         Dealing with Mental Health Issues

Your final challenge is to consider how you show up with people in your life who deal with mental health issues. Do you give them the respect and trust they deserve? Do you really listen (to the verbal and nonverbal communication)? Do you get intentional about understanding the issue from their perspective and point of view? Or, do you, thinking you’re coming from an altruistic place, seek to ‘help’ by exerting power over them? 

Next time you’re going into a negotiation, whether in your personal or professional life, just remember to give – as Aretha would say – just a little bit of respect. And you’ll likely get it back in spades.



Negotiations, Respect

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