(or How to get more of what you want and need without the conflict)
Would your approach to bargaining change if you only had one week to live?
Lately I’ve noticed a number of blogs or purported negotiation expert sites extolling the virtues of negotiating like your life depended on it. A take-no-prisoners, hostage-situation style of bargaining. This concerns me. Surely there’s enough conflict and confrontation in the world already. It’s one of the reasons I created the Art of Feminine Negotiation program. After 30 years of high stakes negotiation experience, I recognized that effective negotiation isn’t all about the bark and bite. Toughness doesn’t always carry the day. I came to realize that the hallmark of the most effective negotiators was the ability to bring the softer ‘feminine’ skillset to the table. I imagined a world where we negotiated from this place. A better world where we didn’t take hard line positions just for the sake of it or based on some misguided view that you could only get what you want that way. A world where we came up with more creative solutions that benefited the greatest number of people – where you could get what you want and also give more. And so, I invite you to consider a novel paradigm shift. Instead of negotiating like your life depended on it, what if we negotiated as if it were our last week on earth. What would you change in your approach to bargaining if you only had one week to live?
We’re inundated today with negativity. Our media abounds with images of conflict and disaster. It causes us to catastrophize our lives and how we live them. It keeps us locked in a scarcity mindset – a belief that there’s not enough and we need to fight to get and keep our piece of the pie. We get duped into a pattern of defending and conquering. Protect our turf, our property, even our ideas. This single-minded approach fosters more conflict as we battle to get more at all costs.
What if that mindset is not only unnecessary but counter-productive? What if that outlook limited you from achieving more? What if there isn’t an immutable pie, but in fact abundance abounds when you open yourself to it? Are you open to the possibility that there’s a way to negotiate your life that can give you everything you want … and more … while also allowing you to give, to contribute, to grow?
Here’s the key. Instead of trying to get every extra sliver of pie onto your plate and off the other party’s plate, why not create more pie? Tap into your natural feminine energies to think outside the box and look for creative win-win solutions. I don’t mean split-the-baby solutions, but rather, true innovative solutions that expand the options and opportunities for all parties to the negotiation (and beyond if possible). Instead of trying to put one over on the other side, why not find a way to get more for you and them.
You do this by employing the elements identified in my Art of Feminine Negotiation program. The 6 key skills that make and mark an effective negotiator are assertiveness, rapport-building, empathy, flexibility, intuition and trustworthiness. [Here’s an easy mnemonic to remember these key competencies: A.R.E. F.I.T. You ARE FIT to be a great negotiator.] Five out of six of those qualities are typically considered feminine traits or strengths. Assertiveness is only one element of bargaining. I’m encouraging you to tap into the other skills (which you already no doubt use in a myriad of ways everyday) with intention to bring to your negotiations. When you master and bring these elements to your negotiations, with intention, it will fundamentally elevate and change the character of your bargaining while simultaneously getting you better results. Using this approach gets better deals, longer-lasting deals, better buy-ins and improved relationships.
Approach your negotiations by trying to determine what the other side really wants and needs. What added value can you potentially bring outside the zone of the obvious issue on the table that could benefit you both. Are you trying to sell a tractor-trailer rig because you’re moving? Don’t just haggle over price. Instead consider possible referral and income opportunities over and above purchase price (i.e. share the local customer list you won’t be able to service anymore thereby benefiting you both on a much larger scale). Selling a vacant lot? Don’t get so focused on picking the highest purchase price that you ignore the prospective contractor purchaser who can build the road much cheaper than you thereby providing a potentially huge win-win solution. Consider outside connections you may have unrelated to any given transaction at issue – maybe you can make an introduction that costs you nothing but is invaluable to the other party. You get the idea. Invoke your empathy, build rapport and trust, use your intuition and be flexible to get outside the box creative solutions beyond the obvious. Take away the conflict to provide opportunity.
As humans we have two driving needs in life: to grow and to contribute. Maybe it’s time to rethink our traditional negotiation paradigm. Maybe it’s time to adopt an approach that meets our primal needs and gives greater value to everyone involved. If you had only one week to live would you want to spend it in negativity, haggling and fighting for every last scrap or you would want to live with purpose and meaning, getting what you want and need (and more) while spreading positivity, knowing that the ripple effects of your actions creates a climate of caring and compassion over conflict? I know what I’d choose.