The 5 W’s of Highly Effective Negotiation: Part 5

[Part 5 of a series]
Know the Who

And so we come to the bittersweet end of our 5W journey together. You’ve now explored how to use why, when, where and what as extra tools in your negotiation toolkit. I hope you see the value in applying these lessons, with intention, to your future bargaining. If so, you will set yourself apart and better position yourself to be a more influential and effective negotiator in both your personal and professional life. In this final installment, we complete our review of these quintessential W’s (sorry – couldn’t resist the play on words) as we consider the who of your negotiations.

Who are you?

This may seem like a ridiculous question, but trust me when I say it’s definitely worth giving this question serious consideration. If your negotiation is professional, what’s your position, title, and authority? Is there a hierarchy at play, and if so, where do you fit in that hierarchy? Who will the other side see you as? Will they see you as someone to take seriously or someone they’ll try to fluff off? Think about this and be prepared. Factor it into your strategy. Find a way to use this insight to your benefit. If the buck stops with you, use that. If not, find a way to make it advance your needs. If someone is likely to underestimate you, use that against them. Turn it to your advantage.

If this is a personal negotiation, are you coming into this negotiation as a mom, daughter, sister, wife or neutral? I had an experience recently where I was dealing with my daughter and I desired a particular outcome. As a mom, I was very invested in pushing for the outcome I wanted for her best interest. The conversation did not go well. I realized (too late) that if I were coaching a client on this issue I would never have approached it the way I had. My passion in ‘mom’ mode sabotaged my effectiveness as a negotiator in my exchange. Had I been able to maintain a more ‘neutral’ and compassionate approach I would likely have gotten infinitely better results – for her and me.

Similarly, with a life partner, we’re much more likely to let emotion enter our bargaining and potentially undermine our position in ways we’d never contemplate or tolerate in a third party situation. In advance of your discussion, consider, with intention, what role you want to negotiate from to maximize your effectiveness. Even though you’re negotiating with your kid or life partner, you may or may not want to come at the negotiation in that ‘role’. Be deliberate in making this decision.

Who do you want to show up as?

You may be scratching your head, wondering what I mean by that. Relax, I’m not suggesting dress-up or role play. Every interaction, every moment of every day, you get to choose how you want to show up – who you want to show up as. Will you show up with compassion? Integrity? Presence? Generosity? Vulnerability? Or is this an exchange where you need to show up tough? Confident? Controlled? You get the idea. Making this decision consciously, in both your personal and professional life can profoundly change your relationships and your interactions. Imagine choosing who you want to show up as every evening before you step through your front door or every morning before you step across the threshold at work. Imagine the power of choosing how you show up for every exchange.

Who are you negotiating with?

Once you’ve examined yourself and decided who you’re going to show up as in any given communication, do the same for the other party. Who are they likely to show up as? Consider this in advance of the meeting or discussion. For example, do you anticipate that they’ll bring their game face with bluster and bravado and aggression, or play the victim card? Be prepared either way. Also consider if they show up differently, how would you best handle it?

Who should you be negotiating with?

Have you ever conducted a negotiation with someone only to have them claim to not have authority to give you what you need at the end of the conversation? Perhaps before you decide how to handle your bargaining counterpart’s approach, consider if they’re even the best person to address the particular issue with? If not, who should you negotiate with? Maybe it makes sense to have a preliminary discussion with the intended negotiator, but maybe you should resolve this issue right out of the gate and insist on speaking to the appropriate person from the outset for maximum efficiency and results.

Tied to that, consider who else can or should be included in the negotiations. Whether on your side or the other side, who could help give you an edge? Maybe someone on your ‘team’ has a particular viewpoint or expertise or style that would resonate deeply with your counterpart. If so, consider bringing them in. Likewise, maybe someone on the other party’s ‘team’ would be highly sympathetic to your proposal. If so, try to find a way to have them included. The opposite is also true. Who should be excluded from the discussions if at all possible? If someone has an ax to grind with you, maybe find a way to keep them away from the table. If someone has a history of taking a hard line on the issue you need, try to bypass them if possible. Or maybe, just having too many cooks stirring the broth is a problem in itself and culling the herd will yield you better results. Again, considering these angles with intention will elevate your bargaining and increase your effectiveness to get you better results.

Who will be impacted by your negotiation?

We sometimes forget about the ripple effect of our actions. Negotiations are no exception. Think about the potential impact of your bargaining on others who may not be at the table. Sometimes a shortsighted gain in the moment may have disastrous long-term impact on others. Negotiating a ‘win’ on one issue may negatively impact on other important relationships in your life. These are factors that a skilled negotiator will contemplate and incorporate in the preparation process. So should you if you want to up your game and get the best outcomes.

As with the earlier articles in this series, this piece is intended to raise a smattering sample of who questions for you to contemplate. It’s designed to open your perspective and show the benefits of a broader vision in bargaining. My hope is to get you thinking about the possibilities the 5 W’s could open up if you consider and consistently apply them to your negotiations. If you do so with forethought and intention, you can move the dial to stack the odds in your favour. Take advantage of every possible edge. You’ll have more influence, be more persuasive and get better outcomes in your negotiations. It’s simple and powerful – like most great ideas.


influence, intention, Negotiation, Relationship

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