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3 Maxims For Successful Negotiation

Originally published: 05.01.11 by Carl Van

Focus on proving your point with facts instead of arguing.

If you are a fan of the show “Seinfeld,” you’ll remember an episode in which George concludes that every single decision he had made in his past was wrong. So he incorporates a new philosophy: Do the opposite of what he thinks he should do. And from that point forward, he does. Of course, things work out very well for him — for a while.

Sometimes, when trying to persuade others to do things differently, business leaders argue and focus on the wrongness of another’s point of view, which is the exact opposite of what they should do. The tactic here is to argue until the other person gives in. But like George’s solution, this makes for a short-term victory. Usually, you’ll just end up with a protracted battle instead of changed behavior. 

I have observed three maxims of great negotiators. The next time you need to persuade an employee or coworker to do something differently, try these instead of arguing: 

1. Don’t argue about “reasons” why something should or shouldn’t be done. Present facts.

When you argue with someone’s reasons, you are trying to prove them wrong.

Instead, gather a list of objective facts to present. The best facts are data — business metrics such as revenues or costs; performance metrics such as callbacks; or, things that influence business, such as increases in parts and material costs, fuel charges, etc. Facts can’t be disputed or taken personally.

Many contractors, for example, face an argument from technicians when they install GPS vehicle-tracking. Some technicians feel they are being “spied on” or that their boss doesn’t trust them. A good response would be to present the facts: “Fuel and maintenance costs have risen X percent over five years, and we estimate we can take 3,000 miles off of each truck per year with better navigation. This will save the company X amount of money, which makes us a stronger, more stable employer with more money to invest in training and salaries.” 

If you still encounter resistance, move to Maxim 2.

2. Demonstrate you understand the other person’s point of view.

Let’s return to the GPS example.

Mike is telling Paul that the company will be installing GPS-tracking devices in each vehicle over the next month and providing training for technicians, who will be required to use devices as demonstrated. After he explains the reason behind the GPS sytem purchase as described above, Paul still is not convinced, says he is insulted, and he doesn’t want to use the GPS.

 Well, why not?

Paul: Because, you will just use it against me to say I’m not working hard enough and to spy on me.

 Why would I use that against you? That doesn’t make any sense.

Here is a better way for Mike to handle Paul’s resistance:

Mike: O.K. Can I ask why?

 Because, you will just use it against me to say I’m not working hard enough and to spy on me.

 You know, I can understand why you would be concerned. This is new for all of us. I just want to let you know that the purpose of the GPS is not to use the information against you. In fact, we have plans to use the GPS to document good driving and productivity so we can reward them with bonuses. 

Did you see how Mike took the time to acknowledge Paul’s concern? Notice he did not agree with it or disagree with it. He just acknowledged where Paul was coming from so that Paul knew his feelings were reasonable. The fact that Mike took the time to do this paved the way for Paul to change his mind.

If, however, Paul hadn’t changed his mind, the next step would be to go to Maxim 3.

3. Return to the facts

Mike did something else skillful. After he acknowledged Paul’s concern, he went back to facts, and this time presented new ones. As you negotiate, keep remembering that you are not trying to prove the other person wrong; you are trying to prove that what you have to say is right. 

To keep yourself calm and focused, keep going through this cycle each time the person indicates they won’t cooperate:

1.Ask why they don’t want to cooperate.

2. Acknowledge their reason(s) as valid.

3. Return to the facts.

You will find that persuading others to change their behavior with this method is easier and a whole lot less stressful than arguing and trying to prove another person wrong.

Carl Van is a public speaker, business-course designer and trainer. He is also the author of Gaining Cooperation, which is available on Amazon.com.

Contact Carl at 504-393-4570, www.CarlVan.org orwww.facebook.com/carlvanspeaker

Articles by Carl Van

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3 Maxims For Successful Negotiation

You will find that persuading others to change their behavior by presenting facts and demonstrating understanding is a much better way to negotiate than trying to prove another person wrong.
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