Separate The People From The Problem

Posted by Beetle B. on Thu 09 June 2016

Much of the material with the tag gty comes from Getting To Yes.

Do not ignore the human factor, with all its emotions. Do not just focus on the problem. Keep the people in mind.

Positional bargaining trades relationships for position (usually). One is at the expense of the other.

Don’t forget that you are human too and that your emotions may get in the way.

People’s “thinking” is the root of all conflict. Facts usually are not. So do not focus on just the facts, but also focus on understanding the other party’s thinking.

Put yourself in the other’s shoes and withhold judgment. You do not have to agree with the other person’s point of view, but you need to know it.

Don’t deduce their intentions from your fears.

Avoid “blame” language, even if accurate. Separate the symptoms from the person.

This generator has failed N times in the last M months. What can we do to minimize N?

instead of

Your generators suck. Your repairs never last.

Explicitly state differences in perceptions without making it seem like you’re blaming.

Explicitly state and acknowledge the other party’s requests that are not problems for you. If it is important to them but trivial for you, spend a lot of time on it. The other party will feel you are giving it equal importance.

Look for opportunities to act differently from their expectations. This is the best way to alter their view of the world. Do it if they expect something negative from you (e.g. expecting an adversary). Respond with something neutral or helpful.

If you want to request something of someone that they do not want to give, involve them early on and make them a participant. Do not do all the research and approach them with a final plan. As it is not their plan, they will look at it with a more skeptical eye.

To engage them, ask for their advice. Also, give credit openly to them.

Make your proposals consistent with their values.

List all the emotions involved, yours and others (fear and anger, etc). Try to discern the reasons for their fears.

People have 5 core concerns:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Appreciation
  3. Affiliation
  4. Role
  5. Status

A lot of deep emotions stem from these. Find ways to improve these and you’ll get more cooperation. And ensure you do not trample on them.

If there is a threat to identity (how they view themselves), you can get strong emotions. If someone is responding very negatively, consider if this is the reason. Likewise if you are acting negatively, consider if there is a threat to your identity. Which identity of yours is threatened?

Examples of identity: “I’m a good teacher” or “I’m generous”. It is easy to make a remark that seems to challenge these.

Make emotions explicit and acknowledge them. “I am hurt that … ” Unexpressed emotions are burdensome.

Let the other side blow off steam. They may be more amenable after that. They’ll feel in a strong position. So don’t interrupt or walk out of a rant. Quietly listen and let the other side finish. You may even prompt him to “continue on”.

This does not mean you agree with all that they complain about.

Use symbolic gestures: Handshake, apology, gift, expression of regret, sympathy. These can go a long way to end a quarrel.

There are 3 problems in communication:

  1. Not talking to the other in a way to be understood. An example is where you may talk to satisfy third parties.
  2. Not properly listening to the other party (mind is busy with own concerns).
  3. Misinterpretation.

While listening, try to be as active as possible. Occasionally, interrupt with “Do I understand correctly that you are saying that … ” The other side appreciates your efforts and will realize you are really listening.

Acknowledge their point of view by repeating for understanding. Make it seem like you are acknowledging the legitimacy of their point of view. If you do not or you belittle it, the other party will be on the defensive.

When repeating back their point of view, state it positively as if they were saying it. This does not mean you agree with them. It does signal that you understand the content as well as the emotion.

Once you have stated their view from their side, then start pointing out all the weaknesses in their situation. Your criticism will have a lot more weight if they realize you understand their position. This alleviates the concern of being misunderstood/misinterpreted.

Remember that you are not in a debate or in front of an audience. Having an audience complicates matters. This is why politics is a problem. The constituents are the audience.

When giving your perspective and grievances, speak about yourself, not about them. “I feel let down” vs “You let me down”. It gets the message across without giving them a way to challenge it, and signals the possibility of a misunderstanding. It is non-confrontational.

Do not communicate everything. Each thing you say should be evaluated against whether it will make your case easier or tougher. If you agree to sell for $20K, do not indicate you would have accepted $15K. It complicates the rest of your agreement.

These techniques are good for “people” problems, but prevention is better than the cure. Address them before they escalate. You do this by building working relationships. Get to know people. Know their likes and dislikes. Do this before negotiating.

Joking to defuse tension is more likely to work with someone you have a working relationship.

tags : negotiations, gty