Negotiate From Both Sides of the Table

The fourth chapter of “Done Deal: Insights from Interviews with the World’s Best Negotiators” by Michael Benoliel, Ed.D with Linda Cashdan opens with a quote by former Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, “Nine-tenths of the serious controversies which arise in life result from . . . one man not knowing the facts which to the other man seem important, or otherwise failing to appreciate his point of view.” There is a lot to this quote and the idea that a negotiator, to be successful, must know the needs of the other party.

Sometimes during a negotiation it may appear that your interests are fundamentally incompatible with those of the other side. Regardless if some interests really do coincide, becoming biased or trapped into the thinking that they are not will most likely result in a failure to reach agreement. Successful negotiators not only seek out areas of compatibility that lead to agreements, but strive to overcome areas of incompatibility once identified. Negotiating from both sides of the table, or knowing what the other party needs, assists in accomplishing this.

During my opening statement during mediations I often remind the parties that they came to the mediation looking for something, and that it is the people at the table who have the ability to give them what they came for. I explain that while it may be helpful or persuasive in a courtroom to say a person’s a liar and try to discredit them, for the mediation purposes it’s sometimes helpful to remember that the people sitting at the table are the people who have what they came for.

This is the same for any negotiation; you are looking for something only the other side can provide. As I wrote in the last column on BATNAs, the only reason to negotiate is to produce a result better than you can obtain without negotiating. Therefore, the negotiator must be able to bridge substantive differences in order to accommodate the needs of both parties to structure proposals and finally agreements. In order to do this, and I’ll repeat myself here, the successful negotiator must know the needs of the other party.

While this idea seems fairly simple and uncomplicated, in practice, it can be just the opposite. Often during a negotiation it is difficult to step outside yourself, and your issues, to focus on those of your counterparts. It is quite easy to ignore your opponent’s point of view entirely. I specifically use the term “opponent” because that is how many negotiators view those they are negotiating with rather than a partner in a collaborative process toward mutual benefit. And while this latter view is the ideal, it is certainly a bit optimistic and maybe unrealistic for every negotiation. However it can be a goal to strive toward. Getting back to my main point, according to Benoliel, there is substantial academic research supporting the notion that negotiators tend to ignore even readily available information about the other side.

Because understanding the issues of your counterparts on the other side of the negotiation table is so important, the successful negotiator should work toward developing the mindset that will enable the learning and understanding of those issues. One way to do this in your preparation stages is to mentally bargain from both sides of the table. You can think of it like preparing for a debate without knowing what side you will be chosen to represent. You prepare arguments for both sides. While negotiating, mentally bargain for both sides. Doing this will help you explore their issues and positions and help your understanding. Doing this can assist you with creating win-win situations.

This is not necessarily easy. In fact, it can be very difficult at times to develop an accurate picture of your counterparts across the table. This is especially true in conflict situations, and the more heated the conflict, the more difficult it can become. During these times, we need to step back and remember that skilled negotiators invest in finding out as much about the other side as possible, especially what the other side’s interests are, so they can work toward agreements together.

There is more than one side in a negotiation, and to pursue your goals successfully, you need to enter the negotiations with a clear sense of your own objectives and bottom line and an understanding of your counterpart’s reality as well. Learn their goals, their interests, and their constraints. Try and determine what their BATNA may be. Mentally sit on their side of the table for a while and determine that you are going to work with, and not against, the other side. Do this and accomplishing your goals through successful negotiations will be much easier.

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Lighter colors

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High cut-outs

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Bottoms and the hip cover

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Negotiate Shrewdly by Using Misdirections

Recently, I watched a colleague make a presentation. At the beginning of his presentation, he pulled a small red foam ball from his pocket. He then said a few magical words as he placed the ball from one hand into the other, opened the hand the ball was placed in only to have the hand absent of the ball when he opened it. Everyone in the audience suspected a sleight of hand had been used to create the illusion. That could have been the end of the ‘red ball trick’ had my colleague stopped at that point, but he went on to ask a gentleman sitting several rows from the stage to look in the top outside pocket of his jacket. A hush came over the audience as everyone anticipated the red ball appearing in the gentleman’s pocket. When the gentleman, with hesitancy, felt the pocket and exposed its content, he extracted a cell phone, but no red ball. Everyone laughed and my colleague continued with his presentation, with a much more attentive audience.

‘Misdirections’ throughout a negotiation can prove to be very beneficial if used appropriately. It thus behooves savvy negotiators to know when and how to use ”misdirections’. Questions might come to mind such as …

When should you use ‘misdirections’? What value can be achieved from the use of ‘misdirections’? What are the pitfalls to using ‘misdirections’ in a negotiation? Below are ways and answers that will give you insight into how this dynamic tactic can be applied and how its use as a strategy can be employed during a negotiation …

· Planning the use of ”misdirections’ in the development of your negotiation plan

- By now, if you have been following these lessons for some time, or if you’re several levels into becoming a savvy negotiator, you’re aware that you should always plan any negotiation before entering into it. In your plans, you prepare for ‘what if’ scenarios and the path upon which you envision the negotiation traveling. As you contemplate that path and weigh the ‘what if’ scenarios and the influence they may have on the negotiation, consider how you might misdirect, redirect, the negotiation, if it goes in a direction that is unfavorable to your position. In essence, give consideration to how you will respond to ‘what if’ scenarios by providing the perception of a more favorable position for your opponent, if he follows your suggested path. That path should be one that is advantageous to the negotiation and your position. As an aside, a good ‘misdirection’ creates the impression or facade of being more advantages to the other negotiator and to the overall outcome of the negotiation, without giving the appearance of being advantageous to your position.

· ”Misdirections’ in the form of red herrings

- Red herrings are ‘things’ that have real perceived value to the other negotiator, but marginal value to you. In order to use this tactic effectively, you have to convince the other negotiator that the red herring has immense value to you. To use a ‘misdirection’ coupled with a red herring, you should first give value to the red herring by making a ‘big deal’ in your desire to acquire it. Then, momentarily direct the attention of the negotiation onto another point. As you go about agreeing on the other point, revert back to the red herring and raise the stakes; do so by making a bigger deal about the other negotiator conceding on the point of the red herring. When he begins to protest, couple the immediately agreed to point with this new request. To the degree you can couple other agreed to points, to the red herring, the concession on the point of the red herring becomes more tolerable to the other negotiator. You run the risk of creating animosity, anxiety, and breaking rapport with the other negotiator, which could be detrimental to the negotiation. So, be cautious when using this tactic.

· Answering questions with questions is a form of ‘misdirection’

- By answering questions with questions, you can redirect, and thus misdirect, your responses to an informational gathering tool. In general, when negotiating, the person asking the questions is the person with the greater degree of control. By asking questions with questions, you continuously gather information, while not divulging information. The more information you gather, the more information you’ll have to improve your negotiation position. The next time someone asks you a question, respond by asking them a question, instead of replying with an answer. Try this tactic in a ‘fun’ environment and observe how much more information you gather. Then, when it’s time to use this tactic in a negotiation, it will feel like the fit of a hand inside a perfectly sized glove … and everything will be right with the world.

The Negotiation Lessons are …

· When you’re in the midst of a negotiation, sometimes things will become hectic, people will become angered, and they’ll be times when impasses will appear. By applying the strategy of ‘misdirection’, you can alter the other negotiator’s perception, change his opinion, and get the negotiation moving in the right direction. Never overlook the value of this tool.

· The use of ‘misdirections’ in a negotiation can be a very powerful tool. One of the ways to enhance its use is to use it when it’s least expected. Then, build upon the ‘misdirection’ by taking it a step further than what is expected, by misdirecting the negotiation in yet a different direction. If you wish to employ this tactic in an even more demonstrative manner, alter between the two ‘misdirections’ as the other negotiator thinks he’s closing in on settling one of them.

· ‘Misdirections’ in a negotiation can be powerful, but be cautious not to overplay your hand. If used too much, you run the risk of giving the other negotiator the perception that you’re playing games with him. If he senses such intentions, he may become belligerent, ambiguous, and unreceptive to other offers you might make. In essence, you will have created the impasse in the negotiation that you were trying to avoid.