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Published on May 11, 2020

How to Negotiate With People Who Won’t Negotiate Effectively

How to Negotiate With People Who Won’t Negotiate Effectively

When you hear the word “negotiation,” your first thought might be high-stakes corporate deals or the occasional salary discussion with your boss. However, the truth is that every day presents opportunities to learn how to negotiate, whether you’re attempting to secure a refund on a hotel booking or having it out with your spouse about whose turn it is to do the dishes.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, tensions are running especially high, and you might find yourself faced with more aggressive counterparts who make finding common ground seem almost impossible.

To help you get started, here are some expert-backed tips on how to negotiate, especially with people who refuse to play nice.

Before the Negotiation Begins

Before you ever begin discussions with the other party, take some time to consider the following.

Explore Possible Solutions

One of the most important parts of the negotiation process happens before it even begins: thinking through possible solutions so that you arrive at the discussion prepared. To take it one step further, anticipate how the conversation could go and how you’d like to respond.

For example: If my boss says it’s too soon to consider a promotion, I’ll highlight my contributions to our team and the value I’ve created.

By doing your homework ahead of time, not only will you feel more confident, but you’ll also signal to your counterpart that you’re invested in the outcome.

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Before difficult negotiations, Susan Hackley, Managing Director of Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, recommends running through the following questions[1]:

  • What are your hot-button issues?
  • What is essential to you?
  • What is unacceptable?
  • What you are likely to hear from your opponent?
  • How will you react?

It’s like golfing: Jack Nicklaus recommends that golfers take lessons on the most basic skills like grip and alignment. As Hackley writes: “[I]f your setup is sound, there’s a decent chance you’ll hit a reasonably good shot.”

Make sure you’re prepared before you set foot on the golf course.

Be a Giver

It’s natural to head into a negotiation focusing on what you stand to gain. Negotiating tends to feel adversarial, and we worry about winning or losing.

Take as much as you can, right?

Research, however, has shown that being generous while negotiating may be a sign of intelligence. Furthermore, these smarter people, who New York Times contributor Adam Grant calls “givers,” tend to make their counterparts better negotiators, too.

Grant writes, “The most successful negotiators cared as much about the other party’s success as their own.”[2]

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Beginning from a place of generosity — focusing on how you can meet your counterpart’s needs and not just satisfy your own — can prove beneficial for both sides of the negotiation, and not to mention, help form stronger, more harmonious long-term relationships.

During Negotiations

Once you’re in the middle of the process, focus on the following to help it move in a positive direction.

Ask Questions to Uncover Hidden Motivations

Heading into a negotiation, most people focus on their objective and what they’re going to say. However, according to experts, listening is even more critical to discovering the best solution for both parties. Former F.B.I. negotiator Chris Voss explains: “We like to say that the key to flexibility is don’t be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better. If you’re focused on the number, you’re not seeing the other possibilities.”[3]

Let’s say you’re taking on additional childcare duties and want to ask your supervisor for more flexible hours. At the outset, your supervisor refuses. You might assume she’s being unfair, but only by asking questions and listening can you discover her reasoning and try to find an alternative solution that’s mutually satisfying. Maybe she trusts you the most to handle a certain responsibility; or perhaps she’s run into problems with giving employees increased flexibility in the past.

It might be worth it to dig a little deeper before you throw your hands up and walk away from the negotiating table, figuratively or IRL.

Involve Your Counterpart in Finding a Solution

In his book, Getting Past No: Negotiating with Difficult People, William Ury, co-founder of Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, offers a brilliant method for dealing with hard bargainers. He proposes changing the game “from face-to-face confrontation into side-by-side problem solving,” restructuring the alignment of a typical negotiation.

Imagine there are two teams working toward the same goal: an agreement. When you deal with a hostile negotiator, they’re likely to reject any initial proposal. However, if you offer them options and the opportunity to find a solution together, you might be surprised at how they let their guard down and participate in the problem-solving process.

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For example, say you want to convince your boss that your company should change its software, and your sights are set on a particular option. If your boss tends to stonewall change, especially when suggested by someone else, try presenting a few options and working through the reasoning for each. Focus on the big picture and emphasize how your proposal will advance the organization’s goals.

Instead of presenting a single idea, which can be knocked down with a simple “no,” allow your counterpart to come to a solution on his/her own — with some gentle nudging towards the one you previously chose.

Keep Aggression at Bay

There’s a big misconception in the business world, and it’s this: you have to be a hard bargainer to get ahead. If your counterpart is aggressive, then you better be even more aggressive.

But guess what?

Research has shown that aggression, in fact, doesn’t help either party in a negotiation at all. A recent study found that anger — both interpersonal anger (when the other party is angry at you) and intrapersonal anger (being angry at the other party) — led to less profitable outcomes in the negotiation process. In other words: neither party negotiates as well when one person is angry.[4]

Instead, try to keep your calm, or as William Ury describes it: Go to the balcony. That means “[taking] yourself mentally to a place where you can look down objectively on the dispute and plan your response.” By removing your emotions from the situation, you can proceed more productively and, hopefully, diffuse a high-stress situation.

Last-Ditch Efforts

If nothing seems to be working and it looks like all is lost, use these techniques to get things back on track.

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Loop in Others

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our negotiation counterpart refuses to play nice. Maybe they’re a deliberate hard bargainer or just plain obstinate. That’s when it’s time to loop others into the process.

You might be wondering: how will this help?

For starters, oftentimes, a difficult person is likely to be on better behavior when held accountable by more than one person. What’s more, whether you cc: relevant people (but taking care not to over cc: anyone) or invite third parties into the meeting, you’re creating a record of your good-faith efforts to come to an agreement.

Preserve the Relationship

Whoever you’re negotiating with, chances are they can have an impact on your life — whether it’s the trajectory of your career, the success of a business deal, or simply the hotel room you’ll be staying in for the weekend. It pays to conclude a negotiation, even an unsuccessful one, by reminding your counterpart of your respect for them.

A genuine sentiment of appreciation, or even a little light-heartedness, can go a long way. As former F.B.I. negotiator Chris Voss advises:

“Never be mean to someone who can hurt you by doing nothing. If you’re good, they’ll be delighted to do for you whatever they can. A playful, enjoyable attitude gives you latitude.”[5]

You might not get the raise or the hotel room, but maybe something else can be done, even if that means just a more favorable outcome next time.

Hopefully, these strategies can help you make your next negotiation more successful and less stressful for both parties.

More Tips on How to Negotiate

Featured photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aytekin Tank

Founder and CEO of JotForm, sharing entrepreneurship and productivity tips at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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