We believe this is one of the beautifully messy things about negotiation. Negotiation is never a straightforward, mathematical activity. It is not science. It is a nuanced art. Approach a negotiation as a time to compromise between two points on a line, and you’ll miss out on the empowering experience of collaborating with someone else to come up with something greater and better than either of you could have thought of on your own. Approach negotiation as an opportunity to create and magic happens.
Unfortunately, all too often, we treat negotiation as something that only occurs when two or more parties must come together to divide a set of limited resources. Furthermore, negotiation almost always occurs when two or more parties are facing a problem because of those limited resources. So it’s easy to feel crunched and restricted as a negotiator, especially if you’ve been given a specific target to meet or budget to stay within.
In some ways, those restrictions are the reality in which negotiators must live. It is certainly true that in our consulting business, the negotiators we work with are almost always negotiating money and/or time. They negotiate to save money, to make money, to avoid costly scope creep, and to get more value for the price of less. They negotiate for more time on a project or to complete an order, or to get something done faster. Negotiation also revolves around less quantifiable limited resources, such as the distribution of risk (think indemnity clauses) and intellectual property rights. It’s rare — and some might argue impossible — for a negotiation to occur where no resource needs to be divided, and no resource is limited.
But the great thing about negotiation is that no matter what the limited resource is that you are negotiating, a negotiation always occurs between people. That is where the opportunity to add value and make your negotiation limitless comes in.
People bring more than time, money and contract terms to a negotiation. They bring ideas.
An endless plethora of ideas. Ideas about relationships they want to foster. Ideas about cost reductions that could be obtained via information sharing and innovation. Ideas about what new and interesting things they want to do with the time they save.
If you think about it: negotiation is the perfect opportunity to turn a discussion about limits into a discussion about possibilities. If only a few ideas might crash together in that wonderful intersection where minds meet and new ideas are born.
So what can you do to make your negotiation more creative? Here are a few tips:
1. Do be open to a broader discussion than you intended to have.
2. Don’t ever assume there is only one way to handle a problem.
3. Do be curious, especially about the other side, their problems and what influences them.
4. Don’t shut emotion out of the conversation; passion fuels the development of new ideas.
5. Do make an intentional effort to brainstorm with your counterpart.
6. Don’t ever say “that’s a bad idea.” The best way to stunt creativity is via criticism.
7. Do give it time. Sometimes ideas need to percolate through our minds before they turn into something really amazing. If you get stuck, take a break, get some coffee and come back to the discussion after everyone is rested.
And don’t think of negotiation as something that can occur on a single line! The world of possibilities is multidimensional, even when all you can see at first is flat!
Call to Action:
Consider a problem you’ve been trying to solve at work. Who could you negotiate with to try to resolve this problem? To what extent are limited resources creating this problem? What ideas do you have about what could be done to remove those limits?
Now go create a better world for yourself with negotiation!
This article has been shared as part of our FREE Virtual Entrepreneurship Summit. Sandy Vasher will be joining us for a session during this summit which you can view the details for below.