Tag Archives: Negotiating

What is My Intent?

It must be about a decade now since I gave myself the mantra, maybe tenet is better, in the title.  It has been highly useful and I have shared both the tenet and my thoughts behind it with many along the way.  The question, posed to myself, helps to formulate my communication methods in a way that should diffuse any P.C. traps.


Most of us live and work in communities that are no longer composed largely of like-background and like-thinking individuals, hence the birth of political correctness.  Because when there are too many sensitivities, and they are often in conflict with each other and potential objectives, they can easily get trampled on the way to something else.  And the idea of political correctness is honorable, meaning to offer equal respect for the make-up of all the individuals in any particular group at any particular time.  But, whew, P.C. can act as a wall which prevents that group or community from ever actually resolving the real issue.  (Talks between countries that never happen because the preliminary how-the-meeting-will-go-down discussions break down over the shape and size of the table and the placement of the attendees.)

public domain drawing

public domain drawing


Back to my question.  If we each look into ourselves and determine the answer to our intent – resolve an issue, say how best to configure new office space – then we can better craft our method of resolution, down to approach, consideration of any objections or risks and how we will address them before we even gather.  Deciding that our intent is to work together to create a pleasant and productive office space, thinking about what we know about potential pit falls and how we can handle them reasonably would go a long way toward mutual benefit – a place that doesn’t need P.C. to be effective.


Now this question works best when all involved are asking the same question of themselves, but it is still effective when used by one individual, me.  Because I also turn the question and ask myself what the intent of the other individuals might be, how it might differ from mine, how it might affect the encounter or project.  Then I can be prepared with persuasions to keep things on track toward plan, and away from anything that could lead to non-P.C. territory.


I won’t claim that this is easy, or that I am always successful; but I have gotten a lot of mileage from this one simple question.  I invite you to try it out.  Let me know how it works.


(This post is written in response to Daily Prompt: P.C.)


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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Call to Action

Whether we are natural list makers or not, the length of our to-dos requires some type of tracking or we are lost.  The have-tos are simply relentless.  But let’s flip the coin to the other side – when we need something from others or want others to do something in response to us.  Do they clearly know it?


Some people are very good at getting others to do things and the rest of us muddle through it.  Can you recall a time or two when you were pretty sure that someone was asking you for something but they were so vague you either had to ask or pretended that you didn’t catch their real meaning?  They didn’t come right out with their call to action perhaps counting on our good graces to step in and offer.


When my kids were in their early teens they would say things like, I need this list of supplies for a project and I would take it from there and ask questions like when is it due, how many, what color and the like.  When they got into their mid-teens I would respond with ‘that’s nice’ and wait.  (Of course I explained the first time that I was turning more of the responsibility over to them to actually ask me to get the stuff.)  There were a couple of times when they didn’t get what they needed, but they figured out that they had to turn the statement into a question and be the responsible party to get the action completed.


We think that adults don’t need that same process explanation, but sometimes they do.  Send me an email and tell me a nice story, thanks.  Oh, you wanted me to do something, I didn’t see that spelled out.  There wasn’t a call to action on my part.  You were passing on the thing, but I read that you were telling me about it.  Because you didn’t say, ‘I would like for you to do xyz, please’.


Sometimes I truly didn’t catch the intent, and sometimes I used the vagueness to avoid stepping in.


Spend time on your hook – why should I help you, what’s in it for me – but don’t forget to set the hook before you end the contact, by spelling out your call to action.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Boxes & Hats, Lots to Think About

We spend a lot of time talking and thinking about how we think, if you think about it.  Conscious thought set humans apart from most other species way back in the early years, although we are now finding out more and more that we are not entirely alone in this skill.  Of course some people think more than others, some think that what they think about is more important and some turn thinking into obsession.


I could go on tangling your thoughts with increasingly convoluted sentences, but that isn’t my intent today.  (But if you look at the number of times that I used some form of the word think in the previous paragraph, you begin to better understand why we came up with different words that have similar meaning – to prevent the repetition of a single word, to keep the meaning clear and keep the reader’s eyes from glazing over.)


I believe that I have mentioned before that I read this really interesting book a few years ago – Edward DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats – concise and fascinating.  I stumbled on it quite by accident during a break in a 3 day management seminar.  (Most memorable part of that class happened right near the beginning; the facilitator told us that we’re all just big children.  Yes!  I agree, that was worth the price that my company paid just for that point alone, as long as I keep it in mind in my interactions. Any other good points are lost in my notes, made during the remainder of the 3 days.)


Mr. DeBono poses that we should stop putting so very much value in thinking appositionally, instead adopt parallel thinking with various members of the groups wearing different (figurative) hats  – neutral/objective (white), emotional/intuitive (red), careful/cautious (black), sunny/positive (yellow), growth/creative (green), and cool/organized (blue).  It brings a game aspect to discussions and removes the barriers that right vs. wrong constructions tend to instill.


Parallel thinking is very inclusive and puts the “emphasis on designing a way forward” which I find particularly appealing in our era of mounting outrage, umbrage and conflict for the sake of conflict.  All people in the meeting are intended to wear the same color hat, regardless of their own characteristics – a naysayer must wear the sunny/positive hat during that part of the meeting discussion for example.  This adds to the game aspect and also deepens the discussion because people can provide real insight when they are required to think outside their own comfort zone.


And then we get to the box – inside the box, outside of the box – moving the cat over to find room in the box.  As a species known to be independent thinkers, cats really do like boxes.


We’ve been told so many times, in so many ways to think outside the box for the last few decades that we should be well out of that box by now.  And yet, we aren’t, why?  For the same reason that those independent cats get in every box that they can, even if they don’t quite fit – because it is somehow comforting.  Even the wildest among us recognizes something necessary about boundaries.  (I can’t find it right now, but there is a picture of a cheetah sitting in a box – yes, Google has let me down.)


I know that I’ve written about box thinking – rote thinking – and this must be the box that everyone desperately wants us to get out of, which is a position that I do hold.  There is a place for rules – ones that have a compelling argument driving them – but rote thinking spins wheels.


I have to thank a fellow blogger (Wordsmatter – post called Walls) who put me on to Dan Heath and his presentation about thinking inside the box.  Here is an article overview – Dan Heath: Think Inside the Box.


Dan recognizes our need to have parameters imposed and he also rejects the rote thinking that is normally considered the box, and then he takes it a step further and tells us to find our own box.  The one that suits are current needs.


I’m going to go think a bit about why Google let me down by not producing that cheetah in the box.  I’m going to push my cat over and share her box to do my pondering.  I’ll be wearing my yellow hat.


Late breaking: I’m glad I didn’t post this right away, Yahoo came through for me – big cats play in boxes.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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The Deals that We Make

understandingWhen you want something as a kid, you are willing to agree to anything (almost) in order to get that thing.  “I PROMISE”, you say emphatically.  And “I won’t forget”.  But once you had the item, did you do what you promised, did you forget?  You got what you wanted and if it was a candy bar or other sweet it was likely long gone by the time that you were supposed to fill your end of the bargain.  Where was the incentive for you to take action?  Gone, forgotten.


Now that you are an adult, you always fulfill these promises, right?  No part of you reverts to the childish ‘make me’ thoughts that went through your head and possibly came out of your mouth when you were encouraged to complete your end of those childhood bargains.


I remember, back in the days before computers made writing up school papers such a breeze, one late night when my brother told my mom that he would wash her kitchen floor for the rest of his life if she would finish typing his paper due the next day.  Even if he would move far away she asked, yes even then he answered.  As a mother, she knew it wasn’t in her best interest to agree, but after getting him to type up the first couple of pages (correction tape, you have no idea the hassles…) she conceded she would complete the paper.  She had received awards for typing speed (on a manual typewriter, not even electric) in her school days and was done with my brother’s paper in record time even though it was a science paper and therefore full of formulas and other nasty things to have to type up.  (Footnotes were torture on a typewriter.)


I don’t recall how many times my brother actually scrubbed the floor, but it became part of family legend when negotiations came up.  I think that mom’s bargain was a win-win though because she got a lot of mileage out of it, my brother’s reward in this case was short lived.  And it didn’t cost her that much in effort since typing was a skill that she had mastered.  Plus she had a grateful teenage son for a couple of days which is priceless.  I had plenty of bargains gone bad of my own with mom, none so memorable, that all came back to haunt me as my children started to strike bargains.  (Oh, the pull of wanting a happy child.)


We make deals all the time that we might believe we will readily fulfill in the heat of the moment.  But human nature is such that once the incentive to act is lessened or gone; the pull to ignore this responsibility can be great.  What did we learn in the aftermath of our childhood negotiations, were we required to uphold our end?  What is our relationship with the current deal holder & will we have any need to do business with them in the future?


The most important consideration is the covenant that we have with ourselves.  This becomes the incentive which can drive us to fulfill our agreement regardless if we’ve already received what we originally wanted or needed.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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You want something.  You really, really want it.  You deserve it, you are certain.  But you are one person and not omnipotent therefore you must get some kind of assistance to attain this thing.  Why should anyone help you?


Because you have put together a compelling argument for why: your intended goal has what positive benefit for them, will bring them closer to their own goal.  There has to be a tangible benefit for this person, very few of us are truly altruistic.


“If you need something from somebody, always give that person a way to hand it to you.”

Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees


The argument is compelling when you have centered it on whatever will compel your target helper to act.  Just for clarification – argument in this case does not resemble some tiff on a reality show; rather this is your reasoned proposal, an effort on your part to persuade action on the part of another to achieve your objective.


“Obstacles cannot crush me.  Every obstacle yields to stern resolve.  He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.”

~Leonardo Da Vinci


To succeed, it is usually best to make this argument from a positive perspective, not a negative one.  People prefer to think that they are moving toward something good not away from something unpleasant.  Also, it is important that you make it clear that you are taking the lion’s share of the responsibilities.  People are more likely to assist when they are not taking over the burden, just providing aid.  And be entirely ready for the next steps before you make your argument.  Once you have their attention, you don’t want to make them wait – they may just move on to their own next task and you will have lost your opportunity.


Good planning is part of good luck.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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Intro to Negotiation

The object is to build a mutually beneficial relationship.  Power can be out balanced one way or the other depending on the personalities involved but not benefit if the relationship is to be a success.


Tools for successful negotiation include:

  • View the other person as a counterpart or associate and not as an opponent and treat them as such
  • Plan your expected outcome and prioritized acceptable alternates in advance
  • Reach out to the person with the correct level of authority to be able to carry out the outcome.
  • Know your counterpart’s style/temperament and tailor your approach
  • Plan how to respond to your counterpart’s expected position
  • Speak to the advantages of your intended goal & be prepared to address any expected objections – know the product or service
  • Remember that in business there must be perceived gain for your counterpart, short term or long term
  • Be prepared to offer concessions or alternate business opportunities
  • Retain control of the negotiation by making neutral, factual statements, and using questions carefully
  • Watch your wording, tone, posture – humor helps & be pleasant
  • Plan for your own potential emotional reactions or pitfalls
  • Know when to stop – enough is enough – old sales adage to stop when you get to ‘yes’


Negotiation theory:

B – Best

A – Alternative

T – To

N – Negotiated

A – Agreement

>>what each side could end up with if they walk away


Control or Influence:

You only have control over yourself, not any system or other people.  But if you understand the motivations of others and know how the system operates any individual can have influence with the right negotiation.


Daniel C. Molden, professor of psychology at Northwestern says, “The more that people’s feelings of self-worth are wrapped up in a poor decision they’ve made, the greater their impulse will be to justify it in some way.”


If you are prepared to structure the solution to accommodate any resistance, you will have a greater chance of success.


“If you need something from somebody, always give that person a way to hand it to you.” ~Sue Monk Kidd


© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


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