Negotiation Lesson #3: Negotiation Magic: Make the Invisible, Visible

June 24, 2016 By Irma Tyler Wood

What is highly visible in most negotiations, the other negotiator’s positions or demands?  However, it’s what’s invisible, the underlying needs, goals, fears and concerns that are driving the other negotiator’s demands that often gets in the way of achieving the best negotiation results.  The name for these underlying needs, goals, fears and concern’s is, interests.  The other negotiator is unlikely to share their real interests for fear of looking weak or being taken advantage of or because they aren’t even clear on what their concerns are. 

It takes three things to make the invisible, visible in negotiation:
1. Deep listening – if you listen not just to the words, but to the tone, the pace, the sequence and the emotion underlying of what’s being said, you can learn everything you need to know about their priorities, fears, and concerns. 

2. Patience and a set of broad open ended questions.  Asking questions like:

  • If this negotiation were successful, how would you/your organization know it? 
  • Tell me about the challenges your department is facing? 
  • Why is _____ important to you? 
  • What will ______ help you accomplish? 
  • Who else in your organization is likely to be impacted by what we agree to?  What are your bosses concerns?
  • Who will need approve what we agree to? 
  • What problems would doing ______ create for you?  

This takes time, but it not only gives you the data to craft an optimal agreement or outcome, it builds trust and candor with the other negotiator.

3. Modeling the behavior you want from the other negotiator, clarity about and a willingness to share your underlying goals, needs fears and concerns.  Sharing what is important to you enables the other negotiator to understand why some of the demands or options he/she put on the table are unattractive to you. 

Ultimately these three practices will save you time, and enable you to craft optimal agreements, while promoting a working relationship based on trust, candor and mutual respect.