Kineke Mulder conducted this interview for Chess unlimited*
What brings the “Master Negotiator” to playing chess?
As Keynote Speaker and Consultant my main tool is the spoken language. For a change, I enjoy interaction without having to talk. Ideally, this is considered polite when playing chess.
Strategic dialogue without spoken words is exciting and leads to be in the very moment. I can focus on the position on the board and be with my myself and my thoughts, contrary to my professional responsibilty, where I always do have to have the interests of my participants and the development of the group process at the top of my mind.
Are there other reasons for favoring chess as much as you do?
The chess game offers lots of advantages for travelling professions: I can take it with me to seminar or congress venues anywhere in the world easily. It also is easy to find chess partners, as you don´t need to find somebody with a particular mindset or even talk the same language.
Playing chess also is a time for me absent of the responsibility for other peoples´ success. In contrast to being asked for my expert opinion in my Negotiation Jokers and trainings, it doesn´t matter who is the expert and who is student. Playing chess sometimes you learn, sometimes your opponent, or, in the best case, both from each other.
To your last tournament in Vienna you brought your children with you?
Yes. My twin daughters got interested in chess from age 6, to my delight! It activates the brain and fosters skills like anticipating enemy moves and thinking strategically. My girls are in general pretty curious, ask lots of questions, also philosophical and cultural ones.
You just started an intercultural project together?
In my opinion, animating young minds to think critically and independently is of utmost importance. This is particularly true, when you take the current societal and political development of pitting groups against each other, migration and the search for meaning for so many people into account. These are all topics that have a lot to do with negotiation in a more extensive sense, of being and dealing with each other, of balancing interests to reach your goals.
With this in mind we started a special project on intercultural tolerance: Together with other families and their kids we will create the book The Little FreeThinker, with images and texts coming from “little, free, open minds”. We are in the Crowdfunding phase right now and hope to find enough support to print a colorful example for crosscultural team work, and maybe even fund a website on the topic.
Find more on the project here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amintalab/little-freethinker
Thank you for the invitation and our conversation!
My pleasure. Good luck for you also as freelancer negotiation and selling your services, as well as with Chess Unlimited. You create a lot of pleasure by organizing very intercultural chess meetings in Vienna.
*The original was posted on https://chess.mulder.at/amin-aus-wien-a/
Each now and then people reach out to tell me that one of my books has been reviewed in their country. I really appreciate it, since it is not easy for my small team to keep up with developments in all the different places.
This time Arno Baltin from Estonia let me know about his book review in the Estonian journal “director”. Thank you and I don´t understand a word, but it looks nice:
Please find more reviews (in English & German) here
The book itself can be found here
What Are Important Points When Honing Your Negotiating Skills?
So you have decided you could profit a lot by focusing on your negotiation skills. And you are right! Whether in relationships with clients, your spouse or your boss: you can lose a lot by doing it wrong.
But how should you do it? Getting a book and read through it certainly is a good start, but what about applying? Should you hire a Coach as Negotation Joker to give you feedback and support? Or join a small and short group seminar, like the one-day Sparring or even shorter online format like AMA? Or would we recommend to continue in-house training courses like the Master Negotiator Curriculum or the Sparring Club?
The success of negotiation training, including communication, body language, conviction, negotiation or rhetoric is particularly sensitive to the way it is being taught, since the priority is not accessing and keeping knowledge, as with IT, process or compliance courses. The priority is not only knowing, but doing, i.e changing behavior and reactions in specific situations.
20+ years of experience have taught us that learning and reproducing behavior is depending mainly on the following factors:
Basically, you need to do it yourself to learn it. Especially if the most effective way (to stress a word, or sit, or keep eye-contact, build an argument etc) seems awkward at first, you need to repeat it, so it becomes and feels natural to.
I know, it´s not “sexy”, but repeating your new learned skill is essential to making it second nature.
Go and practice situations you have had, might have or would likely face in your life. There is no point practicing “hostage negotiations” if you want clients to become long-term fans of yours.
Make sure you do get sufficient feedback from a plethora of people, and a professional who is not afraid to “put his finger in the wound”. It might be great to be told you should stay like your are, but this won´t help you improve.
Actually, one can easily discern parallels with physical (muscle) training.
The Secret Behind Effective Negotiation Training
The effect and sustainability of negotiation training, and in fact of any kind of behavioral training, is mainly determined by the layout of the learning journey and its repetition and follow-up. Tragically, this is often neglected when embarking on the learning journey.
Short but regularly
We´ve experienced that it is more effective to train shorter and more frequently, at least after an initial kick-off seminar (which should last no longer than 3 days). It also helps to use different methods (books, audio, cases, presentations, stories, video etc.), spreading them over a longer period of time.
This is the reason why we prefer working with a model called “blended learning“. This means that our seminars are structured in a way that preparation material can be watched and studied already before meeting the first time. Clarifying objectives and interests with the trainer before the seminar starts does not only save costly time at the meeting venue. Also, the learning effect is higher since more focus and time can be put into evaluating what works and what doesn´t. Formats like the AMA – Ask Me Anything should be employed heavily to achieve this effect. The advantage of repetition is that the neuronal paths can be extended and strengthened.
Small group size
A limited participant number allows to train relevant individual cases and to optimize them. It also guarantees there is time to allow for several repetitions of behavioral sequences that want to be learned. Ideally, these can be trained with differently participants and changing focus. Not only does this allow activity and looking into different negotiation types, but also increases the motivation to succeed in the face of obstacles.
Clear call for preparation
Unfortunately, this part is often neglected. Of course, the actual preparation you should be asked for depends on the specific training objective.
Let us turn to a practical example of our portfolio, the preparation we are recommending for our Negotiation Sparring:
Individual preparation time for 60-90 minutes not only secures familiarity with the topic and procedure. Also, the own negotiation case can be structured and thought through.
- Clarifying and creating awareness for the training – using a short explanatory video (2:13)
- Looking through preparatory papers explaining the process step by step .
- Recommendations to flick through our Newsletter Negotiation Insider and getting a feel for negotiation theory.
Regular invitations to rehearse and strengthen
Even the best training will be forgotten, if not regularly brought back, remembered and done.
For that reason, it should be safeguarded even before starting the training, that there are plenty of ways to continue and repeat thereafter. That can be done by a variety of measures, e.g. the Negotiation Joker or AMA Sessions. On top of that, there should be case based training, which should be repeated regularly, at least once a year.
How do I start to learn negotiating?
If you would enjoy improving your negotiation skills and you are tired of leaving money on the table but would like to improve your negotiation relationships, check out our negotiation books and Negotiation Sparring. We are happy to admit curious, new Sparrers to our Club.
What Our Participants Say
Simeon Hagmüller, Bac. GVS Bullion Group
The Sparring with Amin was very instructive and the time just flew by. The atmosphere was enjoyable and relaxed and we could focus in on the practice. I learned a lot, not only, but also from the failings of the other participants. Amin showed us different walkthroughs, which we also trained. Refreshingly, he always stayed realistic and also pointed out limits of negotiations - I really like that. All in all I recommend Sparring to everyone, who is willing to work on himself. I only wish we would have had more time together.
Mag. Bernd Allmer Helvetia Versicherungen AG
Das war ein wirklich außergewöhnliches Training und hat viel gebracht und auch noch Spaß gemacht. Auch die kleine Gruppengröße ist ideal fürs Sparring.Learn more
Dr. Eike Lindinger Rechtsanwalt
Das Verhandlungssparring ist aufgrund der beschränkten Teilnehmerzahl und der unterschiedlichsten mit rhetorischem Leben auszufüllenden Sachverhalte eine sehr gute Gelegenheit, in sein wichtigstes Werkzeug – die Sprache und damit Kommunikation – zu investieren. [...] Das situative Zerhacken eines Gespräches sowie laufend neue Ansätze mit anderer Wortwahl wird von Ihnen hervorragend vorgezeigt, ebenso, wie durch geschickte Wortwahl bzw. das Weglassen von „Ballast“ von einer Defensivposition ausgehend, ein offensiver Schlagabtausch gelingt - und natürlich auch umgekehrt, sodass die Stunden wie im Flug vergangen sind. Gerade die direkte Ansprache/Analyse im Sinne der Schwächen / der Stärken in so kurzer Zeit ist unheimlich wertvoll.Learn more
Reserve your Sparring Spot here.
How “Apps” like Nach, ToDoIst or Lifetick can help you reaching your negotiation goals!
Setting and reaching goals is paramount to negotiation success. I´ve been giving tips to setting goals (SMART-system) before and talked about efficiency vs. effectiveness here. After all, it is my objective to help clarify and structure goals as Negotiation Joker.
Setting goals is one thing, however, and pursuing them quite another, given daily distractions, time limits and over-boarding projects.
Apps and their reminders might help. Therefore I´ve been looking for and comparing different software/apps that might support your effort to reach your goals.
Software is here to support you
The way you want to use the software is quite essential and might differ considerably from person to person. I take into account my personal preferences, but also my clients´ criteria (time-sensitive people in stressful industries, as apposed to tech-geeks).
I need to be inspired by the software, or in other words “get a kick out of using it”. Some of the software makes you want to use it. It gives you satisfaction to “tick off” yet another item or understand how much time you use of certain projects as compared to others.
- TOP-DOWN APPROACH
In order to work not only efficiently, but effectively, it is impertinent to be able to follow a top-down approach, i.e. define core values or top goals first and then drill down to To-do´s.
- POSSIBILITY TO WORK ON TOP-GOALS ONLY
I need to see top goals without all tasks attached. That helps identifying and seeing if I pursue the right goals. Combined with 6) that can really help allocating time on important rather than pressing objectives.
- CONCISE TO-DO LIST
After all the goal setting on special occasions, it is yet important to easily access tasks or a daily to-do list. After all, when you are in the middle of working through your schedule, you need a clear picture on what you should do.
- FLEXIBLE SCHEDULING
The software needs to be able to be very flexible on given schedules, since some tasks happen only certain weekdays, or every other day, or even any 2 days/week
- LOG AND COMPARE TIME
be able to track and compare time spend on different goals
- ALLOW DREAMING
I want the software not only to support me in building habits or ticking off tasks, but to help me start dreaming and put down dreams in the app to remind me of the big picture. There is no point, doing everything right, if you are not doing the right things.
- JOURNAL FUNCTION
be able to use it as Journal
I have to admit that it took me nearly a month to even come to the finalists in this list. Lots of other programs, like Coach.me, ToDoIst, GoalSpace, Milestone Planner didn´t make it there because they lacked some of the requirements right away or felt clumsy to deal with.
Asana was the program I had been using for business tasks so far, but I wasn´t satisfied using it for more general objectives in life or negotiations.
The four finalists were Nach, Goals on Track, Lifetick and Strides. They were very close, and I wasn´t sure until the very last days which one I would choose for myself.
Outcome: the winner is…
1 point = unsatisfactory
2 points = ok
3 points = the way I want it
I decided to go with Nach.
The program is really well structured and has the most helpful “To-Do-List” of all the programs I looked at. You can not only see your tasks for today and easily tick them of (careful, you might get addicted!), but also overdue tasks (helpful to catch up!) and, really helpful: Habits.
It is also possible to play around and set goals in a specific goal section. Not as rewarding as in Lifetick, but still helpful.
Also, I really enjoy being able to see the history quickly (how often did I go to the gym this week), but also add comments to dates/tasks and lead a Journal.
It also is is the summary of “little things” that convinced me. It is just a really thought-through experience with the best balance between functionality and analytical capability.
You can, e.g. add links to your tasks. So if you want to look at, say, specific data for an argument, or an exercise for work-out, just add the link and it will show up with the task reminder.
If you happen to work over midnight, there is a lovely reminder that you should refresh the page and it will give you the new To-do list.
Really useful are the trackers as well, since you can also compare where you are in relation to where you want to go (e.g. reading books/year) or contacting clients as compared to forecast.
All in all I am using Nach every single day and it really helps me not only to stay focused on what needs to be done, but also to analyze the big picture and see if I am working on the right things and how I progress.
I fell in love with Lifetick the first time I found out you can fill in “core values” and seeing what the program would make out of it. Liftick is a beauty not only flattering your eyes, but inspiring your whole brain to visualize core beliefs, dreams and goals. It would be the winner hands-down if you were to visualize your dreams and big goals.
However, it is not so easy to work with Lifetick on a day-to-day basis:
It is not easy to tick off tasks. While with Nach you do one click, you need to click on the task and then wait for it to open and click yet another time on the task and third time on “complete instance” and close it again to mark it as done. The whole experience with the To-Do list was inferior and just too cumbersome to use it regularly. This is the reason I couldn´t go for it, even though I loved the feel of the whole program.
Also (at the moment, but help was promised by the developers) it is impossible to mark a task to be due on certain weekdays only, or every other day. For me, this was a no-go.
The Journal and tracking functions are pretty good, once you get the hang of it.
Lifetick is also the only program that let´s you add clients and work with them on their goals. That alone could be a feature worthwile pursuing, I will keep that in the back of my mind also.
GoT has many things going for it. It has the top-down approach, a good journal function and all the rest of it.
But there is one big disadvantage: it is too complicated and simply not much fun is coming up. I have to admit that I might not have tried long enough. There is no free trial, but you will get your money back within 30 days (and that worked out fine with me), so you should try this one out.
Also, the founder Harry is sending lots of interesting information on goals setting in his newsletter, so it might be worth you while looking into that one as well.
Strides is the most practical of them all. As “To-Do-List” and tracker it has a lot going for it. I still couldn´t bring myself to erase the free App (limited to 10 tasks) all the aforementioned programs don´t boast a native app, even though Nach is working on it).
It is easy to handle, and what a great idea to to cluster trackers together with goals.
The main back draw is the lack of any hierarchy in goal-setting, so you can´t really use it to define your core goals and break them down. For habits and reminders on To-dos it would be perfect.
Of course, that was only my little test here, and I am happy to learn and recommend other programs, if they meet my criteria. What was your experience?
Do you want to ensure reaching your objectives in upcoming negotiations?
How about an independent second opinion on your strategy? Somebody to discuss tactics with confidentially? Heck, you can even rehearse upcoming sensitive phases of your negotiation (under whatever name it is conducted) and try out different options!
You can do all that easily with a phone JOKER
- FLEXIBLE: one-time or accompanying
- EXTENSIVE: for any kind of negotiation
- PRACTICAL: skype, facetime, e-mail, whatsapp
- PERSONAL: 100% customized to you indivudally
- PROFESSIONAL: direct access to the negotiation expert
Setting, understanding and pursuing a goal:
1 of the 6 essential strengths of the Master Negotiator
His unconditional orientation towards his own, but also his partner’s objectives, is one of the main success factors for the Master Negotiator (this article is an excerpt from the book “The Master Negotiator”).
By neglecting his own objectives, he will hardly achieve them. Ignoring opposing objectives will leave his negotiation partner little reason to come to an agreement.
Preparing well also means being aware of one´s own aims and the partner’s presumed objectives and interests by asking very specific questions:
- What do I really want?
- How much of this do I really have to achieve?
- Which parts could I abandon the easiest?
- Why do I want exactly that outcome?
- What personal, organisational and other interests are involved?
Already, by briefly considering possible principles, character of the negotiation partner and viability of expectations, a lot of time and effort will be saved later on.
However, the most important homework is specifying one’s objective. You must be very clear on what you really need to exit the negotiation with. When formulating objectives, one has to be clear about its main tasks:
- The objective determines the journey
- Time efficiency
- Offers can only be rated by reference to objectives
- The aim legitimises the negotiation process
- Competency requirements become clear
- Clarity of objectives fosters the creation of options
It is useful to formulate a rather limited negotiation objective and build in “alarms bells” that force you to stop the negotiation and reconsider your situation, given certain outcomes. But be careful. If you limit yourself too much, you might find it hard to develop creative solutions with the little development space left.
all major parts
Goal Setting and Attainment
As an “negotiation joker” – advisor and “ghost negotiator“, it is my task in preparations to come up with ideas and analyse strategies. Sometimes, time is rather limited and I only meet negotiators on the day of the negotiation round.
After getting a first overview of the strategy, I generally like to put forward a very simple question: “What is the specific aim of this upcoming round?” It is startling that in 7 out of 10 cases, I do not get a satisfactory answer, but something along the lines of “I want to get out of this as much as I can” or “I am not sure what I can abandon. I want to see first what the other side is offering.” Naturally, problems are bound to happen.
Lucius A. Seneca, 5 BC- AD 65
Even if objectives were set initially, one sometimes loses sight of them in arduous, lengthy proceedings. However, objectives determine the success of the negotiation. The negotiation is not meant to be an end in itself; working on objectives is the central element in the preparation.
At first sight, flexibility in the negotiation and the consideration of the negotiation partner´s wishes seem to contradict the attainment of one´s goals. Often, this contradiction can be solved by uncovering the hidden interests behind the stated positions. In order to stay flexible, it is crucial to know one´s own interests and motivation and be able to prioritise.
An experiment proves the dependence of the outcome on the formulation of the objective:
In a classic buy-sell transaction, the negotiators were given a specific objective. Reaching that objective meant being able to continue and go to a “bonus round”.
The first group was given the objective of $2.10 to continue. The second group was given $6.10 as the objective to be able to continue. Both groups were given the same minimum price (walk-away point) and both groups thought the objective was realistically achievable. Why else would there be a bonus round?
A look into the results is most revealing: The group with the higher qualification objection achieved an average of $ 6.25 whereas the second group only bargained for an average $ 3.35! The sales price was doubled with identical conditions apart from the given objectives!
 For the distinction see above Interest: the lighthouse in the negotiation
 Sydney SIEGEL and Lawrence FOURAKER “The Effect of Level of Aspiration on Differential Payoff“