Sex, Money, Power: Why people negotiate all the time, even when they think they are not

7. September 2020
Just talking?

Responsible Managers Are Rightly Complaining about Lacking Negotiation Skills

Managers with outcome responsibility often tell me how frustrating it is asking their colleagues to prepare better for negotiations. They complain about lacking awareness for negotiation skills, or even outright misunderstanding of the very term “negotiations”. 

More often than not, it is not a lack of will that stops professionals focusing on their negotiating strategies and thus arriving at better results, but a costly lack of awareness:

People want to believe they are just talking, meeting, discussing. “Negotiating” sounds too harsh and tactical, or even too one-sided to what they think they are doing, when what they really are doing is clearly negotiating.

In relationships, ignorance about how to smoothly get what you need can be a costly mistake: Not knowing why and how you can influence others (without bossing them around) will cost you money, time and good-will.

Most surprisingly, it is often the people who would need most to be working on their negotiation skills who least acknowledging that their relationships are not working as well as they think they are.

If your colleague is seeking to keep or improve your relationships, they can´t get around working on your negotiation skills.

Here is why:

  1. People, in general, are not isolated island dwellers. They need others to meet their targets
  2. Hardly anybody is in the position to order others around. If you need to persuade others to support you, you need to negotiate.
  3. While it does cost time, effort and money to work on your skills, the long term effects outweigh these costs by far.
  4. There is no need to go the egoistic route, fight and struggle, when you could find options that satisfy your needs while leaving everyone else better off?

How to persuade colleagues to start negotiating better instead of just repeating their points over?

Here is a short Argumentation guide for people “never negotiating”

Yes, I know, some people just believe they are never negotiating.

Here a little argumentation guide to guide you through the “conversation” with them. You can use it to practice your own argumentation (yes, argumentation skills can be a big part of negotiations)

Colleague says: “Why should I look into negotiation skills? I never negotiate anyways.”

Step 1: Start with asking a question to establish ground:

I know you are not living on a far-away island, so you are probably entertaining relationships with work colleagues, neighbors, family and friends, right?

If they are not completely asocial nerds, they would have to answer “Yes“.

Step 2 Go on:

Are they all following your orders, I mean do they see you as their commander?

Now some smart pencils will probably point out that their subordinates are following their orders, and maybe their kids, or even their husbands (or wives). But by and large most people can not simply boss other people around to do what they please. Since in free societies people come and interact at their own will, the answer is bound to be “No, they don´t follow my orders”.

Step 3 Continue:

So if you don´t command them, do people always give you what you want, when you simply ask them for it?

We all know the answer to this question is “No”. If not, please tell me where to move!

Step 4 Now comes a decisive question:

How then do you make people do what you need them to?

They might return your question and ask you: “Like what?

Negotiating Like what? Human encounters are basically negotiations!

Step 5 It´s your turn to explain yourself now. There are hundreds of examples you can give, like:

  • “Do you loath the thought of asking your colleague yet another time to fill you in on what´s happening? You are getting promises, but never quite the most important part?”
  • “Do you ever wish you could choose the movie being watched on Netflix?”
  • “Would you like your client to give you notice just a little bit earlier next time so you can better plan?”
  • “Are you wondering why your group of friends always ends up at the Chinese place, while you prefer Burgers?”
  • “Do you try to convince your team to go ahead with certain steps yet they sometimes don´t “get it”?
  • “Would you like to buy something, however the price is just not in your budget rage?”
  • “Do you wish Mr.X (fill in as needed) would be talking to you in a different, more respectable way?”
  • “Do you feel that in your relationship the responsibilities are not quite shared equally and should be?”
  • “Would you sometimes like to explain why you are having certain (political) opinions, but you seem to run into a wall with your counterpart?”

Essentially you could choose any example where at least two people are communicating with each other, if one would like the other to do, omit or understand something the way he wants.

Now, what is a negotiation?

The actual definition of negotiation reads: “A negotiation is an interaction in order to influence the behavior of at least on other person, whereby different interests are reconciled and brought about in a developing process” (find more on p20 of my Bestseller The Master Negotiator).

If your counterpart looks at it that way, they will find that the question is not “where do I negotiate?”, but much more “where do I not negotiate?”.

What if the negotiation is called “meeting”, “presentation”, or “discussion”?

Don´t get confused by nomenclature, like masking negotiations under terms like “conversation”, “meeting”, “discussion”, “performance talk” etc. These often obfuscate the picture of what you can contribute and change if you set your mind to it.

All relationships are products of negotiations, and thus negotiable, not only regarding contents, but also in the way the are being conducted:

If your colleagues need to convince people and develop their relationships, there is no way around working on negotiation skills.