Negotiation Techniques that helped us win the 1st Prize at CDRC 2016
by Georgi Elenkov
The concept behind this article is to briefly present the first four elements (chapters) of a system of negotiation and mediation techniques, strategies, practical approaches, which worked well for the Bulgarian team at the Consensual Dispute Resolution Competition in Vienna (28.VI-02.VII.2016) and fully crystallized after “collisions” with negotiation cultures of teams from all around the globe happened, and after advice from dozens of ADR experts and practitioners was received.
Please know that my teammate and I are in the very beginning of a possible life-long mediation/negotiation journey, marked by constant learning. Everything shared here (and in related subsequent articles) is simply part of what worked for us against a number of negotiation challenges.
KNOW YOUR CASE
Much has been written about the do-your-homework aspect of the pre-negotiation process, yet it is valuable to concisely repeat the need of this once more.
Whenever you are at the negotiation table either as a party, or as a mediator, it is of paramount importance to know by heart every single meticulous detail, point of ambiguity and chronological event of the case (beyond your subjective perceptions and evaluation of what you think/felt happened). As a party, it is wise to fully understand your BATNA/WATNA, your weak points (some of which might be openly shared with the mediator and strategically inserted in the discussion) and few (e.g. main three) key priorities for the present discussion.
Thus, at any point of the negotiation experience, you will: a). know where you stand; b). not allow the other side to frivolously Capoeira with the dispute facts. This gives firm ground beneath your feet and the necessary confidence to never shy away from moving forward.
CATCH THE ISSUES BY THE HORNS
In real life negotiation/mediation, long weeks and even months are dedicated to analyses of past issues and scrutiny of discrepancies, to curtesy, etiquette, long addresses, small talk, somewhat vague concepts, et alia.
While it is important to acknowledge the benefits of the mediation/negotiation creative process and your willingness to contribute to joint problem-solving; to go through both parties’ perception of what has transpired and led to the current dispute; to use the early stages of negotiation for ice-breaking with an elaborate flirtation, quite often – with a nod the past and an eye to the future – it is better to be proactive and stop pussyfooting around the issues. Be concrete and transparent.
GIVE REAL MEANING TO FANCY MED-NEGOTIATION PHRASES
There are key golden phrases, which form the common med-negotiation vocabulary:
“This experience is not about me or you, it is about us”, “We need to bring value to this relationship”, “Remember, (insert a 1st name)…. , we are on this journey together”, etc.
Showing that you can echo and resonate with the other party’s words, that you have adopted the negotiation/mediation concept of problem-solving even on a verbal level; that you are beyond the adversary narrative – all of that is precious and creates a fertile negotiation climate. However, it may be better to not dive too deeply into sugary phrases. Negotiation is neither a love parade, nor is it a 4th-wall Stanislavsky théâtre. Again: be concrete and transparent – beyond the well-known verbal furnishing.
Moreover, should you happen to use a golden phrase (e.g. “I deem we need to build our partnership on the pillar of trust…”), it may be more useful to examplify things and give tissue to the ghost of sugary abstractness (“… and what I envision is a regular monthly meeting, facilitated by a neutral third party.”)
Many med-negotiation practitioners warn against the so-called active listening imitation, where you pull a serious grimace at the other party and nod with certain frequency, without truly receiving and/or memorizing anything. This always reminds me of the Ally McBeal show and the one scene where the protagonist – while on a date with a person, whom she considered to be uninteresting – decided to not listen at all to the person’s stories and repeat “Marvelous!” every ten minutes. Surprisingly, this worked rather well… at least up until the point where the annoying chap mentioned his wife’s tragic death, to which Ally replied with – naturally – “Marvelous!”
Indeed, you need to listen actively. Collect words, ideas, even sighs. Absorb energy and impulses. Remember the very mannerism and body language, used when a certain message of the other party was being conveyed to you.
Yet do not abandon completely the serious grimace and the frequent nodding. You may need some physical prosaicism to show that you are present, collected and curious. Listen with your body while using your mind to decode the marvelous! enigma, which the other person is.
To be continued. Georgi.
published July 14, 2016