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3 Ways To Create Space For Yourself In A Negotiation

3 Ways To Create Space For Yourself In A Negotiation

Time_Out_kid.jpegIt is always nice to have breathing room in a negotiation. Not monetary breathing room, breathing room in the conversation. What we refer to as breathing room is this moment or space in time, during the interaction, where you can collect your thoughts and refocus your attention. This moment is not something that only happens once. You can engineer many of these with the right execution. These moments can also encompass the initial stages of influencing a decision. Now depending on how your counterpart(s) approach the process will also dictate the after effects of these moments for them. Some will be able to make their mind up right then and there, and others will need to spend some time away from you to figure out how they best want to respond. The follow-up for these are also different and will come in a later post.

Every interaction we have requires that we cause the counterpart to stop and think. We struggle to be successful in this endeavor when we use explanation to make the other side think. Jim Camp, the author of “Start With No,” shared with us many years ago – “You can’t explain anything to anybody.” Ronald Reagan had a famous quote – “If you are explaining you’re losing.” Now there comes a time in many negotiations when you do have to explain, remember though there is a fine line between explaining to make a point and explaining to satisfy genuine curiosity. Precisely what that means is we cannot jump the gun and dive into our facts, analysis, and preparation. We must prime them to receive information, like starting up an old tractor, like an International Harvester 10-20 Titan from the year 1920. There is a sequence to turning over the engine, receiving the gas or the information that influences combustion, that can be adjusted based on knowledge and current contextual conditions.

These are the 3 main ways we execute creating these moments in time during a negotiation:

  • No oriented questions
  • Label the status
    • Emotional
    • Contextual
    • Factual
  • Forced Empathy

No Oriented Questions

No Oriented Questions are designed specifically to cause the other side to say “No” to you, or better yet, questions geared to get confirmation or commitment without having to get a “Yes” from the counterpart. Remember when people say “Yes” they feel vulnerable and when people say “No” they feel protected.

Executing this can be very awkward because we are wired to get “Yeses” from people. “Do you like this?”, “Do you want to proceed?”, “Would you agree to?”, “Does that make sense,” and the list goes on and on. In all those instances, we are looking for basically – “are you on my side?”. We can accomplish this same goal by saying things like – “Do you want this to fail?”, Would you want to put us/me in a bad position?”, “Is this out of line?”, “Is that/this unfair?”, and with practice, designing these and executing in the moment will become second nature. When you ask these questions, it not only makes the counterpart think about the “No” before they say it but also creates space where they run all the factors through their mind, taking your positon into consideration. Allowing you to breathe, refocus and gauge their reaction. Occasionally moments like these will be specifically remembered parts of the dialogue because of the emotional components that were triggered.


Label the status

Label the status refers to using labels as described in “Never Split the Difference” by 2, to isolate dynamics or current state in a negotiation. Status can be broken down into 3 categories: the emotional, contextual, and factual. I also have a suspicion that often they need to be addressed in that order to be most productive during the interaction. If value rooted in emotion goes unaddressed behavior change can be cumbersome and context changes like a living organism. Lastly the facts are undisputable but can be hard to accept given context and emotion.

It seems like, It sounds like, and It looks like are powerful ways to begin a statement designed to target status and generate trust and understanding. You make people stop and consider what is taking place in the conversation by making them focus on something that matters to them as a business entity, leader, executive, etc. Allowing you time to breathe, create space for yourself and await further information.

Emotion “It seems like you are committed to always making the right decision.”
Context “It seems like this is becoming more and more difficult for you every day.”
Factual “It seems like x makes the most sense to you.”

Forced Empathy

Forced Empathy mostly refers to Black Swan’s “Phases of No,” sometimes stated as “I” Messages or ways to let “No” out slowly. There are times in many negotiations where we must say “No” to someone to protect ourselves. At the same time, we cannot risk ruining the current relationship standing. In addition, what we need is for them to see things the way we do, understand our point of view because they may be putting us in a bad spot and the best way forward is to find an alternate path.

This is where forced empathy comes in, a specifically designed communication technique to accomplish all the above. Allowing time to breathe, refocus, and gain footing. A critical piece of the vocal delivery here is imperative, as they are with all these skills. An inquisitive tone or downward inflecting is the best way. Now imagine yourself saying – “How can I leave myself/us in that position?”, “How am I supposed to do that?”, “What do I do if I can’t do that?”,
These questions are designed to create a particular effect. Combining “I” with what and how forces the counterpart take a careful look at your situation. It puts the burden of solving the problem on them in a way that fits your agenda or is feasible based on your position.

These all take some practice and feel extremely awkward the first few times the words come out of your mouth. Don’t forget that repetition is the mother of skill you just have to make sure you have proper form and execute continually.

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