Friday, November 26, 2010

Getting Past No: Negotiating In Difficult Situation (3/6)

After you have regained your mental balance from “the balcony”, you have to help your opponents regain theirs. This is step two:  “STEP TO THEIR SIDE”. The purpose of this step is to disarm their negative emotions towards you, in order to continue negotiations. Often, lots of hostage movies demonstrate this step in great detail. Out of all of them, a movie called “The Negotiator” is the best movie to show how two skillful negotiators accomplish this step in an extremely stressful situation.  
This step  consists of five components: active listening, acknowledge your opponent’s points, agree wherever you can, acknowledge the person, and express your views without provoking.  Principles of these five components are simple, but very powerful. At the beginning, you need to explore your opponent’s mental reality through listening. Then, you connect with your opponent’s mental reality by acknowledging his/her comments, feelings and situations. At the end, you use the connection to express your viewpoints. Basically, you have to be the architect to build a two way communication channel.

In this entry, I would like to spend some time talking about active listening, because it is the most crucial and fundamental concept in this particular step.  I remember my recruitment and selection lecturer talks about active listening in a workshop. She said that we are born with the ability to listen to other people, but sadly we are gradually losing that ability as we grew older.  Real listening has become a very rare and valuable skill in the adult world. There are many reasons causing this deterioration in listening among adults.  However it is beyond the scope to explore that in this entry.
The most common trap in listening is called “selective hearing”. It means that we only listen to what we want to listen or only search for information to re-confirm what we believe in, and disregard the “non-significant” information in conversations. I have encountered endless conflicts in business which caused by selective hearing.  When people say “I KNEW IT!”, “He/she would reject/accept this offer, because I knew him/her for a long time.”, or “He/she has always been like that.”  They are all the warning sign of selective hearing.
How can we avoid this trap? Simple! We use active listening. It is just a fancy way to say “Shut up and pay attention to what other people are saying.” However, it is harder than what it seems. Active listening requires enormous patience and self-discipline.  We have to suspend the urge to react or think about our plans in the process. To be honest, although I had 9 hours of workshop on active listening and practice it for few years, I still have to stay very focus use active listening during conversations.     
You may ask why you need to spend so much effort to listen to your opponents. Because it offers a window into your opponent’s mind. It gives you a chance to engage him in a cooperative task from REALLY understand his/her problems. At the same time, it also makes your opponent more willing to listen to you.  Therefore, it is no coincidence that effective negotiators listen far more than they talk.
In short, when you face your opponent’s suspicion and hostility, closed ears, and lack of respect, your best strategy is to step to his/her side. It is harder to be hostile toward someone who hears you out and acknowledges what you say and how you feel. It is also easier to listen to someone who had listened to you.  As the author said “Respect breeds respect.”

Click here to download Chapter Summary 1.2 or View it here

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