Unpredictable stubbornness vs withdrawal


process structure, coalitions, listening, ideas and solutions, arguments

Exercise 1. Repeat aloud after the voice-over the key phrases and expressions that directly relate to the most important aspects of negotiations. By saying individual sentences out loud, the learning process is many times more effective than if you were only reading or thinking what you could or should say. By repeating individual words, you considerably increase the likelihood of their use in real-life situations. The exercise is like learning a new language; its logic and mindset will change your conversations; it will help you achieve the objectives that you have selected.


Control of the content and scope of conversations

An effective negotiator decides or jointly decides of who says what, when and for how long. He/she controls the content and scope of discussed threads and topics. He/she can affect the extension or reduction of individual stages of negotiations, including the opening, presentation of positions, discussion, decisions, and ending. This does not mean that he/she speaks for most of the time; this means that he/she has the actual impact on the content, scope and dynamics of the conversation. The most frequently used phrases he/she uses include the following:

Stage 1. Opening of negotiations:

„I would like to welcome everyone; perhaps, we will start from introducing ourselves…”, „We have met here to discuss…”, „Maybe, at the beginning, we will agree what we are to achieve”, „Perhaps, I will start…”, „I would like to start from…”, „At the beginning, let us agree that…”, „I suggest the following course of our conversations; let us start from… and then (determine the meeting agenda)”

Stage 2. Presentation of positions:

„Now, I would like to ask you to present your idea/position?”, „I suggest that we talk one after another…”, „Please, do not interrupt; we have agreed that now everyone will present their ideas”, „I would like to ask you to shorten your statement; at this rate, we will run out of time.”

Stage 3. Discussion:

„Do not interrupt me”, „Do not interrupt him/her. Do not interrupt others” „Let me finish what I am talking about”,  „Let others finish what they are saying…”, „Do not raise your voice”, „I have to interrupt you…”, „Let us now turn to the matter…”, „Please, pay attention to…”.

Stage 4. Decisions:

„It is time to end the discussion; we need to make decisions…”, „We have less and less time until the end of the meeting; let us consider what to do in this situation”, „I would like to end the discussion regarding this issue…”, „We no longer have the time to discuss this issue in detail now”, „You have already mentioned this; let us not go back to the threads we have already discussed…”, „You are repeating this once again; we need to make a decision; I suggest that…”, „In this situation, I would like to suggest…”, „Yes, let us do that…”, „Let us agree that…”, „I would like to suggest that…”.

Stage 5. Ending:

„What we can to in this situation is that…”, „You have to agree that…”, „We have no other option than to…”, „This is the best solution”, „The only way out of this situation is that we do it like that…”, „Let us summarise our findings…”, „Again, let us briefly recap what we have agreed…”, „We have agreed that”, „Thank you very much for your commitment and involvement…”.

If you do not smoothly use these phrases during negotiations, you will be perceived as a passive participant of the talks on whom little depends and who has little to say.


Forming coalitions

People who win negotiations try to have the maximum impact on who will sit at the negotiating table. Often, even before the talks begin, they block or eliminate opponents and invite those who will form a coalition with them. At meetings, they are able to gain support of others by using the following phrases:

„I agree with what you are saying; this is also very important for me…    (repeat in your own words what is important for your future ally)”, „I understand that you care about… (describe key needs of your ally), „I have a similar position regarding this matter…”, „Like you, I see the need/necessity of…”, „Therefore, I suggest the following distribution of funds… for you, I suggest you (present a favourable offer to your ally) because I agree with the fact that… (present your ally’s position), „In turn, for you, I suggest (present an unfavourable offer to your opponent) because, from my perspective, it is more important that…”, „I suggest that you receive (present an offer favourable to your ally) because I am completely convinced by the arguments you have presented”, „From my perspective, for this project, we can only allocate…  (determine the amount); I would transfer most funds to the task  (specify the task important for your future ally).

If others are ahead of you and are first to submit an offer to distribute funds and values that are negotiated, you will be limited in making decisions and, in the first place, you will respond to other people’s suggestions that will not necessarily be favourable to you.


Determination of needs, objectives and values

Naming and highlighting what is important for others and what they care about gives you the opportunity to build solutions that refer to real needs, objectives and values of the people you are talking to. This way, you can avoid a situation where the extreme and unreasonable declarations and positions formulated at the beginning of the discussions block the achievement of an agreement that is most favourable to everybody. The two following communication techniques are primarily used to check needs, objectives and values: open-ended questions and paraphrasing, e.g.:

„What is your idea for an agreement?”, „What do you care most in this situation?”, „What is most important for you now”?, „What do you need most now?”, „How do you see the possibility of accepting this solution? What does this means for you in practice?”, „I understand that your idea involves…”, „So, I understand that the most important for you is…”, „So, I understand that you mostly care about…”, „I understand that you need most…”, „I would like to sum up what you have said; it follows that you would like to…”,

If you want to effectively name needs, objectives and values important for others, in particular avoid the words, expressions and phrases that include the following: „no” and „but” (e.g. „I do not agree with you”, „what you are saying does not make sense”, „it is not like you said”, „this is impossible”, „this will not be like that”, „yes, but”…, „fine, but…”, „unfortunately, but…”. Phrases containing “no’s” and “but’s” mostly undermine the possibility of coalitions, leading to sharp discussions and conflicts.

Notice that naming others’ needs, objectives and values leads mostly to building coalitions and alliances. Beware, however, as listening to others and paraphrasing what they have said may weaken your negotiating position if it is used to formulate a hard and extreme position.


Formulation of solutions

Use the following phrases and expressions:

„I would suggest that…”, „My idea is that…”, „My solution assumes that…”, „I suggest that we introduce changes in the following items of our agreement; I would like to…”, „What do you suggest in this situation?”, „This project cannot wait; if we do not make a decision today to implement it, we will lose the chance to…”

When proposing a solution, notice that projects and activities that, for strategic and objective reasons, may not be postponed have the greatest chances of succeeding.


Building an argument

Use the following expressions:

„Let us note that…”, „We have to remember that…”, „If we do it like that, we will still be able to implement…”, „I would like to present a calculation for my project/my idea now…”, „We have to take into consideration such facts as…”, „It is that…”, „From my perspective, it is important that…”, „I suggest this solution because, according to figures…”.

The solutions that are hardest to undermine refer mostly to specific facts, figures and calculations.

Exercise 2. Changing the style of negotiations. Look at the negotiations that you conduct. Use the words, expressions and phrases from the first exercise for the analysis. Mark the ones that you use most often and those that you use less frequently or not at all. During next negotiations, try to change your style: if you are mostly passive and listen to others, take control of the content and scope of the discussions, actively build coalitions, present offers and justify them with credible arguments. If you mostly dominate in discussions, try to limit your control of the content and scope of the discussions, name others’ needs, objectives and values, let them formulate suggestions for solutions, and listen to arguments. Practice until you are able to effortlessly select the style that you use. Obtain the ability to adapt your behaviour to the context of conversations and styles of negotiations of the people you are talking to.

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