There are times when our ‘force of will’ or sheer egotistical determination can actually prevent us from getting what we want. It almost seems counter-intuitive for us to believe that ‘blind strength can be a weakness’.
This point was beautifully made in a recent episode (Summer Man) of the TV show Mad Men. Don Draper was asking Dr Faye Miller (market research consultant) how she got ‘people to do what she wanted them to do’. She responded with one of Aesop’s Fable I remember reading in as a small child, but never quite understood. But I really get it now.
We can all transform how effective we are about getting what we want. Consider Aesop’s fable about the wind and the sun that are in competition to see which of them can get a traveller’s coat off first.
The wind blows and blows but the fiercer it blows, the tighter the traveller pulls her coat around her. The sun in contrast, shines down warmer and warmer until the traveller slips her coat off willingly.
This message was also (coincidentally) borne out on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live show on 23 October 2010. Guest and expert negotiator Professor Stuart Diamond confirmed that contrary to popular opinion, taking a hard line and being intractable in the negotiation situation leads to sub-optimal outcomes.
On the contrary, the key to effectively getting what you want is to develop an understanding other people’s perceptions and then valuing those perceptions. Making a personal connection gives you more power than the person who relies purely on position power and authority. Relying solely on formal or functional power often leads to resentment, resistance and creates intractable positions.
Professor Diamond reminded us why victims for a firing squad are blindfolded, it severs the human connect and makes it easier for the shooters to carry out the execution!
The real benefits to a better understanding of the ‘other person’s world’ is that it then becomes easier for you to create a vision for both of you to share in terms of hoped for outcomes. This means understanding not just your hopes, fears, feelings, experiences, and wishes… but theirs too!
The human connection is everything in any negotiation. Combining Professor Diamond’s wisdom with Aesop’s fable offers up a moral for this article: kindness, empathy, warmth and persuasion win out!
These days we are much more aware of the power of the network, and the need to maintain the integrity of our relationships, personal and professional.
So next time you’re preparing for a negotiation situation think beyond just a (I)WIN-(they)LOSE outcome:
- explore their stories
- try to understand their motivations, feelings, and perceptions
- get a handle on what they really want
- seek to find a shared vision, a shared outcome, and
- aim to communicate your wants and needs as a solution to theirs
Good luck and let me know how you get on!