Negotiations often pass at speed. We are driven to reach an outcome and to make sure that the outcome is in our favour. This can drive a group of behaviours that may not lead us to the best outcome.
Often, within negotiations, the lead negotiator is very caught up in the position being established and followed during the negotiation, and seems unable to capture changes in position from the other side. If others are there to support the lead negotiator (and this is not always the case) then there is often a skills gap in negotiation for the other participants. Result? Opportunities missed.
Compare and contrast this to the world of diplomatic negotiation. A recent article in the Washington Post noted ‘When a diplomat shifts from one word to another, even when both words appear synonymous, it can significantly change a negotiation. Everyone wants to know the reason for the vocabulary change.’
Thinking deeply about the position adopted by the other side and how small changes of that are impactful is suggestive of a level of analysis which is often missing in commercial negotiations. It may not be absolutely necessary for volume market leverage negotiations, but when we’re trying to get deeper in more challenging situations, reflecting on the diplomatic approach may be useful.
So, here’s a challenge for next time round. When the position appears to alter, even subtly, be prepared to take a time out to consider what it could mean and how it will reflect on the position of both parties. Dwell in these moments to see how a different path or outcome could be established, and to consider how you can give sufficient recognition of the content of the changes.
By thinking and practicing these approaches, we can build up our repertoire of negotiation skills, and reach the conclusions we require more often and more effectively.
Mark Hubbard is Founder and Co-CEO of Positive Purchasing Ltd.