Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Winning in a bad negotiation using problem-centered behaviour

Everyone has dealt with bad situations relating to people-the issue is do you want to save it or move on

People are difficult for several reasons. They may have unresolved issues in their personal life that affect their attitudes and commitment to the negotiation. They may lack empathy and make insensitive or inappropriate remarks, or they may simply be unskilled in negotiating and make mistakes. Whatever the cause, try not to over-react and make the situation worse.

Decide Whether You Want to Save the Situation -removing the shoe
You've had a long day and things aren't going well. Do you want to rescue what's left of the negotiation? If not, suggest postponing the negotiation to another day. If you do want to persevere, try the following approach.

When someone asks us for help, or appears to need it, the natural tendency of most people is to try to offer a solution. We generally produce one of the three kinds of behavior :

  • we advise people what to do;

  • we tell them;

  • we offer to do something for them under certain conditions.

This is called "solution-centered behavior" because it focuses principally on finding an answer. Sometimes this works, but it is rather easy to produce a brilliant solution to what later turns out to be the wrong problem. And when this happens, it is, of course, your fault!
An alternative approach is to use "problem-centered behavior," which means going "below the line" shown in the diagram, and questioning the other person about how he or she understands the problem.

You can do this either by consulting ("What exactly is the problem?", "When did it occur?", "What might have caused it?" and so on) or reflecting ("I can see that you're very angry about this, what's causing it?", "What aspect of the problem is troubling you most?"). The key message here is to consult about facts, reflect on feelings (Source: Margerison). The purpose is to make sure that you both share a clear understanding of what the problem is. In fact, helping the other person to clarify his or her thinking about the problem often allows the answer to emerge as if by magic. The other party then feels as if they "own" the solution, so they feel committed to it and you may not need to use the solution-centered behavior at all. Even if the answer does not appear automatically, though, you can now direct or advise from a much better understanding of the issues.

Tap Into the Power of Questions
The key to the "below-the-line" approach is that it obliges you to ask questions, which is always a good idea if you have to deal with difficult people, as it enables you to control the conversation-if you ask a question, people will usually answer it. This approach avoids confrontation, and it may get you valuable information about the person or the negotiation.
Remember the Guidelines

  • When in doubt go "below the line": consult and reflect.

  • Ask good, useful, open questions: plan them carefully

  • Ask for the other party's proposals or ideas-don't give yours first.

  • Ask for clarification of the other party's proposals rather than saying what is wrong with them.

  • Ask about their goals and objectives rather than telling them about yours.

  • Ask how you can help them.

  • -Have a Backup Plan If All Else Fails

If the other person is still being "difficult" and hindering the negotiation, more drastic action is needed. Either he or she doesn't want the negotiation to succeed, or is unable to conduct the discussion properly at this time. In any case, you need to do something to move things along.
Acknowledge that there seems to be a problem and ask three key questions:

  • Does he or she want to continue the discussions?

  • Would it be better if you spoke with someone else? A more senior member of staff, for example?

  • Is there anything you can do that will help him or her feel more comfortable with the negotiation?

Deal With Difficult Situations - key tip -deal with it!
Not all negotiations take place face-to-face these days; in fact, most negotiations happen over the phone or by e-mail. People sometimes opt for this to save time, but it's very much a second-best situation: avoid it as much as possible, except for simple negotiations.

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