GeneralHr Library

How to negotiate (even when everything seems hopeless)

Source | LinkedIn : By  Michael Wheeler

If you want to be a great negotiator, you have to be a great improviser. There’s no choice in the matter. You can’t script the process. It’s too unpredictable. The people you deal with will have their own ideas about how things should go.

That’s why we all can learn from master improvisers in other fields, especially jazz. I described a business application of this principle in one of my early posts. In another—on the importance of paying heed—I quoted pianist Herbie Hancock of sometimes being so focused that “I’m listening with my toes.”

Today’s negotiation lesson comes from trumpeter Miles Davis who said, “It’s the notes that you don’t play that matter.” 

I found another great example of how this maxim applies powerfully to negotiation in my colleague Deepak Malhotra’s new book Negotiating the Impossible. Right there on page 145 in bold type he channels Miles by saying: “Ignore ultimatums. The more attention you give to them, the harder it will be for the other side to back down if the situation changes.” 

He’s absolutely right. (I only wish the book was available back in January when I wrote a post on dealing with take-it-or-leave it job offers, as his advice applies there, as well.) 

When someone says, “absolutely not” or “it’s against company policy,” the natural impulse is to ask why or ask for an exception–or to challenge the assertion itself. But often it’s smarter to let the remark pass without comment. Your counterpart may have spoken in haste. Given time, he or she may soften their position—provided you haven’t reinforced it. 

The worst thing to do is to rise to the bait. Don’t ask if they really mean what they just said. If someone paints themself into a corner, why hand them another bucket? Instead, let the moment pass, as Miles said. It’s in the same spirit of the feisty credo of the actress Ruth Gordon (the star of the cult classic, Harold and Maude.) “I never face facts,” she said. “I never listen to good advice. I’m a slow starter but I always get there.” 

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