You have been asked to organize an in-company negotiation skills training programme for your organization or are looking for a course for yourself and have discovered that there are many providers all offering courses that appear to be exactly the same. How can you choose which is the best one to choose? I hope the rest of this article will help you make the right decision.
I lived and worked for many years in Asia and the Far East and during my time there became involved in numerous negotiations in nine different countries and cultures. Having also taken many negotiation skills courses, in my youth, designed to teach me how to win – at almost any cost – which frequently went against my personal & professional ethics and my belief in the importance of interpersonal relationships, I finally studied with the P.O.N. at Harvard University and found that the logic & philosophy of the programme was much more adaptable, realistic and ethical – for me! It is a process & style that I have continued to use, and polish, successfully in negotiations ever since. The following article is based on following the Harvard Model.
In Brownlee & Associates we believe that the key points of any “In-House”* negotiation skills training course, whether it be international or local; Commercial; Human Resources, etc., and given via English, Spanish or any other language should focus on covering the following key points:
Foreign language vs English language negotiation
There have been many scientific psychological & sociological studies done from those of B.L.Whorf in the 1930s to the study done by Oludamini Ogunnaike et. Al., in Harvard University (2011) that indicate that when someone is negotiating in a language that is NOT their mother tongue, the speaker adopts many of the attitudes, values and characteristics of the group that correspond to the language being used. If the language being used is English, the participants will behave in a more English / anglo-saxon cultural style without losing SOME of their national characteristics. There are some courses that focus on negotiation with one specific national or ethnic group. This in our opinion is too focussed on the use of stereotypes and does not take into consideration that the most important elements in any negotiation are, by far, the people involved. There are obviously general characteristics that one should include in an international negotiation course; polychronic vs Monochromic cultures, etc. However, whatever the culture or language, people are still people and the best negotiators know that knowledge of how to read and understand the other actors in the negotiation is the key to success – NOT a theoretical & stereotypical knowledge about “their culture”.
Let’s be realistic & practical: Are you going to do a course on negotiating with the Chinese this month and then another course on how to negotiate with the Germans next month and yet another course on negotiating with Argentinians a couple of months later? Imagine how you could justify the cost in time, energy and money of this type of repetitive activity!
The difference between hard-bargaining & negotiation.
It is of vital importance that the trainees clearly understand the differences between hard -bargaining (Distributive negotiation: I win, you lose!) And Collaborative Negotiation (mutual gains) and the significance & implications of each type. It is also important that the trainees learn how to respond correctly to the blocks and problems so that the negotiation keeps moving forward. In my experience, many negotiations fail because of the way it is carried out and NOT because of the content.
A model of negotiation that has been proven to work.
The use of the generic model of negotiation developed by the Program On Negotiation of Harvard University, Boston, USA., combined with a wide range of additional exercises designed to practice and reinforce every step of the process is vital for the trainees to learn how to apply the material in a range of contexts and situations. Far too often, clients ask for a negotiation course to cover only one area such as selling a specific product or service. In B&A, we believe that this a dis-service to the company & the trainees because the trainees should be asked to apply the techniques to not only their needs today but also to other, possibly unforseen, future needs. It is also vital that the trainees be asked to apply their learning during the course to real negotiations that they have participated in, are actually involved in or are about to enter into. This is the ONLY way that the trainees can actually see the application of the training to their real world needs and receive feedback from their course companions. Training without a real world application is, in our opinion, a waste of time, effort and money.
How to structure the preparation for the negotiation.
Once the trainees have a clear model to use, it should be easy for them to identify, collect and prepare the information that they need to negotiate successfully and how to prepare it for it’s use during the negotiation.
How to structure the negotiation using psychology.
There are psychologically effective ways of structuring the negotiation & behaving from the very beginning of the negotiation. The best prepared and flexible negotiator is the one who (usually) controls the system. Any negotiation without proper preparation is condemned to disaster.
There are certain areas that should be dealt with at the beginning, others later on, some postponed (elegantly!), etc. A badly structured negotiation (psychologically) can have unexpected consequences and result in less successful outcomes – for both sides!.
Teach “the other side how to negotiate”.
An effective negotiator is capable of subtly teaching the other side how to follow his negotiation system instead of letting them blindly follow theirs. While at the beginning, there may well be a certain level of distrust, there ARE ways to help them beat this fear of changing their negotiation style. Obviously, two negotiators (or teams) using the same negotiation style should reach better agreements that using different or confrontational styles.
Practice & value teamwork in Negotiation.
While one person or a team actually negotiate, normally there is a team supporting the negotiator by investigating, collating & helping in the preparation. Any negotiation training course should involve the participants in a great number of team activities to generate a “team spirit” while stimulating understanding of the task and the value of the activity . In addition, giving the trainees the opportunity to stand up and present the results of their team’s activity to the other teams, using specific flipchart techniques, help to break various psychological barriers & fears and provides a useful skill for future negotiations.
It is imperative that negotiators learn and apply techniques to ensure that any and all risks are shared by all the participants in the negotiation and NOT just by one party. When risks are shared, it is in the best interests of all the participants to ensure compliance with the agrees terms and conditions.
A fair & just outcome.
All negotiators want to achieve a fair & just outcome – from THEIR point-of-view however that does not necessarily mean that it is a win-win agreement. The truth is that as a negotiator in the real world which is very competitive, I want the other side to THINK that they have achieved a great & just outcome while I KNOW that I have achieved a better outcome than them. A great part of any negotiation is the perception of the negotiators.
Two vital elements is any negotiation are creativity & flexibility of thought and action. If the negotiator is not flexible, one of two things usually happens: the negotiation becomes a hard-bargaining situation where one wins and the other loses or there is no agreement reached. One way of using this flexibility and creativity is by increasing the size of the “pie” by adding more elements to share between the negotiators. In commercial negotiations, the salesman in the street often has a limited range of flexibility, if any and this means that they need to be creative & flexible using whatever resources they have available.
Verbal & non-verbal Communication.
There are certain words & phrases, etc., that should NOT be used during the negotiation – except in very specific situations and with more-or-less predictable results – and others that can help to facilitate it and it is important that the negotiators are aware of these elements and have the linguistic competence necessary to control their verbal language. Also, since Mehrabian’s research indicates that in face-to-face communication the verbal channel carries 7% of the content, the paralinguistic channel carries 38% and the non-verbal channel carries 55%, it is vital that negotiators are aware of, and capable of reading & interpreting, the non-verbal communication of their interlocutors. Any course of negotiation should sensitize the trainees to these elements and provide sufficient activities to practice them.
Neuro Linguistic Programming.
Over the years, In Brownlee & Associates, we have discovered that the real world application of Neuro Linguistic Programming to negotiaton training permits our trainees to be able to understand their own thought processes and those of their interlocutors and thereby communicate much more effectively & elegantly with members of the other team and their own. Fot that reason, we always advise our clients to include our module of applied NLP training in their negotiation skills training.
In Brownlee & Associates, we whole-heartedly believe that everyone can negotiate successfully when they receive the correct training that encourages structure, creativity, legitimacy and enpowers negotiators so that they can trust in their own knowledge & skills in any context.
* “In-House” – Given within an organization to their own employees.
Open courses need to be more generic and somewhat different due to the confidentiality of the material often covered in “In-House” or “closed” courses.
Please feel free to contact Ian Brownlee at Brownlee & Associates for any additional information about the negotiation skills courses that we offer or a more details about the elements dealt with in this article.
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