Sometimes in life, we cannot just rely on our ability to do the math to get what we want, we (have to) ASK for what we want. To me, it’s quite good news that someone out there can give me exactly what I want if I ask for it.
However, the fact that we just need to ask for something is not as important as How we ask?
Let’s get started (this is my personal way of doing things, I’m glad if it helps or entertains people, please don’t like what I say if you don’t. Cheers):
1. Know what you want:
It is a dangerous thing entering a game without knowing what you want. In short, if “grey and emotional” is the situation, you will end up lost, beaten and miserable.
It might take a lot of time swimming in an ocean of information and opinions (especially these days) to even figure out what you/I want. Most of the time the situations are complex or people complicate the situations. There is a model of system thinking which I’ve been using lately to navigate in complex situations – the 5 Level Framework (5LF) – cheesy name, but kinda works:
Let’s imagine we are in a football game – complex thing, 22 people running around and around.
System Level: The system that overrules the “what we want”. In this case, the system is football rules, no matter how we play the game, we have to play by the rules.
Success Level: What do you want? How do you define success? In this case score more goals than the opponent (or winning 2-0 or 3-1).
Strategic Level: NOT the strategy, but the Strategic Guidelines that will be used to choose concrete actions to accomplish the mission. In this case, different strategies for the match will be listed out. The coach will then prioritise a specific plan, based on the overall goal of the match and the knowledge about his own team and the rival.
Actions Level: The concrete actions that are chosen to move towards defined success. In this case 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 or 4-5-1… formations and/or other strategies.
Tools Level: The tools that support the planning and implementation of the plan. In this case players, balls, shoes, equipment, etc.
If one can successfully plan and execute the 5LF without requiring external resources, there is no negotiation that needs to be done. Case closed. However, if either Strategic Guidelines or Actions Level or Tools Level that needs extra leverage, we need to talk. The Success Level – “Know what you want”, or more importantly “Define what you want” – is the heart of the whole planning process.
2. Know what you opponents/allies want
It is no less important for the lawyers to prepare the opposite case. Do your homework, awake your inner Sherlock Holmes, use your reasoning ability – the lingo is endless. I hope your opponent is easier to understand than a woman. My favourite is to do the 5LF of the opponents alongside with mine.
However, unless we are in a court with a very smart Judge, I don’t trust reasoning that much, maybe 20%. If you’ve ever been (or watched) a securities trader (they trade stocks and bonds) or observed a hospital, you would see that emotions and personal interests rule this world. I cannot tell how wonderful a ruthless CEO behaved when his child suffering cancer. Seriously, go down to the stock market or the hospital for a day, you won’t trust that reasoning test employers give you any more. The point is, when you actually enter the room, listen to and watch your opponents/partners/allies, think about his substances: position – (PERSONAL) interests – (PERSONAL) needs – emotions – values – perceptions.
As Hemingway said – “Before you act, listen. Before you react, think”, don’t assume, be aware of your own preconceptions and biases. You can always probe your opponents – Ask “What if…?”
3. Define the common ground of interest
Now, this is the art of letting someone have it your way, or shall we say Diplomacy.
(Please excuse my handwriting)
There is nothing to negotiate if there is not a common (ground of) interest. Therefore, in many cases, there should be pre-negotiations about the common ground of interest; so that parties will not waste time later on arguing about totally different interests and needs.
Let’s focus on interests, not positions – this philosophy is very effective for both bilateral and multilateral negotiations.
4. Negotiate nicely (but “inflexibly”)
Our best asset is Trust. With Trust life would be so much easier. If your partners/opponents/allies don’t believe in what you say and don’t believe that you will actually do what you promise – NO DEAL.
If they trust you, you have a level of control over the situation. Trust is the ideal situation that we want to build and earn. However, let not lose ourselves. Therefore, work to establish trust with your straight-dealing and honesty, without compromising on substances and without being naive about how far to trust the other side.
The difficult negotiator is charming and inflexible. She/he is NOT loose, rude and doesn’t invent confusion and/or stupid problems.
How to get Everything you want (THEN WHAT?)