Those of you who follow my posts on
issues regarding confrontational situations such as negotiation tactics,
conflict resolution strategies, or negotiation techniques already know my
opinion regarding the issue of strategy and tactics. Conflict resolution
strategies, negotiation tactics, or any other tactical and strategy issues are
the result of many complimentary issues.
I'll give the most trivial example: whether or not you'd like to retain the personal or professional relationship with your negotiation counterpart will affect your negotiation tactics, and if the negotiation has escalated into a conflict, you’ll have to think which conflict resolution strategy to apply. Hence, the attempt to try and recommend tactics and strategies regarding conflicts and negotiation is rather futile. You may say to me that indeed 'high resolution' strategies in the sense of very detailed ones must be tailored based on each situation’s unique characteristics; yet, 'low resolution' strategies in the sense of general statements can be formed. With that I agree because indeed general statements regarding negotiation tactics or conflict resolution strategies can be formed. Yet, because of their 'low resolution' – their generality – they might be too vague for the situation at hand.
One of the issues I keep encountering again and again in my negotiation tactics and conflict resolution strategies workshops is the issue of power balance. I think it is as obvious as saying that there is a direct correlation between how leveraged you are and what you can potentially achieve in a specific negotiation. If, for example, you are a sole provider of a needed product, then you are likely to score better in your negotiation than in a situation where there are other vendors offering the same product.
As obvious as this idea is, I'm still amazed by how it is being missed during daily negotiations. I'll give you an example of a situation that keeps emerging in my workshops and that is the conflict-prone conversations parents frequently have with their children regarding house chores, school homework, cellular usage, and any other task/restriction issue. I know that 'negotiation tactics' is something most people will not associate with conversations they have with their children, yet if you'll ponder the issue you'll realize that these conversations can easily fall into the negotiation tactics square. There is a goal you'd like to achieve that is likely to meet an opposition and you'd like to retain your good relationship with the other side so you have to smartly plan and execute the conversation so that you'll get what you want in the price you wanted.
Although I deliver my negotiation tactics and conflict resolution strategies workshops in organizations and they aren't associated in any way to parent-child relationships, at least once in every one of my workshops, one of the participants will bring an unresolved issue with his or her child. "They don't stand to our agreement" or "they don't even talk to me..." are common sentences I hear parents share when dealing with issues like house chores, homework, bed time or cellular usage with their children.
When such issues arise, I keep asking the parent the same question: "What can your child get out of negotiating with you, or what will he lose if he won't?" In ALL of the cases, the answer that I’ve received was a ‘nothing’. Parents didn't enjoy the other side's cooperation in either adhering to the agreed solution or even to start discussing the issue.
If the answer to the above question is negative then it means that the parent has no leverage in the negotiation, and hence the chance that he'll get what he want from the other side is very slim. Actually, in most of the cases the other side won't even show up to the negotiation. The same basic principle applies to any negotiation - whether with a client, a vendor, someone who's interested in buying your car and so on.
Why do people tend to overlook such a fundamental and critical negotiation tactics issue? The answer is simple: we assume, without being aware that we do, that other people see the issue at stake in the same way we see it. If I, as a parent, think that going to sleep at a reasonable hour is important, I assume that my kid will think so as well and hence will have the interest to mutually work out a solution on the matter. This might be true, and indeed the other side will attribute the same level of importance to the negotiated issue, yet he may very well might not. This inherent tendency to assume that 'like me, so is the other side' leads to what I call becoming a 'power drunk' - we assume that we have more power than we usually do. That's why people don't bother to analyze the power balance and assume they are more leveraged than they truly are.
Like any addiction, the first step to become power sober is to be aware of the human tendency to assume that we have leverage.
The second step is to assess the situation from the other side's point of view. This means that you have to let go of your own justifications, reason, and logic and try looking at the situation from the other side's point of view. Looking from the eyes of an 11 year old kid, what interests does he have to actively participate in a negotiation that will result in going early to bed? He's not interested in boundaries setting, sleep depravation issues or of being tired in the next morning... for him there are more burning issues of playing or watching television for one more hour or not being different, God forbid, from his fellow friends that go to sleep late.... going to sleep early might make him perceived as a nerd... so, no wonder that the kid doesn't stand to the agreed solution or doesn't even bother to negotiate on the issue.
How do you then create a leverage that makes it 'worthwhile' for the other side to negotiate with you is a wider and a bit complicated issue that I've covered in my book Negotiation Tactics - Levers, Guns & Sanctions: Pre Negotiation Moves to Bring Reluctant Parties to Collaboration.
In this post, I wanted to draw your attention to check, before engaging in negotiation or conflict, what is the power balance in the situation. Fight power drunkenness, don't assume you have the high ground. You are likely to discover the opposite is true.