August 2015
Raphael Lapin



10940 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD, Suite 1600

Tel: 888-964-8884

Dear Clients and Friends



Many negotiators do not have a process with which to lead and guide the negotiations. Instead,they just react to their counterparts' tactics, which often leaves the negotiations unproductive and inefficient at best, and seriously distressed at worst. In this AUGUST '15 edition of NEGOTIATION STRATEGIES we offer an abbreviated process framework that will help you lead the negotiations authentically, as opposed to merely being victim to your counterparts tactics.


For your reading convenience, we also distill this into a brief lessons learned at the end of the column.


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With Best Wishes 


Raphael Lapin


As an initial part of our coaching engagements with clients, we will do a baseline "audit" and observe as they conduct a live negotiation. During these sessions, we are often struck by the same thing which grates on our ears like a beautiful piece of opera sung atrociously off key; which assaults our senses mercilessly and turns the elegant waltz of effective negotiation into a grotesque and awkward stomp. I refer to  excessive, relentless, redundant and aimless talking that so many negotiators seem to engage and even revel in.


Many negotiators perceive the negotiation process as being to persistently assert their demands, to declare their positions and to impose their proposals without any consideration of the other side's concerns or needs whatsoever. They think that the more insistent they become, the better negotiators they are. They believe that the only way to "win" is to continuously and repetitively state and pitch their positions without allowing their opponent to get a word in edge-wise. Oddly, they don't seem to realize that they are engaged in a terribly inefficient and unproductive process at best and a downright destructive one at worst.


Truly effective negotiators actually do remarkably little talking.They listen very carefully, ask purposeful questions and demonstrate immaculate understanding. They are composed, relaxed and almost conversational.


Following is an abbreviated process framework that will help you to become an efficient, effective and skilled negotiator.

Begin by "Stepping to Their Side" First

Although we typically feel compelled to state our position first, this is a futile first move. Just as you are anxious to get your thoughts out, so are they. While you are talking, they will be preoccupied with what they wish to say and will not be listening.


A good negotiator resists this urge and begins by stepping to the other side first. They rigorously explore and understand their counterparts' perceptions, needs and concerns before even beginning their own case. 


You may start the discussion by saying: "I would be interested to hear some of your initial thoughts, please go ahead and share them with me". In addition to getting them to talk and  to provide you with important information, you also have the added advantage of knocking them off balance by acting inconsistently with what they expected of you, which was to come in asserting your demands and digging your heels into your positions. This first move will go a long way in setting a positive tone for the negotiations.

Expand the Dialogue with Good Questioning

Many negotiators will propose solutions prematurely which usually results in rejection. For the negotiations to develop, evolve and mature, the dialogue of negotiation needs to occur. During this crucial phase of the negotiation, information will be uncovered, underlying concerns brought to the surface and hard positions loosened. 


The fuel for productive dialogue is good questioning - questions are to dialogue what wood is to fire! Be prepared to question the other side about things like their concerns, interests and constraints. Encourage them to clarify and elaborate. Make sure that during this phase, the other party is feeling accurately heard and understood by paraphrasing what you have understood from them and checking your understanding with them.


Besides important information that will emerge, trust and rapport will also build. Another advantage of this process is that, paradoxically, you will be far more in control of the conversation when you are questioning and listening, rather than when you are talking and asserting.

Present your Viewpoint with Succinct Clarity

Only after you have listened to them adequately, and they feel that they have really been heard and understood, are you ready to present your point of view. Many negotiators start rambling purposelessly when arguing their case. Few people have patience or attention span to listen to an ongoing, pointless monologue, and will allow their minds to wander while you attempt to make your point. This kind of aimless talking contributes greatly to the inefficiency of the process.


In contrast, a brief, sharp-focused clarity is far more compelling and persuasive than any lengthy discourse. If you find yourself rambling, know that you are off track. Stop and take a moment of silence as you retrench and gather your thoughts. Then present them in a cogent, focused and concise way while maintaining a confident friendly tone and a relaxed posture. Make sure that every word you utter is for a purpose in the negotiation.


Often, in a negotiation, neither party has a process that is guiding them. Each reacts to the other, which usually causes the discussions to deteriorate into an unproductive and inefficient cycle of reaction and counter- reaction. By having a process with which to guide the negotiations, you will have the power in those talks - not in a manipulative way, but in a very authentic way. 


The three techniques outlined in this column, used in sequence, provide a solid and effectual process framework with which to manage your negotiations. Practice them until you develop an intuitive proficiency. This will surely put you well on your way to be counted amongst the most highly effective negotiators.

About1About Lapin Negotiation Strategies 


Lapin Negotiation Strategies offers training, consulting, advising and executive coaching in negotiation, business diplomacy and dispute resolution services.


Our proprietary and aggressively results oriented services are designed to help your leadership, teams and individuals master the essential negotiation, relationship-building and conflict management skills that increase revenues, decrease the high cost of conflict  and build  strong working relationships .

Our skilled specialists will:
  • Help your organization build a highly effective negotiation competency and culture which translates into increased revenue and strong business relationships.
  • Develop high impact, customized learning systems to develop advanced skills and powerful techniques in negotiation, dispute resolution and relationship management.
  • Provide advice, strategy, guidance and representation in live negotiation challenges
  • Facilitate, mediate and advise in dispute resolution
  • Create a culture of collaboration by guiding and training teams and divisions to engage in dialogue, to negotiate and to partner
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Raphael Lapin

Raphael Lapin, a Harvard trained negotiation and communication specialist. He is adjunct professor of law at Whittier School of Law in Southern California and visiting professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. Raphael trains and advises Fortune 500 companies and governments around the world and is the author of "Working with Difficult People" (DK Penguin Essential Managers Series)
Working with Difficult People
 Learn more about Raphael Lapin's book, "Working with Difficult People" by clicking on the image above