Building Bridges by Resolving
Differences
Negotiation Strategies
December 2017
'Tis the Season...to practice, refine and hone our negotiation skills
Dear Clients and Friends,

With the Holidays fast approaching, festive dinners and family reunions are very much on our minds. The merry partying however is often accompanied by a degree of pressure, due in part, to the potentially volatile human dynamics, family interactions, different personalities and vastly different opinions and beliefs. These sorts of differences and dynamics mean that family gatherings can quickly become the perfect storm for clashes, conflicts and flare-ups.

But with the danger, comes opportunity to practice and refine our skills so as to manage these potentially volatile conversations and emotionally charged situations effectively, constructively, with grace and with poise.

In this December '17 edition of Negotiation Strategies are some techniques to help you navigate these potentially explosive situations.

For your reading convenience, this column is also summarized in the Lessons Learned bullet points at the bottom of the page.

With Best Wishes and Heartfelt Season's Greetings!

Raphael Lapin
'Tis the Season...to practice, refine and hone our negotiation skills
Introduction
With the Holidays fast approaching, festive dinners and family reunions are very much on our minds. The merry partying however is often accompanied by a degree of pressure, due in part, to the potentially volatile human dynamics and family interactions. With the very different personalities and vastly different opinions and beliefs, we wonder with dread, whether Uncle Jack will opine about his strong political views or if Aunt Mavis might start to pontificate about her religious dogma. These sorts of differences and dynamics mean that family gatherings can quickly become the perfect storm for clashes, conflicts and flare-ups.

However, with the danger also comes great opportunity! An opportunity, to practice and refine our skills so as to manage these potentially volatile conversations and emotionally charged situations effectively, constructively, with grace and with poise, rather than to flee from them.

Below are some strategies to help guide you.
Show Them You Are Taking Them Seriously
Often, when we hear an opinion that we strongly disagree with, our reaction is to viciously attack the “culprit” and then continue to self-righteously defend our own opinion as though we are the sole arbiters of truth. This of course only fuels the conflagration.

Always remember, other people’s views, no matter how opinionated, will never define you, but how you react to those views will. So rather than to strongly and immediately react to their opinions, suspend your reaction and judgement and spend some time really listening to them. Furthermore, demonstrate that you are indeed listening by paraphrasing and reflecting back to them what you have heard.

As an example, suppose that Uncle Jack is enthusiastically engaged in a monologue about how government regulation is necessary to protect consumers, and about how government benefit programs are always a good thing to protect those who are struggling.

No matter how strongly you might disagree, resist the urge to react and attack, and instead show him that you are listening and taking him seriously.

You might say something like: “So if I understand you correctly, Uncle Jack, you see the protecting of consumers and people who are struggling, as a primary function and responsibility of government - is that correct?”

You have now demonstrated that you have listened to him, understood him and are taking him seriously. (Note that this does not mean that you agree with him. Understanding someone is not tantamount to agreeing to them at all. As such, demonstrating an understanding is a valuable concession which costs you nothing). 
Practice Constructive Curiosity
Another powerful strategy to manage these potentially volatile conversations and emotionally charged situations effectively, is to exercise a constructive curiosity.

Once you have shown them that you are taking them seriously, ask some clarifying questions – not in a challenging or interrogative way – but out of genuine and authentic curiosity. This will expand the conversation in a productive way and help to direct it towards a conversation rather than a confrontation.

After having successfully demonstrated that you have understood Uncle Jack, albeit not having agreed with him, you might follow up with some clarifying questions.

You might say: “So understanding the importance you place on the government’s responsibility to protect consumers and those who are struggling, what other responsibilities and functions do you perceive for government?”

This will engage him in a productive dialogue which will allow him to further feel heard and understood. Rather than escalating the situation, this will help to quell any potential clash while you appear to be the hero!
Share Your Views
When people really feel heard, understood, respected, and that they are taken seriously, they become very much more receptive to listen to the view of others. 

Once you have shown that you are taking them seriously and you have exercised constructive curiosity, you can share your point of view. Make sure though that you present it as a point of view and not the point of view – they have no obligation to see it your way and you do not need to persuade and influence them to agree with you.

You might then continue your conversation with Uncle Jack: “Having understood your ideas about government functions and responsibilities (an understanding which you have by now credibly demonstrated) would it be alright if I shared some of my thinking on the subject?”

After his affirmative response you can suggest: “The concern I have with government regulation is over -regulation which could stifle innovation and progress, and all the benefits programs could foster dependence and undermine incentive to work, which could eventually impact the economy. What are your thoughts about that?”

By using these strategies, you have successfully transformed a potentially volatile situation into a friendly, stimulating and respectful conversation.

You have also practiced effective negotiation skills, because in every negotiation, parties also come to the table with different perceptions, values, beliefs, concerns and fears. Rather than resist, defend and attack, you now have the strategies and techniques to navigate them constructively which can only advance the negotiations and bring them to a mutually satisfying conclusion.
Lessons Learned
  • Be aware that family gatherings can quickly become the perfect storm for clashes, conflicts and flare-ups.
  • Use the opportunity to practice and refine your skills so as to manage these potentially volatile conversations and emotionally charged situations effectively, constructively, with grace and with poise.
  • Other people’s views, no matter how opinionated, will never define you, but how you react to those views will.
  • When you hear an opinion that you strongly disagree with, resist the urge to react and viciously attack the “culprit”.
  • Rather than to strongly and immediately react to their opinions, suspend your reaction and judgement and spend some time really listening to them. 
  • Exercise a constructive curiosity, by asking some clarifying questions – not in a challenging or interrogative way – but out of genuine and authentic curiosity.
  • When people feel heard, understood, respected, and that they are taken seriously, they become more receptive to listen to the view of others. 
  • Once you have shown that you are taking them seriously and you have exercised constructive curiosity, you can share your point of view.
  • Make sure that you present it as a point of view and not the point of view
Lapin Negotiation Services 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.
Learn more about Raphael Lapin's book, "Working with Difficult People" by clicking on the image above
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