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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Turning Negotiations into Win-Win Situations


The world of negotiations requires subtle use of verbal and body language to effectively meet objectives. According to a paper by Yuxian Zhang (2013) negotiations is a process of coming to mutual benefit and reducing borders between sides. What we say and how we say it can impact the success of getting people to understand our point of view. Negotiations are all about sharing perspective and understanding each other’s needs. 

Language is the primary method of negotiating in business. A famous negotiator by the name of Cohen Herbert argues that negotiation is not about “winning by defeating the other party, but winning by getting what both parties want”. This is not possible if the language doesn’t draw people into a shared perspective. 

Robin Lakoff argues that there are three main principles in social linguistics that help to create politeness and shared perspective that are beneficial in negotiations:

-Don’t impost your beliefs or rewrite the affairs of others.
-Provide options and choices and let the other decide what to do.
-Treat each other with fairness and respect to create equality in the relationship.

The key is to understand others and ensure they understand you. It is more possible to do so when the negotiation environment is not testy or confrontational which closes down people’s openness to the perspective of other. To do this well requires the use of verbal and non-verbal cues. 

Verbal cues are often rooted in our word choices and verbs. Saying things like “you must” or “you are” keep the finger pointed in the other direction while works like “we are” or “we should consider” draw both sides into a shared perspective. Non-verbal cues are the facial expressions, clothing, environment, and body language that contribute to the perceived truthfulness and intent of other party. 

The impressions may be as subtle as a simple look or a brief impression. According to a Spanish philosopher by the name of Autauga, “the speaker’s eyes can tell you their inner world”.  When people are trying to interpret a message they often look for other clues even though they may not be wholly aware of them on a conscious level. Yet each impression they receive impacts the meaning of the total message. 

Moving beyond this report there is an important concept of perspective taking that makes its way throughout the entire negotiation process.  If a person cannot mentally reverse themselves and see the world through the opposing side’s view they will not be able to see their perspective nor find the right words that help them come to the same conclusions. It is nearly impossible without the use of pure force to come to a mutual understanding if there is no ability to walk in another person’s moccasins. 

Read about how communication creates higher shared cognitive models HERE

Zhang, Y. (2013). The politeness principles in business negotiation. Cross-cultural communication, 9 (4).

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