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ABILITY

Beware of the woods. The bear has spent his or her life learning to track and kill its prey. Are you his match? Are you able to kill the bear? If not, you may be his guest for dinner.

In negotiations, ability is often measured in one's being able to deliver on the promise he or she is making. One's ability to perform is a benchmark of negotiating credibility.

When any two people meet for the first time, the smart negotiator will take time to learn whether the other person is able to deliver on the promises they are likely to make. Before meeting it is wise to do a little sleuthing to determine what the other party has done in similar situations. If they are promising to purchase a property subject to securing permits and other governmental approvals, it is important that they be experienced with the local authorities and the approval process. While they may have the best of intentions, you may lose the chance to sell to others while this buyer flails around City Hall for months then breaks the contract.

This applies to any negotiation where one party must rely on the performance of another to satisfy the terms of the agreement.

Crossing a rushing stream is easier if you take the time to locate the stones creating a path across the stream before wading into the water.

Knowing when it is time to stop negotiating and accept the terms is an art of timing. If the negotiations have become heated or the parties are settling an argument, emotions need to cool before acceptance can be achieved. If the issue is a business related, one or both of the parties may need to get approval from the home office.

People, being people, will find many reasons not to commit to accepting a proposal. This stalemate can be avoided by breaking the global agreement into small decisions that, collectively, achieve your goal. The process of resolving the easier issues serve to establish an accord between the parties making it easier to accept the complete agreement. You might even use humor to reinforce working together. “See how easy that was?” almost always lightens the mood.

Building trust before asking for acceptance is also necessary. People like to be liked. They like to share stories about themselves. Ask leading, personal questions to establish a rapport. If your integrity or intentions are in question (you may not know that they are), your proposal is likely to be considered suspect before it is read. Take the time to build a personal relationship with the other person before asking him to consider a proposal. Learning to time your negotiations is a discipline that will pay off time and again.

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ACCEPT

Crossing a rushing stream is easier if you take the time to locate the stones creating a path across the stream before wading into the water.

Knowing when it is time to stop negotiating and accept the terms is an art of timing. If the negotiations have become heated or the parties are settling an argument, emotions need to cool before acceptance can be achieved. If the issue is a business related, one or both of the parties may need to get approval from the home office.

People, being people, will find many reasons not to commit to accepting a proposal. This stalemate can be avoided by breaking the global agreement into small decisions that, collectively, achieve your goal. The process of resolving the easier issues serve to establish an accord between the parties making it easier to accept the complete agreement. You might even use humor to reinforce working together. “See how easy that was?” almost always lightens the mood.

Building trust before asking for acceptance is also necessary. People like to be liked. They like to share stories about themselves. Ask leading, personal questions to establish a rapport.

If your integrity or intentions are in question (you may not know that they are), your proposal is likely to be considered suspect before it is read. Take the time to build a personal relationship with the other person before asking him to consider a proposal. Learning to time your negotiations is a discipline that will pay off time and again.



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ADVICE

Before starting on a bareboat charter in Belize, they warn charter captains of a passage known as 'no-stuck-um'. This is a very narrow passage where the shoaling is constantly shifting. They advise the charter captains to motor rather than sail through the passage. This explains why so many charter boats run aground at No-Stuck-Um with their sails hoisted. The challenge is too great to resist, well-advised or not!

It is wise to listen to advise received from any source; wiser still to filter that information to first validate it then to assess the motive of the person giving it. Advice should be considered hearsay until you have confirmed its accuracy. Even the advice of good friends and business affiliates should be suspect until validated.

Well meaning associates may want to impart their knowledge to help you, but if that information is flawed it could mislead you. Remember, the information passed along has been filtered by the other person and may be biased based on their experience. That or things may have changed since they were involved. Even if the other person is a seasoned professional or expert, do not expect them to tell you everything they know about an issue. It is what they are withholding and why that is important. Your job is to uncover omissions and slight misstatements in their comments.

The best way to validate what the other person is saying is to:

• Observe their body language while they are speaking. If they are knowingly misstating the truth look for a slight shaking of the head, avoidance of eye contact, and/or faltering speech patterns.
• Ask a follow up question designed to solicit greater detail to test their actual knowledge of the topic or to get an incongruous response.
• Ask for the supporting data and compare it to your own.
• Compare this response to previous responses for consistency.
• Watch the other person's teammates to see if they give off either surprised looks or other uncomfortable signs.

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AGENDA

Man, unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, has developed a keen ability to lie. When stalking a lion, the hunter can rely on the lion's reactions to be honest and straightforward; if attacked he will strike back with a vengeance.

There are two types of agendas. Agendas can public and set the course of a meeting and those kept hidden and guide the actual progress of the session.

Controlling the meeting agenda is key to controlling a negotiation. Mediators garner their power as they control what happens, when it happens and where it happens. They have the ability to call for caucus sessions, quiz both sides, and dictate certain rules. This often gives them the cloak of authority to get the parties to move toward reconciliation.

Hidden agendas, on the other hand, are what negotiators use to manage the process from an informal position. There are likely many hidden agendas at play during any negotiating session. The primary negotiators and those of the other participants in the room each is likely to have a personal agenda that differs slightly from their own teammates.

For example, on the defendant's team the agendas may include:
• The defendant will have a specific agenda typically denying the infraction and promoting his company's image.
• The defendant's insurance company representative will be looking to mitigate costs without regard to culpability or the company's image.

• The defendant's attorney may be seeking to get the case to trial to enhance his earnings or may be seeking to settle as he knows the weaknesses in his case.
• The defendant's expert witnesses may have any number of hidden agendas in addition to simply stating what they know about the case.

• The defendant, personally, may need to find a way to settle the matter to protect his personal investment in the company or possibly his personal culpability.

So uncovering hidden agendas is an important aspect in any negotiation or mediation. It is the hidden agendas that truly impact how a settlement conference will proceed.

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AGREE

As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. He has to want to take a drink. The parties to any agreement both have to want to sign.

Timing is everything. You can't rush an agreement. But you can prepare the way to reach an accord. Effective mediators and negotiators know this and use the negotiating process to build an arena that promotes agreement.

Human nature being what it is, we all learn by practicing. Getting comfortable with committing is part of achieving a global accord. All too often we try to rush to an agreement and then are bewildered when the other person pulls back at the last minute. The problem is that the other person is subconsciously not ready to agree.

Set the stage to reach a global accord by making it a point to recognize each agreement the parties make during the conversation (AKA negotiation). These agreement opportunities can be as simple as deciding where to meet to selecting a restaurant for a lunch break. They will also apply to small issues within the context of the discussion. These little agreements establish a pattern of cooperation that prepares the parties mentally to accept the final terms.

The goal is to make a give-and-take environment comfortable for everyone. Equally important, doing things to put the other person at ease will engender more sharing of information, a more conciliatory dialogue and pave the way to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.

Unless you contain pre-emptive power and intend to use it, realize that you have the power to do everything but make the other party agree.

Few negotiations are concluded through invoking terror. Those that do would be better referred to as doing combat or battle with one another. In such situations, one side is out to decimate the other with little regard to the damage done in the process. This is an abusive situation and, after the dust settles, the oppressed party will be laying in wait for any excuse to break the contract or simply leave. Fear-based accords are typically short-lived.

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ANGER

Beware of a cornered bear, he will roar ferociously and rear up on his hind legs demonstrating his massive strength. Enraged at being trapped he may lash out unexpectedly, possibly striking a maiming blow.

Anger is a sign of loss of control. It signals someone is about to do something demonstrating real, honest feelings that are seldom masked. Real anger, as opposed to feigned anger, tends to deliver a clear, concise message. Someone has gone too far. The other person is being hurt and, if pressed further, will either strike out destructively or walk away from the negotiation.

Intentionally pressing to invoke anger serves a strategic purpose. By observing anger beginning to rise in another, one can establish the boundaries of what the other person is able to accept.

Conversely, feigning anger is also a negotiating tactic. It signals to the other party that they should not press further. There is a story about a corporate negotiator who used cheap imitation expensive watches to smash on the negotiating table when he wanted to deliver the point that he could go no further. The feigned anger worked because others in the room were too busy watching the pieces of watch scatter across the table to closely observe the person and realize that he was in total control.

Learn to penetrate the facade of such actors to determine their true limits. Look for the non-verbal signs of anger, like flushing, to verify the anger is not staged. Many skilled negotiators are skilled actors. But few can fake a flush of anger.

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ANTAGONIST

Don't feed the sharks if you want to go swimming!

Intentionally irritating another person is usually counter-productive to settling a dispute. The goal is to build relationships upon which agreements can be forged. That being said, the parties to any dispute are essentially antagonists.

When a negotiation is stalemated and no one is really trying to make progress, shifting styles from that of a polite mediator to that of an antagonist can evoke a reaction. Such reactions cause some form of movement in the discussions.

A mediator stymied between two parties may become antagonistic toward one of the parties in private by implying that they are wasting his time by not trying to reach a settlement or not considering facts when they are presented. A healthy tongue lashing in private may serve as a reality check for the obstinate party and evoke a counter proposal.

Similarly, a party to a business transaction, if he does not like the proposal and does not need to make the deal, may invoke the role of a hardened antagonist to save everyone's time. If he is willing to walk away, being abrupt will either save time or cause the other side to improve their offer to keep the dialogue going. Either way, the antagonist has used the power of indifference to change the outcome of the meeting. He still has the choice of returning to the table to negotiate or go play an early round of golf.

But antagonistic tactics can backfire. Egos are fragile things and anger can rage uncontrollably when a person is provoked. Use an antagonistic style or tactic only if you are prepared to walk away from the meeting if things fall apart.

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ANXIETY

Sharks never show anxiety, they sense it. Make sure you have plenty of deodorant when swimming with sharks. They can smell fear!

It is natural to start a negotiation session with some anxiety. First of all, the reason for the negotiation is to settle some form of conflict. Conflict by nature is stressful.

The root of the anxiety is typically the fear of the unknown. Unknown adversary, unknown issues, unknown outcome. The most common negotiations not preceded with some form of anxiety are family altercations that erupt on the spot because of the actions or inactions of one of the family.

Anxiety is a healthy reaction to the negotiating arena. It demonstrates the reality that the outcome is uncertain.

Creating anxiety in a negotiation is a tactic often deployed by negotiators. Introducing new facts, raising pertinent questions and challenging the assumptions can unsettle the other person. Creating doubt helps to open channels of communication allowing for alternative solutions to be tendered. In the business environment many negotiators are not well-trained in their field. To raise ancillary issues can throw them of track and create opportunities. Don't be afraid to expand the discussion around the direct focus to see if there are other issues that might help your cause.

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ARGUING

Arguing is a destructive by-product of human interaction. Between nations, it can lead to war and mayhem. Between couples it can lead to war and divorce.

HOW IS NEGOTIATING DIFFERENT FROM ARGUING?

Arguing or fighting typically has the proponents advanced to the point of trying to obliterate each other by out shouting them. This amounts to screaming over the other's words to the point that nothing is heard. Seeking to overpower the other person may result inthe other person simply walking away from the situation. The result is simple. One side wins, the other is wounded, often mortally.

If you are involved in a marital or family argument, it is important to understand that every person has differing personality traits that impact how they deal with anger. One is the time it takes to get mad and to cool down. Many get made quickly but get over it just as quickly. Others are slow to ignite but simmer for days! A couple needs to learn the "anger" pattern of the other to better understand how he or she will fight when mad. Respect is a key part of any relationship and granting enough time or space for the other party to cool off is part of respecting their needs. To demand the argument end on your timing is to selfishly want things your way and may result in a far greater argument than the original issue. Don't press for a settlement until both parties are ready to agree.

When conflicts between a parent and child or a husband and wife repeatedly escalate beyond control, destructive words and acts often become the norm. This mutual abuse will serve to slowly destroy the relationship. Even though the more powerful parent may prevail, the underlying war will ultimately be lost as the feelings that bind the relationship may eventually die.

In business it is not acceptable to kill one's opponent even though that is often the desired outcome!

Thus business conflict is typically resolved through negotiations. Whether the negotiation is over a building lease or pay raise, the process is the same.

It stands to reason that the most effective negotiators are those with absolute power and the willingness to use it! Effective negotiators know that few have absolute power and work to develop tools and techniques to help them improve their negotiating results.

When managers have or feel they have the ability to demand compliance employees have two choices. When fighting for a raise. They can knuckle under, accept the meager raise, and limit their ability to make a living. Or they can fight back by openly seeking another job. Suddenly the employee has grasped some power. The manager will have to become reasonable or accept the loss of an employee and the cost of finding and training a replacement. In taking the initiative to seek another job, the employee is demonstrating his value on the open market and forcing the company to either acknowledge that value or lose it.

Arguing is not an effective negotiating tool. It is destructive to the relationship between the parties and should be avoided whenever possible.

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ASSUME

The difference between man and beast is that man assumes he is better than the beast. In the wild man is only a match if he has the right equipment, is well trained, and knows the jungle. A camera on safari is no match for a charging rhino!

In every dispute resolution one must assume certain things about the other person in order to make progress. As an example, you may be trying to measure when the other person has reached his limit in the discussion before you make your final concession. How you come to this conclusion must be based in part on an assumption on your part.

To assume is to presume or presuppose. Assume also means to imagine. This is dangerous territory in a negotiation. You need to limit your imagination as much as possible by turning to your communication skills and validating your assumptions. But, better still, you need to minimize your assumptions.

Assume less, listen more:
• Identify what you are assuming before a meeting and, when the meeting starts, ask questions to validate your assumptions.
• Seek third party input to validate an assumption.
• Don't make an assumption about something that can be researched.
• If you don't know, ask. You may be surprised at how open the other person is.
• If the assumption is about a significant issue, don't rely on your gut. Investigate, question, brainstorm, network and research until you can assess the approximate accurateness of your assumption. No one said negotiating is easy.

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ASSUMPTIONS

When using heavy artillery against a grizzly bear, it is normal to shoot long, then short to establish the range and effect of the wind, then β€œwalk” the rounds down until the Grizzly is effectively de-clawed Unless of course, if he is charging. In which case you should fire for effect without delay!

Seldom will you find a beast of prey make an faulty assumption because they take the time to carefully stalk their prey until they know the time is right to strike. Man, on the other hand, eagerly rushes in only to find he forgot to pack his elephant gun too late!

Assumptions are both necessary and dangerous. It is unlikely you will have all of the information you need to make a decisions. So you must fill in the blanks, so to speak. How you do this will determine if you are successful or not in whatever you do.

The best defense against a poor assumption is good preparation. Thorough knowledge of your topic, your goal, your strategies and objectives, your company, yourself, your opponent, his company, and the issues relating to the task at hand is the best way to insure your assumptions are reliable. But we can assume that few have the luxury of such preparation in the day to day environment. So prepare as much as possible then use you knowledge to measure the reaction to your questions and observations. During a casual question and answer session you can refine what you know and what you think with great accuracy if you listen effectively and watch the body language of the other person.

The problem with bad assumptions is that they can lead to bad conclusions. During your preparation identify what you know and what you are assuming to be the case. Then focus you preliminary conversation on validating your assumptions. Many people use the preliminary casual discussion to build a good working relationship or to create a healthy environment within which to negotiate. But they are missing a great opportunity to uncover false assumptions. This should be the third goal of the preliminary conversation.

Conflict is not bad. How people handle conflict may be bad. Conflict is a natural by-product of human interaction. How one handles conflict determines the fullness and satisfaction one can get from his or her existence as part of a society.

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