The number of negotiations that we need to do has increased. A revolution of negotiation is happening in all countries worldwide. For us to live in society, we as individuals, organizations, communities and countries are increasingly using negotiation to achieve a solution. This revolution has a deep impact on our lives, especially in our relationships and the safety of our world. And frequently we are not able to achieve the best results. Just look around and see how polarized the world is today. In major negotiations in politics around the world in 2016 and 2017, such as the elections in Brazil, in the United States, and the referendums in Europe, the outcomes came as a result of decisions based on fear. Fear of damage and of “losing.” Understanding the importance of negotiating in a pleasant way goes beyond the political scene, it’s in our daily life. From morning to night, we negotiate all the time with our family, children, friends, spouses, co-workers, bosses, customers, and ourselves.
For a calmer life and a better world, how are we humans going to deal with our deepest differences? How are we going to learn how to negotiate? WilliamA Ury defines negotiation in a simple way: it’s the communication between two parties who seek an agreement, usually based on a common interest (for example peace or relationship) or private interests (one’s own intention).
To get to yes, imagine that you have to enter three rooms of a house, and that you need three different keys to open each room:
William chose the balcony as the metaphor for this stage because it is a place of perspective, from which we can see things better and observe what is really happening. Up there, we meet our biggest opponent in any negotiation: ourselves. What happens is that, in order to get a yes from the other, first we have to get a yes inside. This is not an easy task. After all, we are usually between two states: either we are afraid and anxious or we are distracted and indifferent. In this first stage of negotiation, we should find a balance between these two extremes, what psychology calls the window of tolerance, the ideal point at which we can think and feel at the same time, empathizing with others, and where we can set proper limits without acting on impulse or driven by any wrong motivation.
In order to become our greatest allies, we should find the basis for a successful negotiation, which is nothing more than our purpose in such a negotiation, in the first place. We should ask ourselves: “At the end of this negotiation what will be my prize?” and “What’s really important here?” This key purpose is individual and it’s usually one that we can summarize in a single word that comes from the heart, and not with a number of concrete goals that our consciousness presents as obvious answers.
The second stage is directly related to our ability to listen, our ability to approach the other person in our negotiation and understand what he/she is thinking and feeling in this negotiation. If, in a negotiation, we usually try to make the other person change his/her mind, how can we do that if we don’t really know his/her ideas?
Listening is the best way to show respect for someone – and respect is the cheapest concession we can make in a negotiation. Proper listening is not just about listening to words, but about listening between the lines, what lies behind what the other person says. Behind a sentence, what is he/she feeling? What is he/she not saying? What is he/she thinking? Of course, we can only have a quiet mind to get to this room after we unlocked that yes in the previous stage and clarify our own thoughts and objectives in the negotiation in question. Many times, at this stage, you may even find that the key purpose of that person is the same as yours, which increases the empathy during the process and can make decisions easier.
Finally, after listening to yourself and the other person, you need to go back to the negotiation, to the problem that you and the other party are facing. It is time to exercise the greatest power in negotiation: the power to reformulate. It’s not about reformulating the other person’s ideas, but the way we see the situation and choose our options in it. Unfortunately, we tend to consider a negotiation as a game in which we have only two choices: win or lose. But we have more options and power to choose in our own lives than we believe. A winning negotiation is one in which we change our mindset to explore and analyze multiple possibilities.
Life is too short to be in constant conflict, many of them imposed by ourselves and without questioning. When we change our mindset, and realize that every negotiation is not just about who wins or who loses, and within it has much more than we’ve been trained to see, we can always get to yes together. And a yes that is much better than before, for everyone is involved – especially our deeper self.
If we all see the universe as a hostile place, we will also become hostile – and we will eventually change the universe into a hostile place indeed. However, if we decide otherwise, the same logic applies. The decision to see the universe as a friendly, joyful place full of possibilities and understanding is ours. Let’s try together.