A lot of us forget about is the cost of conflict, and the cost of not being able to manage conflict effectively. Raphael tells about the inner workings of conflict resolution, dispute resolution, and mediation and arbitration. We get deep into what it takes to manage conflict, how we should manage conflict, and what kind of mechanisms should we put in place so that we can manage conflict effectively in the future.
Guest: Raphael Lapin
Mark: How are you, Raphael?
Raphael: I'm well, thank you Mark, and very happy to be on the show with you. Happy, and actually privileged. I appreciate this time with you, and looking forward to some interesting discussion.
Mark: Yeah, so am I. I think we're going to get into a really good discussion today. For the listeners, the focus of today's discussion is really around law, more than anything else. What are some of the legal things that happen in negotiation, specifically when it comes to conflict and how to manage conflict in a negotiation or post-negotiation? We're going to let the conversation take us where it needs to. It's going to be loose and conversational, as it always is.
I want to get to know Raphael a little bit better. Raphael, maybe we'll just start off with a bit of a personal history, your background, and why you started your practice.
Raphael: Great, okay Mark. I was the youngest of four siblings, so I had to learn how to sort of negotiate and manage conflict from a very, very young age. As I grew older and starting law and getting involved in the real world out there, I became concerned about the legal system, particularly the way we see it played out in the United States, which is an incredibly litigious society. In fact, it reminds me, I was in Copenhagen a few years ago working with European Union, and one of the European lawyers asked me, and they said, "Why is it when we're doing work with Americans, we're trying to make deals with Americans, they walk into the room with an army of lawyers and with reams of contracts?" They couldn't quite understand it. My response to them was, "Well, there's a bit of a difference here between Europeans and Americans. In America, we do business with people even though we don't trust them. Trust is not a prerequisite to necessarily do business. Both very, very tightly, but you don't need trust in America because we work very, very closely with a very, very strong legal language in contracts, and a very strong system to enforce it. In Europe," I said to them, "You guys only do business, or try to do business mostly, with people you trust and you'll try to build that trust beforehand."
In America, because of that fact, I think it's a very litigious society and if there is a breach it goes straight to litgation which is not a great thing. We'll discuss that a little later. When I saw that, I realized that I wanted to be involved in helping people deal with disputes, helping people make negotiations, but in a much more optimal way in which we can resolve our disputes and make deals and negotiate in ways where we are not pitting the relationship against the substance. And we can be respectful and fair in the relationship dealings while still at the same time being very hard on the substantial issues of the negotiation or the dispute resolution. When I started this, this was an emerging field back in the 90's. Mediation was just taking off and looking for alternative to dispute resolution methods was taking off. And it just seemed a perfect fit for me and that's how originally I got involved.
Mark: Awesome. Very, very cool. You know, a lot of the time I get questions from listeners and from clients about what are the most common issues that you see. While that's a great question, there's certainly a number of issues I see on an ongoing basis, but I'd be interested to hear from you. In your practice, what are some of the most common negotiation questions that you get on an ongoing basis?
Raphael: Sometimes people say to me, in fact this happened just yesterday. I get so emotional in negotiations, and I sometimes get angry and I sometimes get upset. Any time that a person feels his vital interests are being threatened, he's going to get emotional. Typically, what happens over there is that if one party gets emotional, it triggers emotion. The other party spirals down into an action-reaction and counter-reaction sort of situation.
So often times, interestingly, I'll be asked, "How can I make sure to go into that negotiation with grace and composure and not be triggered by these sort of hot button triggers that may affect me often and derail the entire negotiation?" So sometimes that's an issue. Another issue and question I get involved in "How can I deal with people that are being unreasonable?" A great one is "How can I make them hear me? How can I make them listen to me?" Which is another great one, and of course the question is based on an entirely wrong premise. Those are the sort of questions that come up very often, very typically, other than being involved in a very specific negotiation, and we're working on substantial details of the particular negotiation and then obviously questions come up related to that.
But in terms of the process, it's usually sort of, "How can I make sure they listen?" "Why are they being so unreasonable?" "Why aren't they agreeing with me?" "Why are they being so unfair?" That sort of thing.
Mark: So how do you answer the question then of "How can I make them hear me?" Because I feel like a lot of the time many people who enter negotiation feel like their argument is based on very clear logic and when they feel like someone isn't listening to them, that's obviously when they get very frustrated. So how do you answer the question of "How can I make them hear me?"
Raphael: So that's a great question, and again, as I sort of alluded to, the answer is counter-intuitive. First of all studies have shown that in normal conversation, typically about 70%, on average, of what the talker is saying, the listener is missing. And the reason the listener is missing that is because he is busy framing his response while the talker is talking.
So I've got to make sure when I'm talking to somebody, that I'm liberating them from trying to think about their response of what they're going to say while I'm talking, because if that's happening, it's a waste of time for me to talk. So for that to happen, I've got to first make sure, before I even begin talking, if I want to really be listened, I've got to first start off the conversation on their side. And say, "Mark, tell me what your initial thoughts on this issue is," and make sure that you feel adequately heard, adequately understood, and I'm using active listening to make sure that you really know I've got you. And then once having understood you, it would make sense for me to share some of my ideas with you. Now you're liberated to listen to me. But until that time, you're too busy thinking about what you're going to say.
So paradoxically, the way to make sure that I'm being heard and I'm being understood, is to first make sure that the other party feels heard and understood as well. Many people are afraid to do that because they think that demonstrating understanding is tantamount to agreeing. And that's not true. I can understand you immaculately, that doesn't mean I agree with you. And in negotiations I'll say to the other party very often "I'm suspending judgment, I have not yet made a decision, but before I can make an informed decision, I need to understand more about what your position is. Please go ahead and try to explain that to me." And I'll spend quite a lot of time on their side while they're doing it. And another reason that's important is because if I say something after I've demonstrated very, very robust understanding of what it is you're saying, you're much more receptive to what I'm saying because you know that I've understood you.
As my mentor, Roger Fisher in Harvard, used to argue cases in the Supreme Court and interesting, when he would argue his cases, Mark, he would start off arguing those cases making the argument of his opposing council. Only thing is, he would argue it more compellingly and more eloquently than his opponents argued it, until the judge would get confused and the judge would say, "Mr. Fisher, whose side are you on?" And Roger would say, "Bear with me, I'm getting there." And having, after demonstrating incredible understanding of the other side, he would then say, "And, your Honor, there's a different way of looking at this as well," and then present his story. Notice though, he didn't say, "but". He said, "and", because "but" is the great eraser. It erases everything that came before it. You're wonderful, you're brilliant, you're gorgeous, but...
So there are many, many advantages too, to make sure that I'm first spending a lot of time on your side, understanding you, demonstrating that understanding. Then I can argue your case better than you can argue it yourself. And then you're much more receptive to listen to me, and that's the real way to get heard.
Mark: I love what you said there, in terms of liberating them to listen to you. I think that's a great way to think of it, because essentially they are prisoner to their own thoughts until you do that.
Raphael: That's right. And people come into negotiations ready to assert their demand. That's one of the big mistakes that people do. They come in and they say, "We demand this, we demand that, this is what we want," and very few people respond positively to that sort of thing. That's why many negotiations go south.
Mark: Yep. Really good advice. And is that the source of conflict, when someone feels they haven't been listened to or understood? Is that ultimately the source of conflict, or what's generally the source of conflict in a negotiation?
Raphael: Mark, that's a very broad question because there are so many sorts of conflict. I'll give you an example from this week, actually. We did a mediation this week. It was quite a complex real estate dispute. Besides me there were seven parties in the room. We actually, in five and a half hours, we actually reached agreements. It was wonderful. Nobody could believe that we reached a really good agreement. Then yesterday the attorneys of one of the parties calls me and they said that the records that they received that showed certain numbers related to the real estate were not accurate. This attorney was ready to go for the jugular. "Our client's pulling out of the deal, he wants this, he wants that, he wants the other, he wants to cut the price off 25%," or whatever it was. So the attorney said, "Should I contact them?" I said, "Don't you dare," because they would have got in... Again, it's an emotional thing. "You crooked us, you cheated us," and that would have unraveled the entire agreement. I said, "Let me deal with this. I'll talk to the other side."
Well, it turns out, Mark, that the records that they provided were actually the wrong records. They were not the most recently updated records. Once we found the correct records, everything was there as it should have been. So there's an example of a potential cause of conflict, which was just a basic misunderstanding. So before we go down that path, we need to make sure that we have the facts that we need and we have the documentation that we need, and it's all accurate. But people jump to conclusions and assumptions, and then they act on those assumptions.
Another more simplistic example of that is where people confuse impact with intent. So because you did something, which impacted me in a hurtful way, I automatically assume that was your intent. So there are many different causes that could trigger conflict and if you know how to deal and manage with conflict, the root cause of what triggered that conflict is less important than the process used to resolve that conflict.
So yesterday, for example, the process that I used was, instead of going to attack the other side, I called the other attorney up and said, "I'm sure there's a misunderstanding here. This is what the other side is claiming. Is there anything we need to clarify?" So I did not pass on the entire message that I got from the first attorney, I just used a very, very detoxified message, and I said, "I'm sure there's a misunderstanding here. What can we do?" And they said, "You know something, I think they must have sent the wrong record." And that took care of the whole problem. So in terms of how we approach it is more important than what the actual cause of it is.
Mark: Yeah. You know, you speak very deeply about the cost of conflict and what the cost of conflict could be in a contract disagreement, especially when it comes to ambiguous terms and conditions. So for example, if you've already executed on an agreement, and generally in my experience there's always something that may be ambiguous in an agreement after the fact, and let's just say, for example, parties change, and it's no longer the same party that's managing the agreement that executed it, so the intention isn't fully understood. What is the cost of conflict in a contract disagreement after a contract has already been executed?
Raphael: When something goes wrong, and there is a perceived breach of contract, shall we say. Again, people jump to conclusions and immediately suspect that that guy's a cheat. "He's not been honest with me. I can't trust him," and immediately jump to that conclusion. And that becomes an emotional reaction, which typically triggers a call to your lawyer or to your in-house council, and say "We've got to file a lawsuit." Once you file a lawsuit, again, you're going down that path where there's going to be an action and reaction, because you've filed the lawsuit, the other side is going to become highly defensive, and before you know it, you're already in a protracted legal battle. I don't have to tell how costly a legal battle is. And it's not only in terms of financial costs, economic costs, it's cost in derailing productivity, it's a cost in psychological costs, it's a cost in time, going through depositions trying to find all the necessary documents that one needs to support evidence, and so on.
And you know, fighting a legal battle typically takes a couple years until it actually goes to trial, and at the end, as you know, 90% are going to settle in trial. Sorry, most of them don't go to trial. Most of them settle on the courthouse steps. So we don't try to sort of sit down and negotiate our differences, we go straight to battle. Imagine if that was the case in international diplomacy, where diplomacy didn't work, and any time there was a slight misunderstanding between countries, they would immediately go to war. So, that's basically the social equivalent of how people go straight to litigation without using any diplomatic efforts. And the cost of those are absolutely enormous in so many different ways, and that's one of the reasons that I find passion in my work, because we are able to save people so much in terms of resolution, that not only keeps them out of court, but very, very often, actually keeps the working relationship.
We've done resolutions, mediations and negotiations where there's a bit of dispute, but at the end of the day the parties continue doing business together.
Mark: Good advice. So is there something that people can do... It seems to be a very reactionary response when we get into that state, that emotional state, when it comes to, you know, "You've breached and now I'm really upset, so we're going straight to litigation." Is there something that people can do to think about or habits to develop in order to avoid getting into that emotional state or that mental state of reactionary approach?
Raphael: Yes. We always tell our clients that we're working with, that in negotiations it's much more important to keep the other party off the defensive, not to make them defensive. We can accomplish a lot more when they aren't being defensive. I think that's got to be the initial point when we are approaching the other side of who we maybe suspect have breached a contract, is not to call them up or send a lawsuit and say, "Okay you guys have breached the contract. We can no longer trust you," but to approach it from a more diplomatic side. Now again, say, "I'm sure there's been some sort of misunderstanding here. We've noticed this, we've noticed that. What ideas do you have in terms of how we might deal with this?" I find many, many times, when we approach it in that way, it opens up some productive discussions, some productive conversations.
People, at their core, for the most part, Mark, are reasonable, rational people, but they do become raving lunatics when their vital interests are being threatened or when they are being accused where they don't feel the accusations are appropriate or accurate. That's when people sort of become defensive and that's when they become lunatics. But people at their core are rational, logical people with whom one can reason.
I don't know if you're aware of my book, Working With Difficult People, but in the book I make the point that when I'm dealing with a difficult person, the first question that I ask myself is, "What am I doing that's enabling them and allowing them to be difficult, and what new ingredient can I mix into a personal dynamic with them that could change that?" because, they're difficult from my perspective. If you ask their friends or you ask their spouse or you ask their families, "Is this a difficult person? Is it a pathologically difficult person?" They'll say "I don't know what you're talking about." They are difficult in this situation, and I can control that.
Mark: Interesting. What do you think that people can do, given that there's conlfict... Ultimately there's always going to be... Doesn't have to be always, but there's often conflict in contract negotiations or breach of contract discussions. What can people do to avoid conflict in those discussions? I mean, we speak about the whole dispute resolution process. Should we be including that dispute resolution process and that language in our agreements so that if we get to a point of conflict, we have a process to follow that is able to force people out of that emotional state into a process they can follow to help them through that dispute resolution?
Raphael: You know, Mark, I'm a very, very big advocate of ADR clauses in contracts, and the reason is, it's much easier for us to talk about potential conflicts and how we're going to deal with it before we become embroiled in it. Once you're embroiled in the conflict, you know that's when people don't see quite things quite as rationally, necessarily, particularly if there's sort of attack and counter-attack. So it's certainly much more productive and easier to talk about what we will do in a situation of conflict before that conflict actually arises, and then to make sure that those processes are set into place.
And there are many different ways that these alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, clauses can be structured, tailored to the particular situation. We've done some useful ones ourselves and actually seen them be implemented when some dispute that later on did arise. The idea of an ADR clause is essentially to retard the litigation process or to eliminate it completely through arbitration, which one has to be careful about, because as you probably know, arbitration, at least in the U.S. can't be appealed. At least on very limited basis can it be appealed. Nevertheless, many ADR clauses will stipulate arbitration, so if we have a method built into our contract that we both agree essentially that if we do reach a point where there is a dispute over something, we will make sure we resolve it and use litigation as a very, very last resort. Just that clause in a contract can save those companies a lot of money, when and if ultimately there is some dispute over a contract, which does happen many times, as you know.
Mark: Yeah. I find the importance of having a dispute resolution clause in the agreement cannot be understated. I feel like there's been enough situations that I've been in where we've fully realized that it's significantly less costly to come to some sort of business solution as opposed to some sort of a legal solution, and it's certainly going to be better on the relationship, I find, if we have those clauses in place.
Raphael: That's right. You know, you mentioned this difference between the legal side with the solution side. It's actually interesting because I did a mediation not long ago where... It's a fascinating mediation of laws... You know, that's what I enjoy about mediation, because... When you work the process, it just works like magic. It's amazing.
This was also a major business dispute, and the lawyers came in with the clients and the lawyers started arguing the law. You know, I let that happen. My thinking was, there had to be some had to be some doubt and dissonance brought into that room, with each attorney realizing there's another argument here, and how might the judge look at that? Because until that happens, each attorney thinks he has a watertight case and it's only when the attorneys and clients hear the other side's case, they start asking, now I might turn to one of the attorneys and say, "Let's imagine that it's six months down the road, a year down the road, two years down the road, and you've lost this case. What possible reason would you be able to think of as to why you might lose?" And that often times generates some interesting discussions for some doubt and dissonance in there.
My point is that as long this discussion was happening... It happened for about an hour and a half in this particular mediation, the mediation was not going nowhere. We could have gone like that for three days and no resolution would have ever happened. But I had to allow that to happen, as I say, just to allow some doubt and dissonance to be introduced into that room. And then what I did was, I shifted it away completely from the legal side and started going and trying to understand what the needs of the parties were, what were the concerns of the parties, and some fascinating information came out that was a revelation to me, which is what typically unlocks the negotiation, when you find those little nuggets of revelations. And then, from that point, we were able to resolve it. So you know, arguing the legal strengths and weaknesses of the case typically doesn't resolve an issue in negotiation or in mediation.
Mark: Yeah. I fully agree with you. I think the more we can try and maintain that sort of rational outlook instead of responding with the immediate legal response, it's only going to benefit us in the future.
Raphael: That's right. And the legal response will stifle and inhibit any creative thinking. So you've got to move out of that legal argument arena to start looking for the creativity in the negotiation and the resolution. You know, I love to tell the story, which I'm sure you might have heard about the Arab Sheik that had 17 camels. Did you ever hear that story?
Mark: No I haven't.
Raphael: So he writes in his will an interesting division. You know in some of those cultures, the oldest son obviously has certain rights over the other sons, and so on. There's a certain hierarchy over there. So he decides to leave the oldest son one half of his camels. He wants to leave his second son a third of his camels, and he wants to leave his youngest son one ninth of his camels. Now of course, the problem is seventeen isn't divisible by nine, three, or two.
So, they go to a mediator to resolve this issue, and the mediator immediately sees the problem. How are we going to divide seventeen camels by a half, a third, and a ninth? The mediator asks them if they happen to have a neighbor who might have a camel and they said, yes, we do. The mediator says, "Well, go borrow a camel from him. We'll make sure to get it back to him before nightfall this evening. And bring it here." So the brothers go off and they go to the neighbor and they borrow this camel and they bring the camel back to where the mediator is, and now they've got the seventeen plus the borrowed one so now there's all together eighteen camels sitting there.
So the mediator says, let's start dividing, and he gives half the camels to the oldest son. Well, half of eighteen is nine. Then he says, "Okay, we've got to give a third of the camels to the second son." A third of eighteen is six. So nine and six is fifteen. And then he says, "We have to give a ninth of the camels to the youngest son." One ninth of eighteen is two. So if you add that up, you've got nine plus six is fifteen, plus two is seventeen, and now they have the eighteenth camel left over that they can return to their original owner, and they've resolved the problem very creatively.
In negotiations and mediations, what I always like to speak about and look for is that proverbial eighteenth camel, that little creative idea, or that bit of information, or whatever it happens to be that just unlocks the negotiation and allows us to move forward. And you see this with negotiations time and time again. I was recently in a mediation where, again, the dispute seemed to everybody to be intractable. Nobody thought this would settle. I heard one thing, it was a small sentence embedded in a whole diatribe of information. I was listening very carefully, and I took that one sentence, and took it out and captured it and fed it back to them and started digging into that issue, and that opened up and unlocked that entire negotiation, which led to resolution.
You always want to make sure to be looking for that eighteenth camel in negotiations. When you're involved in legal posturing and legal arguments, that inhibits us and that prevents us from seeing that eighteenth camel.
Mark: Great story. I think there's a lot to be learned from listening. I mean, the piece of advice that I get and the listeners get over and over and over again on this show, it seems to keep popping up, is listen. Like, actively listen. Shut your mouth, don't do anything else. Just listen to what the other party is saying, and in that process, you'll be able to uncover a significant amount more information than if you're thinking about your response to what the person is saying.
Raphael: Or worse, asserting your position.
Mark: Yes, or worse, asserting your position. So actually listen to what the other party is saying, and if that means that you stop what you're doing and write down what the other party is saying so that you can actively listen and lean in, then you're going to get a much, much better response.
Raphael: And not only that, actually, Mark, it goes even beyond that. And that is, that paradoxically you are far more in control of any conversation, far more in control, when you're listening and asking clarifying questions as opposed to when you're trying to speak and assert your position and demands. You are so much more in control of the conversation because you can funnel that conversation. And when you speak about listening, obviously active listening is a very, very component of that, and advanced active listening goes beyond just summarizing and paraphrasing back but it goes to reframing.
Say somebody says, for example, to me, "Well, we just don't trust your ability to deliver." Okay. That in itself is a threatening and contaminated statement because nobody likes to be accused of not being trustworthy.
Raphael: But if you know how to listen, you're able to use your active listening to reframe. And I would say, "Mark, so let me understand clearly here. If I understand you correctly, you see some value in this proposal but you have a concern as to how we might fulfill and deliver. Is that accurate?" So I've used my active listening now to reframe your contaminated term of "We don't trust you" to a much more problem-solving oriented word of "You have a concern." So when you're using your active listening and clarifying questions, you are able to direct and funnel that conversation and control that conversation as to where it's going.
Mark: Yeah, we don't give enough credence to listening, I think. We don't give enough importance to the power of listening and asking good questions. It certainly seems to be the basis of significant negotiation.
Raphael: It does. And the other thing it does... Listening does many things, like a multi-purpose tool. The other thing that it does, Mark, is that I can't begin to resolve an issue with you unless you know that I'm taking you seriously. If you don't feel I'm taking you seriously or the issue seriously, you're not going to engage with me in problem solving. So when I'm listening to you and I'm actively listening to you and I'm demonstrating to you that I'm understanding you, that tells you and that demonstrates to you that I'm really taking you seriously here.
Mark: Right. I totally agree with you. Raphael, if you were going to give advice to the listeners, maybe top three things on negotiation that you think that people need to think about when it comes to negotiation, what would you tell them?
Raphael: First a preparation mark. Many of us don't prepare for a negotiation, not because we don't understand it's importance, but rather because we don't have a process of or a methodology of how to prepare. I mean, you can't prepare a script because you don't know where that script is going to go. You might prepare a script to blow their socks off, and they walk in wearing sandals without socks and then what do you do? So you can't prepare a script, so most people don't have a methodology how to prepare.
The other thing that I think people neglect to do, which is very, very important, is they are way too focused on their own needs and positions. And in preparation, what we always work with our clients is when we are working on preparing for a complex, difficult negotiation, we spend a lot of time on trying to understand, what are the interests of the other side? What are the needs and concerns of the other side? If they don't reach an agreement, what is the best alternative they could possibly do? And how could we make that alternative less attract and appealing to them?
So we've got to spend a lot of time in preparation. Typically, in preparation, we'll do 25% on our side and 75% trying to anticipate and understand what are the other side's needs, what are the concerns, what are the perceptions? That when we come into the negotiation, we are coming in understanding their mindset because if we want to change somebody's mind, we've got to understand where the mind is at.
And we've sometimes done some very, very interesting exercises in preparation with executives where we do what is called the role reversal exercise. So I make them sit in a chair and I say, "Okay, you are not going to be you. You're not the CEO of this company. You are going to be the party who you are negotiating with. I'm going to be you." And I make him argue the other party's case. And suddenly a light bulb goes on and he says, "You know, now I'm understanding why they're not agreeing to us. It doesn't make sense. It's crazy." So I said, "Now we have to re-craft the proposal in a way that doesn't seem crazy."
So preparation is really, really important. The second thing that I think you mentioned is the listening. And we spoke about it and we both agree how vital and crucial that is in a negotiation. And the other thing that's interesting, Mark, and that is the concept of disagreeing and being disagreeable are not the same thing. I can disagree with you, I can have an argument with you, but I can still not be disagreeable.
And I think being in a negotiation and putting the other side at ease and making the other side feel respected, feeling as being fairly treated, feeling that is an active participant and a partner in crafting a solution over here, I think all those things are very, very important because that sets the stage for a productive collaborative engagement in negotiations.
Many people come into a negotiation having the answer already decided. $500,000, that's all I'll take. That isn't what negotiation is. Negotiation is understanding what interests need to be met. And in going through that negotiation and saying "These are our interests and these are your interests, now we have to go together to come up with ideas that could meet both our interests. And that could go anywhere. We don't yet know what those might look like." But many people come into a negotiation purely from their standpoint and their perception space and with their answers already decided, and they see a negotiation as, is how can I beat them into submission?
Mark: Good advice. Really good advice. Raphael, if you've listened to the show, you know that we learn a lot about the experience of others, mainly from what they've told us, but also from a story of failure that they're willing to share. So I'm hoping, if you're comfortable, if you could share a story of failure that you've had in a negotiation, what was the failure, what did you learn from it, and what would you do differently today?
Raphael: That's a good question, Mark. Obviously my first response is to say, "Well, we've never had failures." But I've lately been working, ever since Brene Brown's come out with her vulnerability TED talks, that have made a huge impact, I think, on the world at large, I've been working on vulnerability, so of course that let me acknowledge that of course I've had failures. One failure that I'm sort of thinking about is it was also a mediation that we did, but in the mediation we didn't... You know I never leave a mediation until we've got a signed agreement, you know, if there is an agreement. But we left loose ends on that one. We didn't tighten it up sufficiently in actual negotiation, and after that, one of the parties started reneging and pulling back and changing terms, and that sort of thing.
What I learned from that was a couple of things. First of all, not to rush people into agreeing to commitments. When you've been in a mediation for eight hours, you're kind of at the point that you want to sort of get there already, but ever since that's happened, at the end, when we've reached agreement, I make quite sure that every clause that's written out in whatever they've agreed to is read aloud to all the parties and that everybody agrees 100% on that to make sure that there's full total agreement and commitment in the negotiation. When we try to rush commitment, we try to rush agreement, those are times when things start falling apart.
So I think, in failure, that was one case of failure where I may have sort of rushed to agreement a little bit too quickly, and that caused the agreement to unravel later on. As a result of that, I'm now very, very careful not to rush to agreements, to retard that process, and to allow it to happen at its own pace, that when we finally do sign an agreement, that's an agreement with which everybody feels very comfortable with and everybody feels they've been an equal and active participant in designing and crafting. So certainly that's something that I've learned from the failure.
The other aspect is when things do get emotional. You know, if you don't manage those emotions, well you can't neglect them. You can't ignore them. Emotions in that room need to be managed, they need to be dealt with. The worst thing you could say to somebody if they're getting emotional is "Calm down." You know that will just drive them completely crazy. So if emotions are happening, again, knowing how to deal with those emotions are really, really important because otherwise one party is going to walk out of that room. And once they do walk out of the room, it's not that you can't bring it back but it becomes more complicated, it becomes more difficult and it creates a whole different layer of complexity. So certainly we've had negotiations derail when emotions have not been appropriately managed.
So now if people do get emotional, I allow them to vent. Again, I listen actively. I'll use active listening to reframe. Say if somebody sort of says to me as an example, "Well we've heard that you generate unanticipated costs and you never finish projects on time," okay, that sort of thing. So I'll use active listening to reframe that. I'll never use active listening to reinforce the negative. And say, for example, "Oh, you feel that our costs are unjustified." I'll never use that. I'll reframe that in terms of future need, and say something like, "If I understand you correctly, what's important to you is a relationship in which costs are always anticipate that I'm transparent, in which projects are finished on time. That's the kind of relationship you are looking for, right?" So I've reframed it from past accusations to future needs and dealing with those sort of attacks in that sort of way. I've learned to do that very, very effectively and efficiently there, as in past times I might have got a little defensive in that sort of situation.
So typically those, I think, are what comes to mind in terms of the kinds of failures that I have experienced.
Mark: That's a great nugget of information in terms of reframing the negative into future needs.
Raphael: Yeah, never reinforce the negative. If someone says, "Raphael, I think you're a fool." I'm not going to say, "Oh, so you think I'm stupid, right?" I might say something, you know, "It sounds to me like you feel I fell a little short of the mark and I'd like to know more about that." But never reinforce the negative.
Mark: Awesome. Great advice. Raphael, I've really enjoyed having you here today and I'd love to have you come on again, actually. It seems as though you have a very unique understanding between the differences between maybe European cultures and North American cultures, specifically the U.S. and Canada, and how they negotiate, and I think it would be really interesting for the listeners to get a good understanding of how differently those cultures negotiate, what's similar, what's different, and how can we learn more from the other party, so to speak, in terms of how to better understand them, how to negotiate better with them. I think that would be a really interesting show. Would you be open to that?
Raphael: Yes, of course. There are so many difference that many Americans are not... The subtleties of it, many Americans are not familiar. And Mark, my background in negotiation is Harvard, and I think what Harvard has done brilliantly is they have developed a process in negotiation that transcends, for the most part... Now there are the cultural differences, but for the most part transcends cultural and personal differences and goes down to the very core of human commonality. Because as humans, we all share certain things in common. We all want to be treated fairly. We all want to be treated with respect. We all want to preserve our dignity. We all want to look good to our bosses. There are certain things that go down to the very core of human commonality. So there's many things, and the process of negotiation, this particular process, goes down to that core, and yet there are also differences, which we sort of touched on.
Mark: Awesome. Well again, thank you so much for joining me. If people want to find out more about you and what you're up to, how do they do that?
Raphael: So you know, my website is www.lapinnegotiationservices.com. That's my last name, Lapin, and then a second "n" for negotiation, lapinnegotiationservices.com, and I'll tell you something else, Mark. We send out a monthly newsletter. Its not a monthly newsletter, it's a column that will deal with different aspects of negotiation, and we've got a whole archive there on our monthly column page and also on our blog page. It deals with things like BREXIT, it deals with things like NAFTA, uses those negotiations to extract lessons from. It deals with also some other things. The most recent column that went up there was called Negotiating Without Trust. Can we negotiate without trust? So there's fascinating articles there everybody can access. There's no membership or passwords to look up. So please feel free to browse around our blog and around our archive of monthly columns on the website, which is lapinnegotiationservices.com.
Mark: Wonderful. Fantastic. Well Raphael, thank you so much for joining me once again. I look forward to doing this in the future.
Raphael: Mark, it's been a pleasure. It's been an absolute pleasure and in Afrikaans as we say totsiens.
Mark: Yes. And for the listeners who don't understand Afrikaans, you can call me later and we'll have a conversation about that. Thanks so much again, Raphael. Have a wonderful day.
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