We all fear conflict, we fear rejection, we fear ridicule. In negotiation, conflict is inevitable and trying to avoid it could hinder your ability to reach your desired outcome.
In a recent episode of Negotiations Ninja, I talked with Matthias Schranner, former hostage negotiator and founder of the Schranner Negotiation Institute, about conflict in negotiations. Matthias says the biggest mistake in business negotiation is the avoidance of deadlock scenarios forcing compromise and postponed decisions.
Starting a negotiation with the conflict, or allowing your deadlock situation, means that both parties are being upfront about their desired outcomes. If you aren’t upfront, if there is no conflict, it means you probably aren’t going to get what you wanted out of the negotiation; you’re giving in.
In business, there could be many reasons why you don’t want to reach that point of conflict, but one of the main ones is relationships. It’s important to maintain business relationships, and we often sacrifice what we want to ensure we don’t damage the relationship. Matthias says to send the person into the room who has no stake in the relationship. In a company, often the person with the best relationship to the opposing party will be sent into the negotiation, likely in hopes that the relationship will help the negotiation go smoothly, but that isn’t the case. That relationship will stop each party from putting the conflict on the table. Where there is a conflict, it’s important to send someone who does not have a relationship with the other party.
The commander, as Matthias termed him/her, should be out of the room but, ultimately, making the decisions and creating the strategy in the background. This person is typically the CEO of the company and needs to ensure they can maintain their relationships once the negotiation is complete, without any dirt on their hands. This might be a difficult position for your CEO to take, but an important one.
In being upfront with the conflict, it’s important to be respectful. Matthias said that your high demands won’t ruin the relationship, but your disrespectful tone may. When under stress or pressure, a lot of people speak in a disrespectful way: using tricks, unfair tactics, or threats. It’s important to be respectfully demanding.
Go into a negotiation with the conflict upfront. Address the conflict first, put your demands on the table, and focus your negotiation on your actual outcome. Ensure you maintain your relationships by sending people into the negotiation who don’t have a stake in the relationship, and ensure you maintain a high level of respect throughout.
To hear my conversation with Matthias Schranner, subscribe and listen to the Negotiations Ninja podcast.