Posts Tagged ‘Being positive’

Beyond Black and White

Friday, January 14th, 2011

A few weeks ago I got a call from a friend asking for advice. She had just been offered a job she very much wanted, but she had a conflict with the starting date. The employer had told her to report in on January 3. However, she was spending the holidays with her family on the other side of the ocean and had a non-refundable ticket to return to the US only the following weekend. Should she agree to start on the 3rd or not?  “I could come back earlier, “ she said, “but that would mean buying a new ticket, which I can barely afford, plus missing my Mom’s 60th birthday party, which is a major event for our whole family.” The other option was to tell the employer she couldn’t start until a week later, but she worried that that would give her employer a bad impression of her seriousness, starting off her new job on the wrong foot.

My friend had fallen into the common trap of binary thinking—that is, thinking the only responses to an offer are yes or no. Either she could start on the set date or she couldn’t. Or, as she played it out in her mind, either she could fly back early, missing her family event, or she could show up to work a week late, raising questions about her commitment to the new job.

In fact, there were other options, had she only broadened her viewpoint a bit. The trick is to move beyond yes/no to “yes, if” (a more positive take on “no, but”). For example, in this case, the “yes, if” could be “yes, I can start on the 3rd, if I can work remotely for the first week.” After explaining the travel conflict to the employer she would emphasize her desire to get started as soon as possible. Were there any documents she could begin reading now to familiarize herself with the organization and the issues she would be working on so she could hit the ground running when she arrived in person on the 10th? Could she do any projects by email or over the internet? Would they like to have an initial meeting by phone? Were there particular computer programs she should be learning? Even if none of these proved practical, by moving to “yes, if” she would at least demonstrate a much higher commitment to the job than by simply saying no.

I often ask people what color is between black and white. They invariably answer gray. No, I remind them; every color of the spectrum is between black and white. It just depends on the light you shine on it.

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How to Create a Positive Connection

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Some readers of Beyond Dealmaking have said that, although they see the value of building relationships with their business partners, they don’t know how to get started. How do you develop a relationship with someone you may not know well or have only spoken to on the phone? Of course you cannot give complete trust to a stranger, but you can start to build trust by creating a positive connection.

Every relationship, regardless of depth, requires words, attitudes, and behavior that express fellow-feeling. Here is my top-ten list for negotiators:

  • Respect, friendliness, a sense that you like the other person as a human being, not merely as a means, or obstacle, to your end
  • Fairness in distributing and carrying out both responsibilities and benefits
  • Honest, open, and positive communication
  • Care and concern for the other’s well-being, both within and beyond the immediate transaction
  • Empathy and understanding
  • Collaborative efforts toward mutual success
  • Reciprocity, returning favors, responding to trust with trust
  • Open-mindedness, flexibility, and willingness to adapt to different ideas and to changes
  • Appropriate commitment at each stage of the relationship
  • Dependability, maintaining your understandings, and following through with your promises

This may seem to be an overwhelming list, but it’s actually the way we approach normal human relations. Think of even a casual friendship—say with a colleague or neighbor—and you will see that you instinctively follow all of these rules to some extent. You smile and say good morning; you show concern and care when he appears with his arm in a sling; if she offers you a gift of some vegetables from her garden, you share something with her some other time. This is the natural way human beings interact to create smooth and cooperative relationships.

Why then should it be less natural or intelligent to show the same positive manner toward the person on the other side of the negotiation table, whose active collaboration you are pursuing and whose cooperation you will rely on for your own success in carrying out the agreement? Simply stated, it’s not. The grave danger is becoming so focused on the deal that you forget the human being with whom you have to fashion the deal, the person who will say “yes” or “no” to the terms you propose, and the people who will implement any final agreement.

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