Friday, December 30, 2016

Studying the Art of Negotiation

The last two weeks of the year provide an opportunity for thought, for summing up, for planning ahead, for asking benediction for the future.

So, I have been thinking and preparing.  And I have been making an effort to assess some skills while learning other things.....thus, I have been spending time at a certain sales message board, both answering and asking.  It has been eye-opening.    And it has also made me feel very sad. 

There are some very simple things I know so well that it's second nature to me, and it surprises me when others haven't got a clue--things like how to respond with kindness, things like good customer service.

The way I like things to be:
     Answer nicely when someone in distress asks a serious question; try to help them to help themselves as much as you are able; admit when you don't know.
The way things seem to go online:
     Take every opportunity to make others look like a fool; talk down to them despicably and grind them down as far as you can; invite others to join in the carnage.

Sorry but I just don't understand the latter. 
Why is behavior like that necessary?

Perhaps it is because of responses such as I have just mentioned that people now seem to see the simplest of matters as a battlefield, so they go in with all guns blazing without getting the lay of the land first.  And I wonder, really wonder, about one vital fact:  if brutal attack is your default position, what do you have in reserve for back up?  There can't be anything if you've used all your ammo in the initial salvo.  That isn't how to negotiate at all.

I was fortunate in being able to take some college classes that I thought at the time would have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anything I would ever have to deal with in real life:  labor legislation and arbitration.  Yeah, I still have no interest in that field; never did.  But the classes were the only things available that fitted into my schedule at the time, and I needed the hours.  Unexpectedly, those classes have had a lasting impact that have made a difference in my life.  

It isn't so much what we study but the act of studying itself that informs us when we reflect upon what we have learned.  This is a vital fact, folks; so please remember this always because most people have the wrong end of the stick entirely on what study is for:
A good education does not teach you WHAT to think;
it teaches you HOW to think.

Those classes both involved role playing in hammering out a deal between union and management.  By some quirk, I was chosen as leader of the management team during the first semester and as leader of the union team in the second semester.  It was fascinating to see the give and take that both sides had to make; to understand that each had a power which the other did not; to become aware that each needed the other in order to make matters fully whole. 

Here's the most important fact I learned about negotiation:
In a truly workable compromise,
neither side will be truly happy
but both will feel some level of satisfaction.

So, here's what I know:  if you go in with all those guns blazing, you're only shooting yourself in the foot.  You've gotta admit that the other side has something that you want and that you've got something he wants.....thus you've gotta meet somewhere in the middle.  It's good old-fashioned give and take.   Neither side wins unless both sides share in the win.  It is NOT about being fair; it's about working together.  Life isn't fair.  Even though both sides win in proper negotiation, someone still has to lose something.  But the other side should not crush you for losing, and you don't have the right to make anyone eat dirt either if they are the ones who are on the losing side.

In the matter of selling, the customer is not the enemy.  The customer is the source of money that you want; that means you need him as a buddy.

In the matter of buying, the seller is not the enemy.  The seller is the source of the items that you have been searching for; that means you need him as a buddy.

In everyone's best interests, doesn't it make sense to act nice, play nice, be nice?  Self-control shows much greater strength than a display of force ever will.

I wonder when we stopped understanding that people were simply smiling and not showing their teeth in preparation to bite.  Each of us is ultimately responsible for our own actions but we are, to some degree, responsible also for the manner in which others respond to us. 

A gentle answer turns away wrath
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. 
Proverbs 15:1-4
We can treat others better.  Really, we can.  And we should.  It is up to each of us to lead the way.
Life is good.

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