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Negotiation is persuasion

Copenhagen becomes Hopehagen

The Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen sounded determined at the opening of the UN environmental summit. ‘In the presence of hundreds of world leaders the earth can’t afford to miss this momentum.’ Leaders, who don’t know how to initiate, are nowhere. This counts for corporate life as well.

Balancing act
With the presence of over 15.000 delegates from 193 countries, Copenhagen is without a doubt the largest environmental conference ever. The goal is to make a worldwide agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gasses. The first protocol, the Kyoto protocol, expires in 2012.

The trust between north and south will be crucial to the success of the summit. This will, without a doubt, be a delicate balancing act, because it’s very hard to make a good deal on such a small scale. Negotiation on the corporate level, picking a destination for the family vacation, making a new rulebook for the sports club… We may not grasp it yet, but negotiation is daily business for many.

Push & Pull
Negotiation isn’t a one time thing. Convincing isn’t done in the blink of an eye. It’s a process that often takes a lot of time. People in corporate life often don’t just jump in. But as you know, perseverance pays off.

But in meetings I often see the opposite happening. Push trough seems to be the creed. Just slam the table hard enough. NOT! Naggers rarely win the battle. Often they leave frustrated, convinced of their own cause.

Is the issue the established merit of the company, then silent disagreement is lurking. The senior thinks that the message has come across correctly and that everyone agrees. But nothing could be further from the truth.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Convincing someone is a slowly increasing multi-step process in which the environment is key. Persuade with reason, not with force. A push trough compromise is often within reach but it’s very fragile. This is why I always choose the ‘pull process’. Pull your conversation partners towards you and persuade them gradually!

  1. Somebody who wants to push an idea does well to check out the environment. Speak with some confidants and ‘key players’ beforehand. They will form an ideal sounding board so you can refine your ideas and they can support you while negotiating.
  2. If you don’t want to make a make a fool of yourself while presenting, you better ask yourself these questions:
    • Do I look reliable?
    • Do I explain my proposition well enough so every stakeholder will think there’s something in it for him?
    • Did I spend enough attention to the emotional side of the case?
    Ratio is seldom enough at negotiations. Emotional intelligence is crucial. The heart must be won for the cause as well! For this, examples and metaphors are invaluable.
  3. Alea Iacta est. Observation and active listening are crucial, before, during and after the meeting. Good negotiators know how to play with body language. People aren’t computers!
Good listeners are willing to go through multiple stages (preparation-discussion-evaluation) before they make a decision. The ‘80/20 principle’ could work as a guide in this. In times of real crisis the push strategy could be used but an ‘I call it a day’ should be an exception.

During individual and group sessions you can teach negotiation techniques in ‘real time – real cases’ with loads of practical tips and techniques. Experience showed me that persuasion is the key to better and lasting results. And let’s be fair; this will improve both your life and the lives of your employees.


By Herman van Herterijck

"my ambition is to put the importance of pragmatic and continuous self-coaching on the agenda of current business leaders"

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