Nosce Alius (Know the Other)
The dance of negotiation by its nature involves partners. The advice given for self-knowledge above, applies across the board to ones counterparties as well. Both to prepare for negotiation and throughout the course of negotiations, it is helpful to be alert to what is going on for the party across the table. What are their interests? How are they feeling? What is important to them? What are their cultural assumptions? What is their conflict style? What is their context? What is their sense of self, their hopes, dreams, and aspirations?
Only by understanding the interests of the counterparty can a negotiator work to develop options that are going to meet everyone’s needs. One can learn these interests indirectly, through the application of logic, and through direct communication. The best way to learn of the other’s interests is from what they say. The degree of disclosure by the other party will be influenced by the tone at the bargaining table.
Set a Tone Conducive to Candid Disclosure; Be Effective as an Active Listener.
Active listening is a buzz word in ADR circles, but for good reason. Targeted questioning calls for answers to questions we already have, to promote our pre-existing goals. Active listening, by contrast, is more open-ended. The other party can drive that conversation.
With active listening, we use open ended questions, show recognition of the other party’s feelings, values and perspectives, and acknowledge their worth. A classic formulation is VECS: validate, empathize, clarify and summarize.
By this approach, the other party feels less alone and more willing to open up. This is the royal way to learning their interests. With that information, one can look for ways to create value in a deal – ways to satisfy the other party’s interests and achieve satisfaction of ones own.
Communication is Key.
Even First Amendment case law recognizes that communication occurs not only with words and speech but also in nonverbal ways. The effective negotiator is alert to, and uses, all forms of communication to advantage. Body language – the handshake, eye contact, posture, tone of voice – all communicate messages or attitudes. It is fundamental to communicate in a manner that builds trust and rapport.
Build Relationship & Trust.
Understanding that it takes two to tango in deal making and that we must learn what will satisfy the other in order for the other to meet our own needs, nothing goes so far as a relationship of trust to foster disclosure. To enhance relationship, people from various cultures give gifts or serve food prior to commencing talks, to signal good will and create a common bond. Shell, in Bargaining for Advantage, tells of an executive who gave his counterparty a gold watch prior to initiating merger talks.7 This signaled a valuing of the other and, to paraphrase Claude Rains at the end of Casablanca, “the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”