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What Can’t You Not Do? by jigordon
October 27, 2009, 9:32 am
Filed under: Five Fundamental Skills, negotiation

Over on her Ask a Manager blog, Alison Green today discussed those personality traits which force you into certain behaviors, resulting in career choices that are almost imperatives.  It’s an interesting thought – are there things that you MUST do to satisfy your own internal itch?  But then I started thinking about how that would affect the world of negotiation and it ties back into a conversation thread that’s been started many times: are certain people more predisposed to being better negotiators?  And, on the flip side, are there people who shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be the negotiator for your firm/organization/self?

Typical negotiation trainers (Karrass, for example) predicate their training materials on the belief that anyone can learn how to negotiate.  Even my favorite professional negotiator, Herb Cohen promises in his book that “You, too, can negotiate anything!”.  But don’t let the razzle-dazzle fool you.  The honest truth is that while everyone can learn techniques to increase their negotiation skills, not everyone can be a good negotiator.

“Wait!” you yell at me – “YOU offer negotiation training, too.  Aren’t you just taking people’s money like everyone else?”  Woah.  I’m not rendering judgment on the value of the service offered by negotiation trainers… lots of the material learned in these courses is excellent stuff.  Heck, even bad negotiators can improve by learning my Five Fundamental Skills for Effective Negotiation.  What I’m saying is that a prospective negotiator needs to be introspective enough to know whether they’re a good negotiator (and sometimes, it’s even case-specific).

So then, what makes someone NOT a good negotiator?  Well, as I just said, it can sometimes be case-specific – I, for example, shouldn’t negotiate the purchase of my own house or car… I’m too emotionally invested in the result.  But more generically, bad negotiators are:

  • ignorant (choosing to be without knowledge – would rather shoot from the hip)
  • overly-emotional (it’s one thing to be “disappointed” in a result… another to be “sad”)
  • hot-tempered (NEVER lose your cool – in fact, keeping cool when the other side is purposefully pushing your buttons is a great skill to have)
  • impatient (negotiations can take a LOT of time and you have to be willing to wait things out)
  • know-it-alls (the flip-side of ignorance is just as dangerous)

What am I saying, then, if you have these tendencies?  Well – either alter your personality (which proves quite hard for the bulk of the population) or find someone else to do the negotiating.  Remember that bullying someone (which is what a lot of these traits manifest as during a negotiation) won’t get you what you desire and might leave you worse off than when you started.

Oh – you don’t like the implication that everyone can’t be a great negotiator?  Blast me in the comments.

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The Power (and Value) of "No" by jigordon
October 16, 2009, 9:32 am
Filed under: Five Fundamental Skills, negotiation

Yes/No.  Yin/Yang. Right/Wrong.  It seems as if there are a lot of ways to say that in many decisions, we have two basic potential responses (and many other shades of gray in between).  Answering “Yes” almost always involves more work, more responsibility and more hassle.  So why don’t we choose “No” more often?

As human beings, there is research to suggest that we want to generally appease others at a very fundamental level.  This isn’t about conflict management, it’s simply about survival and the power that comes with “the return of the favor.”  It’s even got a political science term that sounds awfully legal: “social contract” – that the individual give up some flexibility of behavior in favor of the larger societal good.  But realize that there is a quid pro quo here, we expect something in return.

It’s important, however, to learn the power and value of saying “No.”

At your individual level, “No” might mean that you have more time to devote to your already-full plate of things you’ve said “yes” to. At the societal level, “No” means that you are recognizing participatory limitations – that you believe that you have already contributed (or are contributing) to the “group” (however you would like to define it at that particular moment). Without realizing it, you actually do a form of “hedonistic calculus” to determine the effect of saying No and formulate defenses in the event you’re challenged.

But it’s not wrong to say No – and there are a lot of benefits to saying “No” with compassion and clarity.

While you may be refusing someone something that they want, and as I reminded someone the other day, you’re no good to anyone (including yourself) if you’re not able to do what you have already committed to do.  Saying “No” is a defense mechanism and allows you the ability to regulate your workload.  But, it’s also a starting point (as pointed out by Jim Camp in “Start with No!”) in that only if you say “No” do you have a place to begin a conversation.

Which means that from a negotiation perspective, “No” is a wonderful way to begin when asked for any settlement.  Camp believes that it’s the ONLY starting point – and he says on his website that starting with no is to “gain control of the deal.”  Whether you believe that’s true (or even if you want control of the deal), he is right that without saying “No”, there isn’t a conversation or negotiation at all – saying “yes” is merely a statement of agreement.

Saying “No”, however, doesn’t have to be done in a mean spirited manner and doesn’t have to be used with force.  Rather, the manner in which you say “No” can convey almost any conceivable emotion and can even foster a reciprocal compassion for your need/desire to say “No.”  For example, I was asked the other day to complete some new work for an old client on a quick-turnaround basis.

I responded saying that while I wanted to complete their project, I didn’t have time to get it done on their schedule because I was going on a babymoon with my wife.  In other words, I said “No.”  But of course, I didn’t only say “No.”  My next sentence was to give them the option for me to complete the project upon my return.  When they learned that my wife and I were expecting and because they understood the desire to take a last vacation before the baby arrived, they were sympathetic to my reason for saying No – and in fact, their time schedule really wasn’t as inflexible as they first made it appear.  In the end, I will get to enjoy my babymoon, I will complete their work promptly upon my return and they’ll have their needs met as well. [By the way, the ability to say No is founded upon proper use of Information Gathering skills.]

By saying “No” I was actually able to get everyone what they wanted.  Try it yourself and let me know how it works in the comments!

The Licensing Handbook Blog is the companion site to the Software Licensing Handbook. Covering licensing topics on a regular basis, Jeffrey Gordon attempts to offer advice, add humor and sometimes even a bit of wit to a practice that most people find abhorrent – namely, reading a contract from start to finish.  Follow me on Twitter if you want up-to-the-minute information on contracting, licensing, negotiation and the law.



This Week on The Web 2009-09-06 by jigordon

The things that happened around the web this week – maybe you already read about them, maybe you need to again.

I also realized that many of you might have no idea what you’re seeing below.  Sorry.  These are “tweets”, 140 maximum character messages sent via Twitter.  Within the Twitterverse individual users follow others and have followers (think of it like overlapping Venn diagram circles).  To read a tweet, you have to wade through a bit of jargon used to make the most of the 140 character limitation.  “RT” for example, is shorthand for “Re-tweet” and the @____ is the username of some other individual on Twitter.  Combined together, then, “RT @_____” means that someone else wrote a tweet that I found important and I now want to forward along to my followers.  The URL’s are then also shortened by shortening services like bit.ly to make the most of the character limitation, too.  Lastly, you might see “hash” identifiers “#______” which are ways to tag tweets of a particular flavor for easy searching later and “<” which means that I am commenting on what came before it.



The Prisoner’s Dilemma by jigordon
September 4, 2009, 9:32 am
Filed under: Five Fundamental Skills

Martin Proulx recently attended Simon Bennett’s presentation on Game Theory and Contracting.  Martin related with interest the games that Simon used to illustrate the need for better contracting process between parties, specifically three games: The Prisoner’s Dilemma, The Pirate’s Game and The Bidding Game.  I wasn’t able to attend the event so I don’t know exactly how Simon used these game other than through Martin’s explanation, but I was intrigued by the supposition that some people treat contract negotiations as they would the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

To understand my intrigue, we need to start with an understanding of the Prisoner’s Dilemma game.  This game starts with two players, both “accused” of committing a crime together.  They are then separated with no means of communicating with each other.  The only way to “win” the game is for both players to say that their accomplice is innocent. If one person fingers the other for the crime, the innocent one goes free and the guilty one stays in prison.  If both parties accuse the other, both stay in prison.

As Martin explained Simon’s presentation, he states that the “game is interesting and demonstrates why contractual agreement has the potential to results in an optimal deal but leads most of the time to the worst possible scenario.” (italics are mine).

Woah!

[Side note:  I don’t know Simon or his background… nor do I know that Martin’s recollection of the session accurately depicts Simon’s statements.  Everything that follows is merely a response to what was posted on Martin’s blog.]

While I do think that some game theory applies to contract negotiations, I don’t believe the Prisoner’s Dilemma is an accurate game to ever use to show the contracting process.  If you’re closing deals and it feels this way, I’m sorry to tell you but you’re doing it wrong.  Time to start from scratch.  If you have been doing it this way and need to start over, here’s the scoop:

Contractual agreements should NEVER lead to the worst possible scenario.  In any negotiation, you must always remember the Five Fundamental Skills for Effective Negotiation: Information Gathering, Strategic Thinking, Time Management, Perception of Power and Communication.  To counter any potential Dilemma scenario, you only need two of these skills: Information Gathering and Communication (and really, you only need Communication).  Simply talking with your accomplice would create a better outcome.  If you add Information Gathering, you’ll discover the three possible outcomes… and then can obviously choose the best one together with even less discussion.

If, for whatever reason, you haven’t gone through the Five Fundamental Skills and are thus not ready for negotiation, don’t negotiate in the face of ill-preparedness.  Delay the negotiation until you have time to prepare properly.  Lastly, if you’ll never be ready, remember that you can always walk away.



This Week on The Web 2009-08-30 by jigordon

The things that happened around the web this week – maybe you already read about them, maybe you need to again.

I also realized that many of you might have no idea what you’re seeing below.  Sorry.  These are “tweets”, 140 maximum character messages sent via Twitter.  Within the Twitterverse individual users follow others and have followers (think of it like overlapping Venn diagram circles).  To read a tweet, you have to wade through a bit of jargon used to make the most of the 140 character limitation.  “RT” for example, is shorthand for “Re-tweet” and the @____ is the username of some other individual on Twitter.  Combined together, then, “RT @_____” means that someone else wrote a tweet that I found important and I now want to forward along to my followers.  The URL’s are then also shortened by shortening services like bit.ly to make the most of the character limitation, too.  Lastly, you might see “hash” identifiers “#______” which are ways to tag tweets of a particular flavor for easy searching later.



This Week on The Web 2009-08-16 by jigordon

The things that happened around the web this week – maybe you already read about them, maybe you need to again:



This Week on The Web for 2009-07-26 by jigordon