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January 17, 2009

the approach

by Katie

Living in Portland, some of my military-brat gruffness has been smoothed over with a fine layer of organic granola.  While I still don’t ride a bike to work, meditate or love communism, I’ve found tofu can be quite delicious and nearly everything can be recycled.  I’ve also discovered there is a lot to be said for the power of positive thinking.

A recently unpublished and completely unscientific survey reports that approaching a situation with positive thoughts produces a more productive result than charging in with your hair on fire ready to fight to the death.  Odd, but true.

The survey results hold true even when applied to negotiation.  Actually, particularly when applied to negotiation.  Negotiators that understand their interests, and the interests of the other side, consistently produce better results than negotiators that focus on positions.  Why?  Because focusing on interests allows you to see a bigger picture than the issue at the table; it allows you to be a problem solver.

Fighting over positions is an inherently lizard-brain activity.  Any jerk can do it.  But problem solving is an inherently creative activity.  It requires flexibility, awareness of relationships, and the ability to create solutions from seemingly disparate pieces.

(See, you’re gonna be great at this.)

Your homework, should you choose to accept it:

1.  Start approaching negotiations as opportunities to solve problems, not as confrontations with someone who can say “No.”

2.  Write out your goals.  I know, it’s so third grade, but do it.  There is absolutely no way you can advocate for yourself if you don’t know why you’re doing it.  Nope, none.  And Bobby I don’t care if you “know your goals.”  write. them. down.


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