I have not melted into the sidewalk.
It was touch and go there for a while, to be sure, but it looks like I’ve survived the Portland Heat Wave of 2009.
Sadly, all of my writing time has been focused on other endeavors; work, mostly. And looking at the next few weeks, it doesn’t look like I’ll have a ton of time to update the blog as frequently as I’d like. For good reasons, though: my folks are coming to town for a week and not long after, the lady and I jet off to London for a well earned vacation.
Doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about negotiation and collecting fun tid-bits to aid you in your transformation into negotiation ninjas, though. (I really do think about this stuff all the time; I really am genuinely that big of a nerd.)
The highlight reel to tide you over until a proper post can be made:
- The American Public Media show “Speaking of Faith” had an absolutely fantastic show on the science of trust. Host Krista Tippet spoke with Professor Paul Zak about his focus on neuroeconomics, or the study of how our brains make economic decisions. Not shockingly, we use trust, and our perception of it, to make decisions on how to behave economically. Trust plays a huge role in negotiations, especially those negotiations that are part of a larger relationship (like, say, with a book agent, as opposed to the blip of a negotiation that happens at a yard sale). The show is worth checking out so you can be aware of how trust is built and lost. The two biggest reasons I pay attention to trust in negotiation: (1) so I know what to do when I need to build trust and (2) so I know what to look for to avoid being taken advantage of.
- Sometimes the thing isn’t the thing. Thus spake the Dude. Sometimes what you’re arguing about isn’t really what you’re arguing about. Working with a client recently, I realized she wasn’t upset about whether or not she was right about the argument, she was upset that she felt lied to by the other party. She felt she’d played by the rules and been a good partner and, despite that, she was getting screwed. We talked about it and decided that because she felt so emotional about the topic, I’d take more control in negotiating a settlement, even if that meant she might not hear the words, “We’re sorry.” Be aware of what the thing is and know how you’re going to deal with it.
- Face to face communication moves mountains. It’s a lovely game to signal at one another, exchange written missives crafted by committee and hold endless phone calls to discuss “where we are.” But nothing, nothing, beats face to face communication. Face to face I have more contextual clues about voice intonation; I can ask you questions about reactions more readily; I can get a better since of whether or not you trust me or if I should trust you. Face to face is the king of the hill when it comes to working out problems or settling deals. It’s often a luxury in freelance, but when you can do it, make the effort. A half hour face to face conversation trumps a week of frustrating emails back and forth any day.
- Speaking of face to face communication, the number of things to be understood about President Clinton’s visit to North Korea this week is a tad overwhelming. Here’s my quick hit list of awesome:
- Sometimes you need to send in a representative — Al Gore had been working tirelessly on these negotiations but he knew he wasn’t the right face to send to North Korea; humility works.
- You can let your counterpart save face without giving up power — take another look at those pictures of Pres. Clinton and Kim Jong Il. BC is only giving him the bare minimum of interaction and attention. That’s all he had to give to let KJI feel like he was saving face in the national political arena. I’m of the very strong opinion that the US did not lose any power by letting KJI chat with BC for 3 hours.
- Nothing happens overnight — negotiations are time consuming; the higher the stakes, the more time you can expect to spend figuring them out. Be honest with yourself about that from the beginning and you reduce the stress you’ll experience as the negotiations drag on longer than you’d prefer.
- Connections are important. American citizens are mistreated by foreign governments the United States is at political odds with all the time. We do not send our four former presidents all over the world collecting them. I’m proud that Ms. Lee and Ms. Ling are home safe and sound, but I don’t think it’s because they were Americans being irrationally detained. They have their savvy family members to thank for it. They used every connection they had in an effort to retrieve their daughters/sisters/wives. Members of communities with strong organizational roots? Done. Boss was the former Vice President? Done. Former VP knows the former Pres KJI desperately wanted to meet with 9 years ago? Done.
- Tangential to “the thing is not always the thing,” appearances matter. The media were nearly wetting themselves trying to figure out what BC and KJI talked about for three hours. Nuclear weapons? Iran? Russia? Movies? Dirty jokes? WHAT? It doesn’t actually matter too much what they talked about. Our reaction to the appearance of things was enough to make the visit significant. Which was enough to stroke the Great Leader’s wacked out ego. Which was enough to make him follow through with the plan to release the journalists.
- When someone treats you poorly in a negotiation or business arrangement, talk to them about it. Bottling it up and hoping they don’t do it again doesn’t work. Lashing out randomly two weeks later is nonsensical. Clamming up and turning into The Hardest Person To Work With Ever hurts you more than it does them. It’s tough, it’s scary and it’s intimidating, but you have to do it if you want to be respected and treated fairly. Have. To.
- Finally, a moment of zen.