The heartful negotiator – part 4

The heartful negotiator – part 4

In the previous 3 articles of the series, RAVI VENKATESAN set a framework for how prior disposition, ideas, thoughts, emotions and feelings all play a huge part in negotiation. He also took a deeper look at what constitutes prior disposition as we walk into a negotiation, and explored greed versus contentment and peace versus restlessness as opposites that constitute feelings and emotions in the heart. In this article he’ll explore additional emotions and feelings, and provide suggestions on how to manage these through real life scenarios.

Feelings and emotions in the heart always come in dualities. Broadly these can be categorized into 5 main sets of opposites.

Love Versus Hate

Love and hate are extreme ways to describe these opposing emotions. They can also take the forms of compassion, empathy, affection etc. on one side, and annoyance, anger, self-centeredness etc. on the other side.

To explore this, let’s take a scenario where Rita is negotiating a raise with her boss Jim, who has direction from senior leadership not to give raises and reduce the staff by 10%.

Rita: Jim, I wasn’t happy with last year’s raise. It wasn’t fair based on how I performed. I hope to get at least a 15% raise this year to makeup for it.

Jim: I don’t think you have any idea of what is going on around here. You definitely did a good job, but your aspirations are not even in the right ballpark. I am fighting to save your job against pressure to reduce staff.

Rita: That is totally unfair. I don’t control the company’s overall performance. I did my job really well and expect to be rewarded based on that. I don’t think I can stay motivated to do my best in this situation.

Jim: I understand how you feel, but I have my constraints.

Rita: I think you are just biased. I am sure Gary got a pretty good raise. As a matter of fact, I know he got better than me last year also.

Jim: Look here, I am trying to do my best for you, but your attitude is not helping.

Rita: I really don’t care anymore what you think of my attitude. I am leaving. I don’t want to work here even one more day.

In this scenario Rita received news that she did not expect and found unpleasant. This put her into a downward spiral of anger, suspicion and eventually hate. She lost all objectivity, and not only  did she not get the raise she wanted, but ended up losing her job before finding another one. This could have devastating consequences for her family, but her judgment was clouded by emotion. For his part, Jim started out neutral, but let Rita’s negativity impact him, and made things worse by calling out her poor attitude just as she was ready to explode.

Suggestions to manage love, compassion and empathy versus hate, anger and self-centeredness:

Take a few deep breaths and calm yourself before getting into a negotiation, especially when you know that the conversation is going to be difficult. This puts you in a neutral state, and makes you alert to your own emotional state.
If the conversation starts to become emotional and negative, immediately put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Try to feel what they feel. Articulate the issue or problem from their perspective and ask them to look at it from yours. For example, Jim could have said, “From your perspective, I totally get the expectation of a raise, especially based on what you got last year. However, I want to share with you the company’s situation, and have you look at this from my perspective.”
Approach the conversation with the affection that you would have when dealing with a family member. For example, Rita could have said, “Jim, I appreciate your effort in saving my job. I know that you would have looked out for me. I still feel strongly that my compensation does not reflect my performance. Is there a way to do a one-time bonus to make up for a raise?” This approach puts Jim in a much more positive mode to think creatively about other options. Negotiating as partners trying to find the best outcome is way better than as adversaries trying to win while making the other lose.

Fear Versus Courage

Fear comes in many shapes and forms. It can start as anxiety and end up as paranoia. Courage, while very useful, can also be dangerous when extreme. Fearlessness can lead people to make bad  choices. The key is to find the right balance.

Consider a scenario where Bob is a coach and Jason is the owner of a basketball team. They are discussing the replacement of their shooting guard and star player, Rodriguez.

Bob: The losses we’ve had recently are because of a single reason. Rodriguez is a great individual player, but terrible with the team. We have to replace him to get the team to a better place.

Jason: That’s crazy. He was the only scorer in the last two games and has been our top performer for the last two seasons. Sounds like too big a risk.

Bob: We have to try something new. We can always bench him and bring him back if this doesn’t work.

Jason: I don’t like that at all. He might get demotivated if we do that.

Bob: How can I be effective at my job, if I can’t make these types of decisions?

Jason: This just sounds way too risky, let’s wait for a few more games and revisit.

This is a classic case where fear will cause decisions to be deferred. Whether it is in government or business or sports, way more damage happens because of not making decisions than because of making bad decisions. This is squarely due to fear.

Let’s consider some recommendations to manage this, specifically from a negotiating perspective:

Before entering a negotiation, create a short list of what you are afraid of with respect to this conversation. Think rationally about whether these fears are well-founded or driven by anxiety.
As you get into a negotiation, if you feel very uncomfortable and anxious ask for time to consider the information and come back. Fear can impact you physically and it is difficult to recover to a neutral state without taking some time.
To address fear in a person with whom you are negotiating, use reassuring language and gently present facts and data points. For example, instead of suggesting benching Rodriguez, which Jason perceived as too risky, Bob could have said, “I see your point about risk. One option is to bench Rodriguez for a couple of games, and another is to have him play a different position, explaining it to him as us trying different game strategies. Do you think either of these would work for us to try someone else?”
Be mentally alert to either extreme fear or fearlessness in both yourself and others with whom you are negotiating. The key is to stay in a balanced zone.

Clarity Versus Doubt

The fifth opposite pair of feelings and emotions is clarity versus doubt. This is mostly a consequence of the other four opposites that we discussed.

The 4 opposites we have explored – greed versus contentment, peace versus restlessness, love versus hate, and fear versus courage, form primary feelings and emotions. They are also interrelated. For example, discontent will usually lead to restlessness, which in turn will lead to anger and hate, which will lead to anxiety and fear, which will eventually lead to loss of clarity. On the other hand, contentment will lead to peace, which will lead to love and compassion, which will lead to courage, which will lead to clarity. So, in a sense, these opposites also represent a virtuous and a vicious cycle.

In subsequent articles we’ll look at the thoughts and ideas in our heads, and how to manage these in order to be effective negotiators.





Ravi Venkatesan

About Ravi Venkatesan

Ravi lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and currently works as Chief Technology Officer in a software solutions company. He is also a regular public speaker and public speaking coach. He has been a Heartfulness meditator for over 20 years and is passionate about applying meditation lessons to improve workplace relationships and productivity.

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