The heartful negotiator – part 5

The heartful negotiator – part 5

Clarity, Thoughts and Ideas – Mind Games

In the previous four articles of this series RAVI VENKATESAN reviewed a conceptual framework of the heart-mind vibrational field, and explored the four main emotional dualities that exist within the field of the heart, and how to manage these during negotiations. In this article he will expand on the fifth duality, Clarity versus Doubt, and explore thoughts and ideas in more depth.


Clarity versus Doubt

We often hear comments like, “His judgment was clouded,” “She wasn’t thinking clearly,” etc. In negotiations more than anywhere else, we sometimes feel a block in being able to perceive things clearly. This is all around clarity versus doubt or confusion. This duality is right at the intersection of the heart and mind and decides how effective the processes of the mind will be.

To understand the dynamics of clarity versus doubt, consider a simple negotiation between a parent, Janet, and her son Jason’s teacher, Joshua. Joshua wants to retain Jason for an extra year in the 1st grade, as he believes he is not keeping up. Janet believes that she can provide him a little help and he will do fine, and that Joshua is way overreacting to some minor challenges with Jason’s assignments.

Janet: Hi Joshua, I got your email recommending that Jason be retained an extra year in the 1st grade. I know he had challenges with a couple of assignments, but this sounds like an overreaction. I can help him keep up. Please consider letting him progress to the 2nd grade.

Joshua: Janet, I know you have a hard time as a single parent in looking after your son. We have to be objective though; Jason will have to repeat the year.

Janet: First of all, this has nothing to do with my marital status. I know what I am doing as a parent. I also know that when the same thing happens with other kids, they are not asked to repeat the year. You just seem to be biased against my son and me.

Joshua: I apologize if I offended you. My intent wasn’t to be insensitive. I only want to support all parents the best way possible. My concern is that if we let Jason go to the second grade, in spite of the challenges he had this year, he might struggle even more and get demoralized. If he repeats a year now, he may become more confident for life.

Janet: I am sorry I reacted that way. It has been hard to juggle my job, Jason’s needs and the rest of my life. I see your point. I am just worried about being seen as a failure as a parent.

Joshua: I understand, but let’s put Jason first. I am open to him progressing, if you feel you can truly support him more next year. Will you please take a day to relax, and with a calm mind consider my recommendation.

Janet comes back the next day with the following message: “You are right. I wasn’t thinking clearly. I cannot let my fears about how I will be perceived impact my judgment in doing the best for Jason. When I calmed myself down and tried to listen to my heart in terms of the best decision to make, it was clear that your recommendation is the right one. Thank you very much for being patient.”

This short scenario is loaded with insights for us. Remember the vicious and virtuous cycles of opposites we discussed in the last article.

In this scenario, we saw both of these cycles. Initially Joshua’s comments about being a single parent, and seemingly hard line on having Jason repeat the year, threw Janet into a negative spiral. She wanted Jason to progress (discontent) -> She became restless as the conversation wasn’t going how she wanted -> She got angry at the “single parent” comment -> She was afraid that she would be perceived as a bad mom -> Her judgement was completely clouded -> She lashed out!

Later as Joshua apologized and articulated his perspective more carefully, she felt more content with his apology -> She calmed down -> She felt more positively towards him -> She felt like she could muster courage to make the right decision -> A timeout let her listen to her heart and decide with a clear vision.

What is fascinating is that both the vicious and virtuous cycles in this case were each triggered by one single comment on Joshua’s part.

Tips to manage Clarity versus Doubt:
Frequently check internally, asking yourself, “Am I thinking and perceiving clearly?” Be alert to the downward spiral of discontent -> restlessness -> anger -> fear -> doubt.
If you feel emotions are clouding your judgment, or the other person’s, then take time out.
Try and listen to your heart. The best clarity comes from a clear heart. This voice gets stronger as you listen to it more.

Thoughts and Ideas

Now let’s explore the thoughts and ideas in the mind. Remember that learning how to manage feelings and emotions in the heart is foundational to being able to manage thoughts and ideas in the mind. Consider the statement that, “We feel way before we think.”

Let’s explore the more important idea in the mind, our ego, which simply put is our mental model of ourselves. This model is constantly updating and going through micro refinements, though it has a long-term state, which manifests as our perception of ‘Myself versus Others’, in other words, the ‘Me versus We’ mode of operation. I deliberately use ‘Me versus We’, but let’s begin by first understanding the ‘Me versus You’ perception that we carry.

Almost always, we consider ourselves to be right and the other person wrong, ourselves to be good the other person bad. We also often consider ourselves weak and the other person strong, or vice versa. Thomas A. Harris postulates in his bestseller I’m OK – You’re OK that we stay in 4 ego states:

I’m not OK, you’re OK
I’m not OK, you’re not OK
I’m OK, you’re not OK
I’m OK, you’re OK

Rarely do we stay in the 4th ego state of ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’, which is exactly where we need to be for Heartful negotiation.

Let’s consider a short scenario to understand the impact of ‘Me versus We’ in negotiation.

Colin is the founder of SmartOffers, an exciting software startup that presents shopping suggestions and offers to users on their mobile phones, based on their locations. He is meeting with Kim, who runs the merchant offers business for a very large multinational corporation. If the meeting is successful then Kim’s company could acquire Colin’s startup, which would provide significant financial benefit to him.

Kim: Colin, it is exciting to meet with the founder of such an exciting new startup. Congratulations on the idea and getting this far.

Colin: Kim, great to meet you as well. Not sure what you mean by getting this far, though. We have multiple pilots with real customers, and everyone likes our product.

Kim: Of course, great work. I meant that you did great getting it to some free pilots, but it will take a lot more experience and support to get customers to pay real money for a product like this.

Colin: I do have a lot of experience in this space, and two patents as well. I feel like we’re getting off on the wrong foot here. Let’s get something straight first, you are meeting with me because I have built something innovative that larger companies like yours struggle to build.

Kim: That may be true, but coming up with a good idea and scaling it are two different things. I have decades of experience with taking startups and making something real out of them. Frankly, we get approached by dozens of companies pitching their innovations.

Colin: Let’s not do business together. I find your approach arrogant and not appreciative of what I have accomplished.

Kim: I am sorry you feel that way, but my time is limited, and I get a lot of these ideas coming my way.

This is a classic case of a negotiation dying even before it has a chance to get started, because of ego. Not everyone in business operates this way, but this happens way more than any of us would like to believe. Arrogance and egotistic behaviors kill more deals than anything else. The consequences are unfathomable. A poor country doesn’t get the aid it needs because the Prime Minister who went to negotiate with a rich neighbor felt like she wasn’t treated as an equal. Millions suffer because of one person’s ego. Two countries go to war because one leader insults the other publicly. In this case thousands die because of one person’s ego. Hostages are killed because one negotiator wanted to be tough, and let his ego get in the way of continuing dialogue. A disease assumes epidemic proportions because the leader of the militia in control of an area will not provide access to humanitarian aid, as it may make him appear weak.

Tips to manage the Ego in negotiations:
Leave it off the table – the other party praising you and inflating your ego should not be a prerequisite or a factor of negotiation.
Shift yourself from the ‘me’ mode to the ‘we’ mode. Don’t just think from the other person’s perspective, but truly approach the negotiation as a team trying to solve a problem collaboratively.
Be alert to the mode you are in, if you find yourself slipping into ‘I’m OK, you’re not OK’, or ‘I’m not OK, you’re OK’, or “I’m not OK, you’re not OK’ ego states, gently center yourself with a pause, and come back to ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ mode.

We’ll continue to refine our techniques of managing the ego in subsequent articles where we understand other mental processes and how to manage them. Till then, observe the ego state you are in, even in day-to-day interactions, not just high stakes negotiations.

Read previous article


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.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.