When you think of negotiation, the first image that may come to mind is a business or professional setting where parties are sitting at opposite ends of a conference table, fighting for their cases and trying to get what they want.

The image SILKMentoring envisions on the other hand is different and is reflected in the following quotes. Marcus Tullius Cicero stated that “There are two ways to resolve conflicts, through violence or through negotiation. Violence is for wild beasts, negotiation is for human beings.” John F. Kennedy says: “If there is negotiation, it must be rooted in mutual respect and concern for the rights of others.” Similarly, Christopher W. Moore in the Handbook of Global and Multicultural Negotiation writes: “At some time, the negotiators begin a mutual education process. This may be an explicit education process or indirect mutual learning through the presentation and exploration of positions. In most cases, in order to reach agreements, the parties must create informal or formal opportunities to educate each other about the connections they desire, the topics or issues for discussion, and their individual and collective needs and interests.”

These 3 quotes share a basic thing in common. This is the idea that in a negotiation, you are dealing with human beings, and as such, they are to be treated with the same respect, dignity and care as you want to be treated with yourself. It fundamentally points to the nobility that is within each person, which is mirror-like reflecting the nobility within you.

What is Negotiation?  

SILKMentoring defines negotiation as a skill or capacity that facilitates reaching agreements in safe environments. This capacity includes promoting a consultative process in a space where you can express what you truly think and feel as you seek answers. It requires the use of diplomacy and tactfulness in communication, without compromising your personal and professional boundaries and goals. It is a means to reaching mutually beneficial outcomes and resolving or settling points of differences.  

How can you negotiate constructively?

SILKMentoring promotes a safe environment infused with mutual respect and acknowledgement of the fundamental noble character in the different parties participating in the negotiation. Since you cannot or rather should not aim to change or control anyone else, you have to manage yourself. This is done by:

  • Being tactful and polite. You can say anything you want, just say it respectfully and with consideration for the feelings of the other party.
  • Listening actively with the intent to truly understand the other’s point of view. This way, when you exchange information and points of view such communication is effective and it connects with the level of understanding of your counterparts.
  • Creating a harmonious engagement by trying to find more commonalities than differences.
  • Managing your emotions and demeanor. Sometimes what you will hear will annoy you, but you should endeavor to not allow this to cloud your judgment. In a negotiation, people communicate in different ways, and you have to strive to always manage your reactions, facial expressions and body language. This is not done in order to be deceptive, but because managing your reactions will allow you to be more objective in the negotiation. You are after all looking for the truth or what serves the better interest of all the negotiators, instead of just your own.
  • Being fully prepared with your background research. This means that you have considered all possibilities that might become options in the negotiation. You are also informed of all the supporting material that exists about your subject matter. Being responsible is being prepared.
  • Being assertive yet kind in your speech. Your confidence shines through when you are assertive, but you do not need to be cocky about it. Kindness goes a long way, especially after the negotiation is completed. Plus, since you never know if you will have the upper hand in the negotiation, kindness ensures that you can have a relationship in the future with the other party, and maintain other (business) opportunities with them.

Aspects of Negotiation

SILKMentoring believes that it is time to move away from a confrontational, aggressive and power driven negotiation styles towards more inclusive and empowering methods of finding common ground and better solutions.

In a negotiation, there is a “trinity of space”. On one end are your personal wants and needs. On the other side are those of other people or organizations. The overlapping space is where commonality exists. Sometimes this space is very small, but it can always be increased by finding common grounds.

When two negotiating parties come together, they should set rules of engagement. This helps the dialogue proceed smoothly by ensuring that the method of communication and the process of negotiation are carried out effectively. Examples of rules of engagement are: (1) Finger-pointing has no place in this space. (2) Use only proper language when addressing each other. No swear words or profanity. (3) Majority vote is half plus 1. The majority vote is the voice of this negotiation. (4) Once an idea is voiced, it becomes the idea of the group – there is no personality attached to it anymore. When negotiation parties support such rules of engagement, it will facilitate finding common ground and better solution for the negotiating parties.

Lastly, SILKMentoring encourages openness of perspective in a negotiation. Although people generally come with preconceived ideas or thoughts to a negotiation, opening hearts and minds to possibilities allows for being surprised by the ideas and suggestions of others. Occasionally, one might even be lucky enough to experience a paradigm shift in one’s own thoughts and feelings.

Ways to enhance your practice of Negotiation

For negotiations to be more fruitful for all parties involved, some style tweaks are being suggested by SILKMentoring.

1. Perceptive openness – is the reframing of how you see something to be. It implies not just consideration for the negotiating counterparty, but for the long term implications of the choices that result from the negotiation. It means being accountable for the outcome of negotiations.
2. Silence is golden – people accept a truth easier when they sense they have discovered or voiced it. Let truths emerge through consultation, resist spelling it out for others, this will lower resistance.
3. Verbalize your truth – this may sound like a contradiction based on the previous point, but in situations where a truth fails to emerge, you need to break the silence and speak yours. Concealing truths in a negotiation cannot lead to long term benefits for either party.

Negotiation does not need to be antagonistic or aggressive. Negotiation is….finding common ground gracefully.