Almost every day, most of us are involved in a situation between two parties that needs to get to a “Yes!”, from a firm “NO!”

It turns out there is a fairly easy concept that we can use every day to get genuine win/win outcomes!

Image: two people shaking hands

Whether we are trying to reach an agreement with our family members, coworkers, or business connections, we are all involved in networks of negotiations.

But all too often, we have little or no negotiation skills

Today we change all that with an entertaining perspective from one of the top negotiators in the world, William Ury.  He founded and served as the director of the Harvard Nuclear Negotiation Project and has worked as a mediator in some of the biggest conflicts in the Middle East, Yugoslavia, Chechnya, and the Balkans.

He can teach us a few of the fundamental tips.

There seem to be a few clever, elemental insights that we can use every day too!

Let’s let Mr. Ury bring us around to a new way of problem-solving with his warm brand of wisdom:

Wonderful concepts there! In fact, I’ve had to watch that video a number of times to get most of the pearls he is tossing around.

Let’s review some key points:

First, is there a difficult conversation you are avoiding, a negotiation you need to have? Can you think of it as a creative challenge to get both of you what you need? Put the following questions through the paces by asking yourself the following questions.

  • Can you show concern for both your own interests and the other sides’ interests, and turn it into an opportunity for both of you?
  • Can you focus on interests instead of positions, by asking “why?” about what the other person wants. And even ask ourselves “why” we want what we want!
  • Can you control your impulses and avoid getting emotionally engaged in the negotiation? Can you wait to press the SEND button next time you are in an emotional state? Try it next time and the time after, and see how often you ever use that angry draft.

The three most important skills:

According to Mr. Ury, here are the three skills we have to finely hone if we want to get better outcomes:

  • BALCONY: mastering our own reactions: going to a mental or emotional “balcony” so we can keep a higher, calm perspective.
  • BATNA: Well ahead of time, know your best course of action if you cannot reach agreement. You want to care about the issue, but not too much. That way you are not hostage to the other side.
  • LISTENING: The best negotiators listen far more than they talk, and they put themselves in the other person’s shoes.

Let’s break down those three in detail so we can use them:

BALCONY

Mr. Ury says that successful negotiators completely separate the people and the problem. Now that’s really big when you think about it. How much of our arguments are made worse by the way we make a problem about the other person’s character?

Image: Lighthouse at sunsetWhat if we could get to the “balcony” so we can take the 10,000-foot look, leaving personalities aside?

And what a nice suggestion – pinching the palm of our hand when we are in a heated situation – to remind us to go to the balcony, to ask ourselves “What’s the key interest here? Are we here to get into an argument, or solve something?”

Then, ask ourselves “What will advance things in this moment?” 

Mr. Ury has found that more often than not, it will be better to simply listen, and NOT to react.

This is so powerful.

Remembering to go to the balcony allows us to pause, remember our goal, and then disengage from the emotions of the moment.

BATNA

I was curious about this term “BATNA”, and the strategy it suggests, so I looked into it for us. What a useful perspective!

Here’s a quote from a good article by Brad Spangler that explains it well:

Image: Poppy in dry weedsBATNA is a term coined by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 bestseller, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In.[1] It stands for:
Best  ALTERNATIVE TO  a negotiated agreement.”

Said another way, it is the best you can do if the other person refuses to negotiate with you–if they tell you to “go jump in a lake!” or “Get lost!”  So it is not necessarily your ideal outcome–unless your ideal outcome is something you can get without the cooperation of the other person.

It is the best you can do WITHOUT THEM.

I love the idea of not being emotionally hostage to someone who flatly refuses to negotiate in any way.

Having a well thought-out fall-back position would make a difficult negotiation so much less emotional.

Here’s a great quote from Mr. Ury:

“The firmer you need to be about the outcome of a problem, the softer you need to be with the people.

In other words, listen more than you talk if the problem is a big one where you have to stand firm on a solution.”

That brings us to listening.

LISTENING

I love the concept of Listening to understand, NOT to respond. We all know how good it feels to be listened to intensely. Listening means respect, makes the other person feel less vulnerable.

There might be three ways to look at a situation, or ten! If we truly listen, we may learn about a few more acceptable outcomes that we never thought of.

“How can we change someone’s mind unless we know where their mind is? And how can we know where their mind is unless we listen?” – William UryImage: Optical illusion line drawing

Lastly, I loved the optical illusion he used to point out that there is usually a third way of viewing any problem although our impulse is to think of everything in terms of right or wrong.

We tend to think there are only two sides to every issue. For many conflicts and participants, the issues are either black or white.

Did you look at the image here and see one thing, when in fact, it could be, one of three very different things: a young, pretty woman turning away, or an old man with mustache or a rather ugly, old woman.

That’s probably a very accurate representation of possibility when we start an argument or negotiation.

I’m going to try to remember that.

Well, that’s it for another EWC Smarter Every Sunday feature article!

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Notes:

  1. “William Ury: Getting to Yes.” YouTube. CreativeMornings HQ, 04 Mar. 2016. Web. 22 Jan. 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-c-SUdBoD6M>.

Dr. Lynda is a dentist, artist, global traveler, and philanthropist who looks for potential and shares it with the world.