Negotiating Skills and the 10 Powers of Negotiation: Don’t Drink the Punch

The role of humility in the negotiating process…

Can we agree on this? The truly brilliant rarely trumpet their brilliance to the world – and many are quite modest…

And how about this? For those who do trumpet their brilliance to the world, this is often the first sign that they are not…

Not long ago, I was having lunch with the managing partner of a prominent professional firm. Even before we reached the restaurant, he began telling me the reason for his success. “You see,” he said, “I’m simply brilliant at what I do. I’m just that much smarter than my competitors and my clients know this.” This continues throughout lunch. So, why was he telling me this? I didn’t have a clue. Was he trying to persuade me – or himself? And, again, what was I to do with this information? Again, I didn’t have a clue. All that I knew was this: If he thought the revelation of his brilliance would impress me, he was wrong. Actually, the opposite was true…

This made me think of some negotiators I’d encountered over the years who, prior to our upcoming negotiations even beginning, also thought there was some strategic advantage in telling me about their past triumphs at the negotiating table. Again, what I was to do with that information? Was I to pack my bags and go home, rather than face the brilliance of my hero? Hardly. Rather, wasn’t I much more likely to prepare more thoroughly for my encounter with him? And wasn’t I now more likely to bring in reinforcements to face the daunting challenge of having to negotiate with my hero? And, hey, was it my imagination or did this seem just supremely arrogant? You bet…

When I think back on some of the best negotiators I have seen around the world over the years, I am struck by this one quality: their humility. While each may have had distinctive negotiating styles and approaches to the negotiation process, each treated humility as the real deal. Each understood the real dangers that a lack of humility would bring – both for their own teams and in dealing with the other side. This is why they all worked so hard at remaining grounded.This is why they just didn’t drink the punch.

And as for those wannabe brilliant negotiators who stubbornly believe there is some strategic advantage to proclaiming their brilliance – perhaps in the forlorn hope that this will intimidate the other side, my experience tells me they are simply dreaming. They don’t understand how a lack of humility will inevitably undermine their ability to deal with anyone familiar with the 10 Powers of Negotiation. And, by doing so, they don’t understand they will now face the prospect of having to push a very heavy rock up an extremely steep and slippery slope. So, what are these 10 Powers of Negotiation that a lack of humility will undermine?

The 10 Powers of Negotiation:

These are the negotiating powers that Nelson Mandela revealed in his historic negotiations with the South African government. Just as he demonstrated a mastery of them in his negotiation, the very best negotiators I have encountered and worked with have also only mastered them. Like Nelson Mandela, they mastered the remarkable art of keeping their eye on each of these Powers simultaneously:

  • The power of understanding that a negotiation is a process;
  • The power of preparation;
  • The power of positioning;
  • The power of common sense and logic;
  • The power of dignity, congeniality, humility and humor;
  • The power of truth and fairness;
  • The power of observation – of listening and seeing;
  • The power of morality, courage and attitude;
  • The power of patience; and
  • The power to walk away.

In applying these Powers, the best negotiators all relied heavily on the negotiating teams they had assembled. And they always gave their team members the credit for whatever accomplishments resulted from the particular negotiation – which was yet another sign of the humility they all possessed.

Humility is both an endearing quality and is a necessity…

Humility is a not just an endearing quality, it is also a remarkable asset. Why? Because people like doing business with people they like – and people like people with humility. It is therefore an almost indispensable asset going into a negotiation.

It is also a necessity, however. Why? Because a lack of humility poses some profound dangers to a successful negotiation, we have to do everything we can to avoid those dangers. This is why the best negotiators all concentrate on remaining modest and low-key, always preferring to fly below the radar. They all see the clear benefit of being under-estimated. They all see the clear dangers posed by overconfidence, arrogance – and drinking the punch.

The clear dangers…

One obvious problem about drinking the punch is that it is intoxicating. This serves to heighten feelings of perceived brilliance and self-importance, which can be fatal to your negotiation. Why? As the 10 Powers reveal, it is absolutely critical to put yourself in the position of those with whom you are negotiating. To do so, you have to focus intensely on them and not on yourself. By the time you enter the negotiation, you should already know what you can accept and what you cannot. The variable in the equation is always the other side. You therefore have to know them as well as they know themselves.

If you drink the punch you you become like the finely honed human specimen at the local hip fitness center. Go there and watch them admiring themselves in the walls of mirrors that surround them. They rarely take their eyes off themselves – and, if they ever do, it is only to compare themselves to more feeble specimens like you and me. They see the world only through their own eyes. In a negotiating context, this is near fatal. As our intoxicated negotiators view everything through the lens of their own perceived brilliance, they ignore those with whom they are negotiating. Apart from conveying the unfortunate perception that they are too big and too smart for the room, which is frankly obnoxious, they will inevitably miss important signs and signals the other side offers. This is bad news for everyone in the negotiation…

How does this play out? As they focus more on themselves and less on the other side, they inevitably begin to discount and underestimate the other side’s views and positions. Now, instead of truly understanding the other side’s positions and what they need from the process, their perceived superiority distorts the process. This, in turn, undermines every one of the Powers, but particularly the Powers of Preparation and Positioning, in which you have to fashion your approach based upon what the other side needs to make the deal happen.

And, to make matters worse, this lack of humility will also almost inevitably result in our brilliant but intoxicated hero beginning to denigrate the other side. And as does, he will minimize the legitimacy of the other side’s reasons for taking whatever positions they have taken. And this will not only annoy them, it will result in your team losing clear opportunities to address and improve the deal you might really want to reach. Certainly, this will undermine the clear benefits of Powers of Dignity, Congeniality, and Humor that create the indispensable atmosphere you will need to close the deal. And as this sorry tale begins to unfold, the process inevitably becomes way too personal. And as this occurs, the negotiations will probably inevitably be teetering on a slippery slope going in a direction you might not want.

The most serious problem this lack of humility, overconfidence and arrogance creates, however, is that it erodes the potential ability of the parties to work together collaboratively. Because it is so very important to create a sense of trust and comfort with the other side, and because you will always need them to share information with you, conveying a sense of superiority and arrogance will make this sharing almost impossible. After all, who really wants to collaborate with a condescending arrogant twit? Nobody I know…

Why do some negotiators trumpet their self-proclaimed brilliance?

So, why do they do it? Perhaps they are trying to persuade themselves that they are indeed brilliant. Perhaps they believe that, if they repeat their assertions of brilliance often enough, it will magically come true. In the case of attorneys and accountants, perhaps they believe they have to justify their sometimes-outrageous hourly rates. For these particular attorneys and accountants (or anyone else that displays this particular trait), however, if you hire them, you’ll almost certainly get what you deserve…

Finally, over the years, it has been my experience that often the most dangerous people around the negotiating table are the quiet ones – not the noisy ones who are constantly trying to impress. The moral here for me is clear: If you really think you are brilliant, it might be better to be quiet – just in case you are not…

Office Furniture – Presentation Matters

If you are planning to open your office or renovating the old one, it’s always a necessary step to showcase the office arrangement according to the standard and the brand value of the organization. The office desks and the office furniture used are noticed by the people who visit the organization and they make a specific mindset from the appearance that is presented to them.

So while making the office environment, one must consider some factors before investing the money straightaway into it, like- location, furniture, architecture, area covered by the furniture used etc.

The location of the office needs to be taken well care of. It convinces the clients into the value of the company. Depending upon the various preferences, they would like to deal with the company that boasts of its ambient location. However, the choice of the location sometimes gets limited because of the limited number of the options. What can add into the value of the company is then, quality of the furniture used for the office desks, chairs, tables etc.

The quality of office furniture affects in a great deal when it comes for the clients or the visitors to the organization. There are number of websites which maintain the large database of the quality furniture and can facilitate the online delivery of the items.

One can check for these details as there are plenty of write ups available guiding the common people through the perplexing process of choosing the right option.

The dimension and the comfort level of office desks and office furniture help in making the prospect of a good deal brighter. The half of the work is done if you have nice presentation of your office in front of the client.

Along with the architecture of the office, the good arrangement of the desks, chairs and tables can result in more spacious office area and can help in accommodating more number of people.

You can take these on lease for some time occasionally but for everyday exercise, you need to buy it. With the availability of the various online deals, you don’t need to go making trips to various stores for the purchase. Simply browse through the various web pages that deal in these affairs and you can get your deal that suits your requirements and the budget earmarked for this purpose.

So enjoy the best deal with the help of online shopping and make most out of it.

Presenting for People Starting out in Business

In some ways, the time when you’re setting up your business is just like any other point in the life-cycle: what you want to do is concentrate upon your ‘core’ activity (making widgets) but what you’ve got to do is spend half your time on irrelevant fripperies (selling widgets). Once your company is up and running you’ll be dealing with actual widgets; up until that point you’ll be selling the just the idea of the widget factory… that means you’ll be making presentations. Like it or not, at some point you’ll be doing at least one or two of this list:

  • outright competitive pitches to Venture Capitalists or Business Angels
  • presentations to bank managers
  • meetings with business partners (or potential business partners)
  • selling the concept to organisations like Business Link
  • doing a one-minute ‘elevator pitch’ at networking meetings
  • talking to colleagues, superiors and subordinates.

    In short, presenting yourself and your idea is a basic fact of business life and setting up a business, so you’ll need to be good enough at it. The words are carefully chosen there – you don’t need to be “good”, just “good enough”. That’s a useful thing to remember because it makes the job of training yourself that much easier. So the story so far is that you’ve got to make presentations but that they’re not as difficult as you might suppose – we’re not looking for great orators here, just people with enough about them for the audience (think of whoever you’re talking to as an audience and you won’t go far wrong) to get the picture.

    I’m going to break down the process of making the presentation into three parts: the first is the obvious one of what you say. The second is the corollary of that – how you say it. The third part is what’s referred to as the meta-language of how you look (and dress and so on) while you say it.

    To be honest, the first is outside the scope of an article like this: there are other articles on this site that should help you with that.

    The second part, how you say it, is absolutely critical. The last one is also important (but not as important as you’ll be told by many NLP trainers who base their work on a mis-understanding of some good, experimental psychology).

    So, back to business.

    It’s likely that when you’re making some kind of pitch for your business you’re likely to be nervous. I know I always am. When you’re under stress, the body has a set of physiological responses designed to deal with the emergency: it’s called the “fight or flight syndrome” and you’ve probably heard of it. It’s very good at what it does, but unfortunately ‘what it does’ is designed to work in a much more primitive environment than today’s business one – one where you were literally going to have to fight for your life or run away. One of the things your body does is start to use your upper chest for breathing with, in order to get oxygen into your lungs faster, which is great for fighting but no good for talking. To talk you need to try and remember to use your diaphragm to breathe in (and therefore breathe out). The diaphragm is the big sheath of muscle underneath your lungs and above your stomach area. If you can use that when you’re making your pitch lots of good things will happen.

    The first, and most important is that your voice will firm up. It might go deeper, but it might not. Generally though, what it will do is sound richer and fuller – in short, you’ll sound more interesting and more credible. When you’re making a pitch, credibility is important. The second thing it will do is begin to calm your nerves. This is because there’s a part of your brain that is fooled into thinking that, because you’re breathing like there’s no threat, there really is no threat. The consequence is that your body chemistry is altered towards a relaxed, almost sleepy state. Don’t worry about becoming too drowsy, there’s no chance of that, but it should make your whole voice and demeanour a lot more relaxed and confident. The third thing that will happen is that you’ll actually have more stamina and a better oxygen flow over the longer term. That in turn means that you’ll be more tuned in to what’s going on around you: basically, you’re likely to start thinking faster.

    Moving up from your lungs, the next part of your “speaking system” is your throat. This is where the actual sounds of your voice are made, as airflows between your vocal folds. Again, when your body is under stress, you’ll probably react like the vast majority of the population and tense up your shoulders and your throat. That’s bad. This constricts your throat and stops the vibrations of your voice being made so easily – or so well. The consequence is that horrible “nervous voice” sound that everyone has heard (coming from other people as well as themselves, usually). The solution is pretty straight-forward. Breathing from your diaphragm is going to help but you’ll need also to make sure that your shoulders, head and body are positioned in the right relationship to each other.

    If your neck (and hence your throat) is twisted you’re reducing the amount of vibration your vocal folds can achieve, so make sure that you’re facing forwards when you speak. If that means you’ve got to turn slightly, in order to face whoever you’re talking to, then do so. What’s more, once we’re stressed we all have an instinct to tip our heads back – to raise our eyes – but once again this constricts the throat and makes your voice sound thinner and less mature. It’s important to make sure that you’re not tipping back: it’ll probably feel awkward difficult at first because most people are accustomed to raising their head too far, but once you’ve got the hang of it you should find it becomes second nature.

    The balance point for your head that you’re looking for is the position where your head is resting on your neck in as “effort free” way as it can possibly be. Stand for a few minutes checking out your head position, making a conscious note of how much effort you’re putting into holding it in one particular position compared to others. I want to give you a word of warning here – be careful not to get confused between the position in which you’re actually doing the minimum amount of work and the position where it feels like you’re doing the minimum; this position is almost certainly related to having become habituated to standing in a certain way, and so your muscles are used to doing that particular amount of work.

    Keep at it – little and often – because it’s quite a subtle thing.

    Make sure that while you’re doing this a few other things are also taken care off. For a start, make a point of remembering to breathe: you’d be amazed at the number of people who concentrate so hard on the position of their heads that they hold their breath. Secondly, drop your shoulders. Now drop them again, because almost no one drops them fully the first time: make very sure that no tension creeps back into them (or your arms, or your hands) while you’re working. Don’t assume that you’re relaxed, check. Thirdly, make sure your breathing is from your diaphragm, not your upper chest. (I actually put my hands on my diaphragm and my chest to make sure when I’m doing this.)

    Lastly, relax the muscles of your bottom. It’s impossible to relax your body if your bottom is tight. It might make you feel like you’re slouching, but it’s worth it in terms of how much better you’ll sound.

    The last part of your “talking system” I want to mention here is where the sounds you make in your throat are converted into words – your mouth.

    The key thing to remember is to warm up your muscles here. Almost everyone lets these muscles atrophy a little, and under-uses them. What you think of as you doing an over-the-top impression of Noel Coward or the Queen is probably just clear speaking to someone else. Make very sure that your lips are working very hard as you talk.

    The key to warming them up, by the way, is a simple one. There are lots of exercises I give people to get them doing this when I’m giving courses and classes, but the key things to do are to yawn and to rub your face.

    When you yawn make sure it’s not a polite, behind-the-hand, stifled thing. I’m talking about the kind of thing your cat does that looks like it’s going to dislocate it’s jaw. This has the added advantage, by the way, of clearing out build-ups of carbon dioxide from the lower parts of your lungs and thus making you feel more awake. When you rub your face, use the same kind of motion you use when you’re giving yourself a vigorous wash in the morning. The area to cover is the area of your beard (if you’re a man) or the area where you would be rubbing a beard if you had one (if you’re a woman smile ).

    Pay particular attention to the top lip. This isn’t because it needs more warming up than the other parts but simply because it’s very easily overlooked as people put their hands to their faces.

    Put all this together and you should have a much, much better chance of making your pitch sounding cool, collected, mature, credible and relaxed. You never know, you might even end up enjoying it!

    The things that go with how you sound are pretty straight-forward, common sense type things. The basic rule is to be ever so slightly more formal than you need to be (how formal you “need” to be is taken here as meaning “as the other person expects you to be”). Don’t over do it – and tend towards the conservative.

    Things to avoid are gimmicks such as dangly ear-rings, picture ties, plunge neck-lines and so on. The focus of what you’re trying to do is get your audience listening to what you’re saying, not seeing how far up your skirt they can see (consciously or sub-consciously) or watching the flashes from your gold watch as it catches the light or whatever. Patterns are generally a no-no.

    Colours are a matter of personal style but a few tips to bear in mind are that black looks severe and robust (but few people suit it) while red is generally interpreted as a physical colour; blue as an intellectual one and green as a balancing one (and few people suit green either!). Golden-yellow is often interpreted as a power colour. One combination I particularly favour when I’m making a pitch therefore is: black trousers, mid-blue (corporate) shirt and a rich, deep yellow tie.

    And that’s it!

    I’ve simplified and skipped things, but you should have got a reasonable idea about the basics from this article. If so, I’m pleased; why not drop me a line and say so. If you’ve not got anything out of it, why not drop me a line in any case and I’ll try and help. Enquiries should be to me by email at [email protected]

    Above all, remember that your voice is unique to you and that the most important thing is to have fun. No one will be as critical of you as you are of yourself, ever, so just enjoy!