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What Will You Learn In Today’s Episode

  • Leadership and negotiation are two sides of the same coin. Every time a person persuades another and gets them to buy into an idea they didn’t think made sense, they are negotiating, which is similar to leadership.
  • Storytelling is a handy leadership and negotiation skill. Stories are universal and have the power to cross cultural lines, helping to mitigate misunderstandings.
  • While compromise might be necessary in some instances, it should be the measure of last resort. When negotiating, one needs to be creative and have a problem-solving attitude.
  • Preparation might not be enough to negotiate effectively; one needs to take new information, adapt and improvise at every step.

Executive Summary:

Hey folks! Thanks for joining us for another episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. Our guest today is Dr. Joshua Weiss. Dr. Weiss is the co-founder of the Global Negotiation Initiative at Harvard University and a senior fellow at the Harvard Negotiation Project.

He’s also the director and creator of the Master of Science Degree in Leadership and Negotiation at Bay Path University. Josh has spoken and published on leadership negotiation, mediation, and systematic approaches to dealing with conflict.

Josh conducts research, consults with many different organizations, delivers negotiation and mediation training and courses, and engages in negotiation and mediation at the organizational, corporate, governmental, and international levels.

Additionally, he is the author of The Book Of Real-World Negotiations: Successful Strategies From Business, Government, and Daily Life, which shines a light on real-world negotiation examples and cases rather than discussing hypothetical scenarios. It reveals what is possible through preparation, persistence, creativity, and taking a strategic approach to your negotiations.

Leadership And Negotiation Are Interconnected

Josh believes effective leadership is about developing a vision and getting people to buy into it by persuading and influencing them- a process that is no different than a typical negotiation. He further states that every time an individual persuades another and gets them to buy into an idea they didn’t initially think made sense, they are negotiating. That influence is key to leadership.

Josh also highlights the narrow view that most people have when it comes to negotiation. People still believe that negotiations are only done by those who are either in sales or procurement. However, the fact of the matter is that people negotiate daily, be it when trying to persuade their bosses or employees.

All in all, once you start trying to persuade someone into doing something that they might not be interested in or trying to resolve a challenge or conflict, you are negotiating. And that’s what’s important to understand about the connection between leadership and negotiation.

Storytelling Is A Key Leadership And Negotiation Skill

Another crucial thing that Josh talks about in the podcast is the importance of storytelling in negotiation and leadership. It’s no news that the best leaders always use some form of storytelling to convey their messages and motivate people. Stories are universal and having the power to cross cultural barriers can help grease the wheels in a lot of ways.

Creativity And A Problem-Solving Attitude Is What Negotiation Is All About, Not A Compromise

Moving on, Josh debunks the myth that negotiation is about giving up something to get something; in other words, compromise. While compromise might be necessary for some instances, Josh strongly feels it should be the measure of last resort.

If you are of the opinion that the best negotiations are where everybody leaves a bit unhappy, then it’s about time you changed your mindset. That’s because negotiation is all about a little bit of creativity and problem-solving.

Once you start digging down and understanding what the counterparty wants, it leaves less scope for settling for a compromise as it helps you solve problems better.

Improvisation And Preparation Are Equally Important

When asked about the importance of preparation before negotiation, Josh suggests that preparations and plans are fine as long as the negotiation landscape is knowable. However, when it’s not, you might require a little bit of contingency planning, where you would want to think of different avenues that you could use to reach your goals.

To become a great negotiator, you need to improvise, take new information and adapt at every step while negotiating. However, that doesn’t mean that you should not put in the effort to prepare; otherwise, you risk failing. Josh suggests using the 80-20 rule, proposed by Mike Wheeler, where 80% is preparation and 20% is improvisation.

Adaptability And An Open Mind Are Key To Nailing High-Stake Negotiations

Towards the end, Josh shares some insightful information related to negotiation and helps debunk some of the myths surrounding it. He proposes the reason most people find negotiations to be anxiety-inducing is that they have little to no information about it.

Many novices often think that there’s a certain way to act or certain things to say while negotiating, but the truth is that there are no canned phrases that can help you win high-stakes negotiations.

Another reason people falter when negotiating is that they always come in with a story that’s rigid and not steeped in research. And that’s where a little creativity and problem-solving attitude can come in handy. Also, it’s always a great idea to have an open mind and realize that you might not know everything there is about negotiation; that’s how you’ll learn.

Josh, Aram, and Nolan discuss a lot more on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx Podcast. Write to us at team@negotiatex.com and share your thoughts on this very informational podcast episode.

Thank you for listening.


Nolan Martin : Hello and welcome to the NegotiateX podcast. My name is Nolan Martin and with me today is Aram Donigian and our guest Dr. Joshua Weiss. Aram, do you wanna introduce our guest today?

Aram Donigian : Yeah, I will. Thanks. Thank you, Nolan. So, Dr. Joshua Weiss is the co-founder with William Ury of the Global Negotiation Initiative at Harvard University and a senior fellow at the Harvard Negotiation Project. He's also the director and creator of the Master of Science Degree in Leadership and Negotiation at Bay Path University. Josh has spoken and published on leadership negotiation, mediation, and systematic approaches to dealing with conflict.

He conducts research, consults with many different types of organizations, delivers negotiation and mediation training and courses, and engages in negotiation and mediation at the organizational, corporate, governmental and international levels. His newest book is called The Book of Real-World Negotiations: Successful Strategies From Business, Government, and Daily Life. This book shines a light on real world negotiation examples and cases, rather than discussing hypothetical scenarios. It reveals what is possible through preparation, persistence, creativity, and taking a strategic approach to your negotiations.

He is also the co-author of a storybook trilogy for children ages six to 10 to learn negotiation and conflict resolution skills. These books are part of the Emo and Chicky series. Additionally, he is the creator of a number of innovative products that use the power of technology to convey negotiation and conflict resolution, knowledge and skills to a very broad audience.

He teaches a number of web based courses, created the popular negotiation tip of the week podcast, and developed the Negotiator In You audio series. In 2018, Dr. Weiss also delivered a powerful TED Talk entitled “The Wired Negotiator” about the role of technology and negotiation and how to use it most effectively. It's actually that TedTalk was the first time I was introduced to your work, Dr. Weiss. So Josh, thank you so much for being with us today.

Josh Weiss : Hey, it’s my pleasure guys. Thanks for having me.

NM : Not a problem. And just like to echo thanks for joining us on the podcast. So, I’d like to kind of start this off by figuring out your personal journey into becoming a negotiator. What was that like for you, Josh, and kind of any key developments along the way?

Josh Shares His Personal Journey Into Becoming A Negotiator [3:29]

JW : Yeah, well it was definitely not linear, I can tell you that much. You know, it actually started in many ways after I graduated from college. I went to Syracuse University and got an undergraduate degree in history. And, my mother is Canadian and my family had a land management and development company and they were looking for somebody from my generation to run it.

So, I went there to try it out and see what it was like. And it was interesting, but it wasn't for me. And about a year into it, I was, you know, getting ready to head back to the Boston area where I grew up. And, one of my friends called me, who I had graduated from high school with, and we were talking and, and he asked me how it was going. I said, Eh, I'm coming back, I think.

JW : And, and I said, What are you up to? And he said, Oh, I just bought a Round The World ticket. I'm going backpacking for a year. And I said, You are? and he said, Yeah, why do you want to go? And I said, Yeah, on the spot. So I sold everything I had. And I say that because it, that experience, you know, backpacking is not exactly luxurious travel. It's really interesting travel, did a lot of things along the way, including teaching a little bit of English and other kinds of things, but, you know, stayed in places that were quite inexpensive. But what happened as I was doing all of this was that conflict was sort of this theme that kept emerging everywhere. I found myself in the middle of a Hindu-Muslim riot. I was in the former Yugos Lavia as it was coming apart. And my grandmother's family perished in the Holocaust.

JW : So, I actually spent a month trying to find information about her family cuz she never knew exactly what happened to them. So as you can see, there's sort of this endless stream of connections to conflict. So I got back and, and got into American University after a year of, you know, working and saving some money and, and it was an International Relations Masters program. And they said, Well, you have to pick your concentration. And there was a piece in the conflict resolution track, and it sort of flew off the page at me and I was like, that's what I want to do. And as I got into it, I, you know, the fire was lit once I got into it, it was fascinating. And I tend to be sort of practical and pragmatic in my orientation. And so we started talking more and more about negotiation and red getting to yes and things like that.

JW : And that's when I really started gravitating to negotiation. And after that, I moved back to Boston and started working at the program on negotiation at Harvard Law School. And then went back to DC to do my PhD in Conflict Analysis And Resolution. But it was the negotiation piece that I felt like people could resonate with most strongly. And also, I felt like negotiation cut across every realm, you know, where people exist. You know, I really began to take a broad view of negotiation and, you know, when people are engaging, they've got differences. They're trying to get things done, build relationships, create deals, you're negotiating. And so it was just everywhere. And I thought, you know, if I could help people to understand this, to grasp the importance of this and to do it well, like that's a worthy life goal. And that's what I've been doing ever since. So……..

AD : I love how you frame that as a conflict is a theme. It doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon. So folks like yourself have a lot of job security.

JW : Um, Yes, unfortunately. That's true. And, and in one sense it's unfortunate. And another, you know, I will say that my view of conflict is that it’s kind of natural. It happens because people see very different realities. They have different world views, all this kind of stuff. But what it makes it, you know, productive or destructive is whether people know how to handle it, as you both know. So, I think that's part of the deal, is helping people to figure out how to handle these things? Do I really have to call a lawyer every time something happens? No, you, you need to learn how to manage this just like you, you know, learn other aspects of your job.

AD : Well, we're gonna keep continuing to dive deep into that because we'll come back at the end. I wanna know about the books that you've done for the kids. I have kids on my own, and I think that managing conflict is something we can learn at all ages. I wanted to ask a little bit about Bay Path as a fellow teacher and trainer.

You know, you're doing some amazing work there at Bay Path as well as some of your other efforts across industries to equip, you know, people with these deep skills. You know, where do you tend to focus as you, as you develop these programs? What were you able to share with us?

Josh Shares How He Develops Different Negotiation Programs [7:42]

JW : Yeah, so the masters in the leadership and negotiation program at Bay Path is something that I created eight years ago. They approached me about taking it on, and I thought it was a really interesting challenge to do so, so I just created the program from scratch. And, you know, one of the things that I had also recognized was that leadership was a really important part of all of this, and we didn't really talk about it nearly enough.

So, when I started marrying these two things, people could see the yin yang that existed. The, you know, the programs really for mid-career folks. And, and I will say, that, you know, when they come out of it, they, you know, use words like it's been nothing short of transformative in terms of how I view the world, my confidence level and things along those lines.

JW : And for me, it was really, you know, wanting to make sure that the program gave people a really solid strategic analytical as well as skills. You know, to me, a master's degree enables you to sort of really dig deep into this work and understand dimensions that you don't get in a lot of executive education programs and things like that. You know, for example, and I've been talking more and more about the psychological dimensions, all this, because I believe sort of half of your challenges are out there with the people you deal with, and the other half are in you with the biases that you're against and you know, that are in you pushing your thinking and things like that. In fact, we have a whole class on the psychology of leadership and negotiation, and the students come out of this and email me and say, How the hell did I not know about all this for the 50 years that I've been on this planet?

JW : And so, I think it's developing a well-rounded person, you know, and as we talked about, to be an effective leader or negotiator, it's not a destination. You don't just get there and say, Okay, I'm here, there's no more growth, it's a never ending journey. And so when the students leave the program, you know, they're ready to keep growing. And that's my goal. And, and I will also say, um, you know, that it's not a cookie cutter approach to things. I don't think that you can do that when it comes to leadership and negotiation because people are so different. And so it's really helping people to achieve their ceiling, whatever that looks like. And so when they come in the program, you know, we analyze folks and, and try to help them get where they can. And I think everybody can do this as, as somebody once said to me, You really think you can teach people to be better leaders and negotiators?

JW : And I said, Look, I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't sincerely believe that you can. And I've seen tremendous changes in results and, you know, three quarters of the students who are graduating the program are getting promotions and raises and more responsibilities and all that. So, I know it's true, and I know that these are the skills that people need no matter what happens in our world as it evolves dramatically from a technology point of view, from an AI point of view, there's always gonna be the need to get along and figure out how to deal effectively with people that won't go anywhere, no matter how many, you know, sort of technological advances we come up with.

AD : You know, I gotta ask a follow up question to this, because of the, the title of, of this program and, and the way that you are interchangeably using leader and negotiator. Some folks, I mean, Nolan and I would agree with you, the course we taught that I taught at West Point, Josh was called Negotiation for Leaders. We've talked about the leader as a negotiator. What do you say to people who are like, What are you talking about? I'm a manager. I'm a, I sometimes negotiate, but, but to, to merge the two, How do you talk about this overlap between leadership and negotiation?

Josh Explains The Overlap Between Leadership and Negotiation [11:07]

JW : Yeah, I mean, you know, the interesting thing, I mean, if you think about effective leaders and effective leadership, to me it's really about developing a vision and getting people to buy into that vision, persuading them, influencing them to follow you and keeping them on board. Well, I mean, if that isn't negotiation, I don't know what it is. You know, and again, I take a broad view on negotiation.

I think anytime you're having to persuade people, get them to buy into an idea that maybe they didn't want to or they didn't think made sense, you're negotiating. And then I think on the flip side, as a negotiator, you have to know when to take the lead in a process. You know, especially when you get into more complicated negotiations, if you don't have an individual who can sort of guide a process in an effective way and, and lead other negotiators that the process flounders.

JW : So there, there's many, many ways in which this happens. I think part of the challenge is that people still have a very narrow view of negotiation. You know, often people are like, Well, I'm not in sales or procurement, so I don't negotiate. I'm like, Use me. But you do it all day every day. You know, when you're trying to persuade your boss, the people below you who you, you know, work for you.

So I think if people can get their head around that idea that once you start engaging, trying to persuade if you get a challenge or a conflict, that you resolve it, you're negotiating. And that's what's critically important to understand about all this and to understand that connection between leadership and negotiation.

AD : Yeah. Thanks. That's so well said.

NM : Our tagline here at NegotiateX is to elevate your influence through purposeful negotiations. Just like you said all the time, we tell everyone that you negotiate several times every single day, whether you know it or not. So let's be more purposeful when you are actually negotiating. So kind of moving on to the next question here, and that is, with the newest book, Real World Negotiations, we'd like to know how you use the power of storytelling to teach people about negotiation. And why is this book so special because of it?

Josh Shares Some Intriguing Stuff From His Book [13:08]

JW : Well, you know, just to give you a sense of where the book actually came from. So when I first started working at Harvard, I was fortunate to go to these dinners that they put on for faculty. And the faculty would go and they would exchange ideas and talk about situations that they were involved in from a negotiation point of view where they were helping parties.

And it was fascinating, as you might imagine, right? It was really interesting stuff. And the one thing I kept thinking about every time I would leave was that there's 25 of us in here. Like, the world needs to understand these kinds of stories so that they can really grasp what negotiation is about. Because there's so many myths, as you both know, when you talk to people, there's endless myths about negotiation and how you do it and et cetera.

JW : So, I always thought in the back of my head, you know, if I'm gonna write a book, I really want to do something that's very real world focused, case study focused. And you know, obviously Harvard Business School has that kind of a model that they use. I wanted to do something a little bit different, which was, I wanted to try to do this, but do it in a way that I knew for people who taught and trained negotiation, this would be valuable because stories are gold, right? But I also wanted the average person to be able to pick up the book and go, Huh, that's really not what I thought negotiation was all about. And these cases are, you know, seven to 10 pages long, so it's not 40 to 50 pages of details and things. Like, I really tried to keep it simple, tried to use less jargon and, you know, and gear it to people in that way.

JW : But as I was writing the book, I knew that part of the essence of it was stories. And, you know, I got interested more and more with stories because they're universal, right? And there's very few things that are universal in general, but stories are, everybody can relate to them. Everybody grew up remembering stories. I remember as a kid, you know, Dr. Zeus and Curious George were my two favorites. And I still remember all of those stories from, from being a kid and not surprising by the way that those guys got themselves in lots of conflicts and the stories were about conflicts and things like that So, but I think what's interesting about it is that even though I will share these cases and lessons, I get emails from people who read the book who say, you know, this case that you wrote about really interesting, but there's another lesson you didn't talk about, or there's another dimension to this story that you didn't get at.

JW : And I think people find themselves comfortable with stories. And it's led me to write a couple of articles since then about the power of story and how you can, to use your phraseology, how you can be more purposeful in using stories, right? So I started doing more and more research and investigating this idea of story and how it can be valuable. And there's actually a lot done on it. And one of the interesting things that I found, and I've since sort of put it into my own practice, but also in my writing, is that when you run into a difficult problem or challenge in negotiation, you know, people begin to get in that fight or flight or freeze mode, right? And when that happens, it's hard to recall information. But interestingly enough, there's some fascinating, um, research done into stories and how they are easy to recall when you are in those difficult situations.

JW : So I often talk to my students about trying to use stories to essentially redirect conversations, you know, changing the conversation from competition to cooperation. One way to do that really effectively is to say to the other side, You know what, I've got a, a story that I experienced or that, you know, there that I've learned about that I think might help us here and might be able to change the way we're doing this as opposed to sort of being more directive about it. And I'll share that story and I'll notice that people are much more willing to listen and sort of go with it, because it's a natural persuasion element I suppose you have to it. So, I think that stories are critical and the best stories are ones that you know, that stay with you, you remember them and, and they're really easy to kind of pull out some important lessons.

JW : So, that's what I learned from doing this. And I keep going down that road and, and I'm actually working on another book slowly but surely, cuz when I wrote this book, people said, This is really interesting, but why did you write about success? Because we learned so much more about failure. And I thought, Okay, fair enough. Let me give that a shot. What's interesting though is that a lot of publishers, like I've talked to some publishers and they often say to me, Well, we don't publish about failure because people don't want to read about failure.

I'm really, and I'm like, really? Is that right? Because everybody I know when I'm telling them that I'm writing this book about failure and negotiation and you know how to learn from it to be better, they're fascinated. In fact, one of my students said to me, I would love to read a book like that because all we read in the program are all these successes and it's giving me a complex, like if I fail, I don't really know what I'm doing.

So, there's a lot there and we'll see where that goes. But, it's interesting and even if it goes nowhere, I've learned a lot about the different kinds of failure that exist and things like that. So, that's, you know, I sort of backed into it, but what I'm realizing is that while people use stories, I don't think they always think about all the different strategic ways they can use them to help them.

AD : Yeah. Well if you need to help with some failures, Nolan and I can help you there, Joshua, Thank you. I actually start my first lesson when I teach. I share a failed negotiation cuz I want my students to kind of feel comfortable with, Hey, I'm gonna ask you to try some stuff. We're not always gonna get it right. And that's okay. That's how we learn.

JW : That's right. That's it.

AD : And I also love the connection you make between, Cause I was writing down as you're talking, I was like, I wanna ask him, you know, is storytelling a key leadership and negotiation kind of skill and tool? And you, and you did a nice job explaining how it is.

Josh Explains How Storytelling Is A Key Leadership And Negotiation Skill And Tool [18:53]

JW : I really think it is. I mean, you know, think about the best leaders that you've ever worked with. They're full of stories that motivate, that convey a point without them having to tell you, this is why we're gonna do it and, and, and yada yada yada, right? So, I think people who understand how to influence and persuade, recognize the role of story as a key dimension to all of that. And, and it's interesting too, because when you also work overseas, you know, it, it's almost interesting to ask people and to hear about the metaphors they use or the stories they tell, because as we've talked about, you know, stories are universal in that way, and they cross cultures and, and things like that. So they grease the wheels in a lot of ways.

AD : Well, I, and I love that. Cause I think I, as we talk about cross cultural negotiations, and you're gonna, if you're gonna study a culture and understand how you're gonna resolve conflict or or influence, engage with people, the stories of that culture of the people you're sitting down at that, at that meal or under fire with, and that's very indicative of how you're gonna engage with them.

JW : I agree. And, and you know, it's interesting, many years ago, I used to use quotes in my presentations and things like that, and I thought, you know, it'd be interesting just to see if I could pull all these together related to conflict and negotiation. And so I wrote a very short little book about quotations and proverbs related to conflict and negotiation so that it was in one sort of big area that people could pull from. And, it was interesting because there were so many fascinating proverbs from around the world that focused on conflict and, and dealing with it effectively and, and things along those lines.

AD : Well that's neat, I would love, what's it called? What's this book called?

JW : I think it's quotes, clips and proverbs. It's on Amazon.

AD : All right. Yeah. So I'll have to look that up. Okay. Your new book also discusses, as you mentioned, some myths, traps that negotiators fall into. What's a fairly common one that you see people get into a lot of trouble with, and is there any way we can kind of be better aware of that danger?

Josh Highlights The Myths And Traps That Negotiator Fall Into [21:01]

JW : Yeah, there's, there's a lot. I mean, I think the one that, that I think is actually the most debilitating and the one that people gravitate to quickly and think that negotiation is really synonymous is sort of this desire to compromise very quickly and to really think that negotiation is all about giving up something to get something. Now what, what I say to folks to be, you know, to inject an error of realism here is sometimes compromise is necessary, but I really think it should be the last stop on the train, not the first one. And you can always give something up, but I remember when I was writing the book of real world negotiations, I was at the gym and I was talking to this woman and we got onto the topic. She asked me what the book was about and she said, Oh, I think the best negotiations are where everybody leaves the table a bit unhappy.

JW : And I said, Well, you know, if that's your orientation, that's where you're gonna end up, right? Your mindset matters greatly. And so I think it's really important that people can come to grips with the notion that creativity and problem solving is really what negotiation is all about and not compromise. Because when you dig down and you really understand what it is that people need in a given negotiation, yeah, compromise can be needed sometimes, but a lot of times it's not. And so I think moving people away from a rush to compromise or a rush to get the process over as fast as they can to get on with the rest of whatever it is they're doing, I think that's a really big myth that that gets in the way of finding the best deals possible. And it's pervasive. And, you know, anytime I hear people talking about negotiation in the media, they're always like, Well, we're gonna have to compromise on this or on that. I'm like, Did you even try to figure out all of the things that matter to people before you do that? Cuz I'm guessing you didn't. So that's a big one for me. And as you can see, it's a little bit of a pet peeve.

AD : I love it. It's one for me too. The thing I struggle with is that as I, you know, as you start to frame this for folks and they're like, Well, you're telling me not to be this like hard positional bargaining, demanding, right? So what you want me to do is just be really soft. It's like, no, no, that's not it at all. I actually, I really want you to do some hard work around investigating the real problem, getting really that, getting creative, those are hard things to do.

JW : They are, and I believe, I really think, you know, again, back to the psychological elements, you know, how you enter a negotiation, what your mindset is, is critically important. You know, we know the old adage, every, you know, if you see every problem as a nail, you use a hammer. And I think it's one of those things where if you see the other as somebody that you need, because negotiation is an interdependent process, right? You're not getting where you want to go unless they say yes and vice versa. And so better to recognize them and say, Hey, you and I have a problem in front of us, right? Which are the issues on the table. Let's see what we can do together and try to figure this out. That's a very different orientation than that person's my adversary. I'm gonna try to manipulate them. I'm gonna squeeze whatever I can out of them, and then I'm never gonna deal with them again.

Well, that's problematic on a number of levels because not only does your reputation get tarnished, but you know, in a lot of the teaching and training I do, I often begin by asking people to try to set up the, you know, these different models of negotiation. I begin by asking them, how many of your negotiations are one off versus with the same people or organizations over time? And it's usually something like 10 to 15% or one off negotiations, and 85 to 90% are with the same people over and over again. And I say, Well, how you negotiate with that person or that organization matters greatly. And if you manipulate them or use distrust or whatever it is, you could probably squeeze out a little more. I'm not gonna tell you you can't. But eventually they figure it out. And now what do you do? Now it becomes a one-upping process where you never get to the best deals possible because nobody's sharing information in that kind of context. And, and we know that information is gold in negotiation, right? It's the currency that we work with. So, I think it's, it's those things that, that all come together and, and, you know, it's sort of mindset that leads to compromise that leads to, you know, all these other elements.

NM : That's great. And one other thing I wanna touch on in your book was the five principles of negotiations. And the first one that you hit on is in preparation. This is something that Aram and I, especially from our military backgrounds, are very keen on emphasizing. So we'd love to get your thoughts on how negotiators can be better preparerd before they go into a negotiation.

Josh Explains How Negotiators Can Be Better Prepared Before They Go Into Negotiations [25:36] 

JW : It's an interesting challenge because when people begin to learn negotiation, like anything, they want frameworks and they want plans. They want to know, if I do a then I can go to B, then I can go to C and I get to my goal, right? And, and it just doesn't work that way, in negotiation because the other person doesn't know what your plan is, and they have their own desires and wishes. The way that I like to frame it is that plans are fine when the landscape is knowable, when it's not, when the landscape is uncertain, there's information that you lack and things like that. What you need to do really is engage in contingency planning. So you still have your goal, but you want to be thinking, what are the different avenues that I can use to get to that goal? So if the first one is blocked, I can still go down the second or the third one or whatever it might be.

JW : And, you know, I like to think of it a little bit like when you play chess, when you make a move, you don't just say, Well, I'm gonna do this, and I'm gonna do that, and I'm gonna do that cuz the other person is making their own moves and that are countering what you're doing. And I think it's important to engage in that kind of planning process. You know, there's a great quote that I love from Dwight Eisenhower. He was talking about war and he said, Plans are useless, but planning is everything. And I think that applies to negotiation as well, because there's so much uncertainty. I'm sure you both know the name Michael Wheeler, who is a professor at Harvard Business School and wrote the book, The Art of Negotiation. And in essence, you know, the entire book is framed around the concept of if you want to be a great negotiator, you need to learn the skills of improv because you're constantly taking in new information and having to adapt to it.

JW : And I've actually started to get really interested in this idea. I've been interested in adaptability for a while, but I recently learned about this concept of adaptability quotient that's out there. And so like, you know, an IQ or emotional intelligence quotient, there's an adaptability quotient. And I think that's great because it helps people to sort of get a sense of, if I'm not good at this, how do I learn to be more adaptive? Because it's so essential in negotiation because you are constantly reacting and responding to new information.

And you know, Mike talks about the 80-20 rule, which is really that, you know, you can prepare for about 80% of a negotiation. The other 20% is unknown to you when you enter the process and will reveal itself as you go. And so you have to go in with that kind of a mindset that you're gonna be taking in new information that's important and that you'll, you're gonna have to sort of think, well, where do I go with this now based on what I just took in?

JW : So I think that's something that's really, really important. And, you know, I often come up against people who are like, you know, I'm so busy I don't have time to prepare. I'm like, Well then you should prepare to fail because I don't have a better formula for you. You know, negotiations succeed or fail in the preparation phase because it's all about knowledge and information and, and things along those lines. And if you don't do it, just as a quick example, I mentioned, you know, this failure book and one of the examples that I use is Brian Epstein, who is the manager of the Beatles, who did not know anything about the music industry and knew almost nothing about negotiation. And he arguably might have cost the Beatles hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of their career because of the bad negotiation deals that he negotiated without doing his preparation.

NM : It's a great case and point.

AD : Yeah. You know, tied to this idea of adaptability, which I like. I mean, again, the military background Nolan and I would bring would say, you've gotta be adaptable, you've gotta have, you gotta have a plan and then it makes you that much more effective to flex from. It feels that creativity is kind of linked to this too, and that creativity also has its source in preparation.

And, and one of the things I talk about with my students is, and I, I don't know if it's cuz they tend to be very linear thinkers, but that people just aren't very creative these days. And I sometimes get asked by students, How can I get more creative in my negotiations? Does that come up for you? And, how do you answer a question like that?

Getting Creative When Negotiating [29:42]

JW : I don't know if it comes up that directly for me. I think part of the problem is that the narrative that they're beginning with is one, I mean, first of all, a lot of people find negotiation sort of anxiety-producing because they don't know a lot about it and they've, you know, they see myths about it.

And so they think there's a certain way they should act. I do get students who say, Well, you know, what should I say or what do I do? I'm like, first of all, you have to be you in a negotiation. Like there's no way around this, you’re not a robot.

And don't think that you can have a bunch of canned phrases that are gonna help you. You can have one or two that you could fall back on. But, the point is that I think people are coming in with a story that is very rigid and, and not steeped in a lot of the research and literature and things that are in the field, which emphasizes the importance of problem solving and creativity.

JW : So, I think it's getting them, I try to do things early on that debunks a lot of the myths and other kinds of things and, and I try to jar people out of a reality that they're in when it comes to negotiation. And that's, in fact, you know, part of what I was trying to do in the book at the beginning was say, here's what this looks like from my point of view. And I'm sure the average person picking up, you're like, Wait, what, what's he talking about? This is nothing like what I thought negotiation was about. So, I think you, you hit them in one sense, metaphorically, gently with a debunking of what they think is the truth about negotiation. And then that's when I come in and I say, Look, this is really about creativity and problem solving.

JW : So, you know, open your mind to that possibility and realize that, you know, you don't really even know what this negotiation is about yet. You haven't even dug in and, and worked at it. And, you know, I've had people say to me, Well, I tried to negotiate. I'm like, Well, what'd you do? Well, we made an offer. They said no, they made an offer. We said no. And we realized, you know, we weren't gonna get anywhere. I'm like, you didn't negotiate. Like you have to dig in. You have to be persistent, resilient, you have to keep at the problem.

And so much of this is, again, we're back to the mindset, but it's also helping people to realize that, that there's a way to do this. But you have to share information and, and you have to in a reciprocal way. You know, I often say to my students, like, if you're gonna go down the road of an interest based approach to negotiation, I don't want you just to throw everything out there.

JW : I want you to, you know, explain to the other party that you're gonna share something that's important to you and your expectation is that they're gonna reciprocate. And if they do, that's great and you can go down this road in a way that I think would be a lot more productive. And if they don't, you gotta pull back a bit and take the process slowly.

So, you know, I think a lot of it is that mindset and, and they come in and they're just not really sure what to do with all this. And, you know, and negotiation is difficult. You can often sit across from very intimidating looking people who act in that way. And that's when people freeze and, you know, their emotions kick in and they don't really know what to do.

And a lot of people give up at that point, you know, they have a really bad experience and they say, I'm not doing that again. And, and so we have to work hard with those folks to say, that was one instance and part of it happened because you weren't prepared, you didn't do your homework, you, you know, yada yada yada. So….

NM : Hey everyone, Nolan here. I have to jump in and end our conversation with Josh today. If you haven't already, please rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. And, we'll see you in the next episode.

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