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Key Takeaways:

  • Family of origin and cultural background can impact how individuals approach negotiation, and understanding these influences can help people negotiate more effectively.
  • Hollywood movies often misrepresent negotiation as a one-man show, and many people fear negotiation because they take rejection personally. It’s important to remain calm and connect with one’s values to negotiate effectively.
  • Authenticity and self-awareness are important in negotiation, and negotiators should stay true to themselves, their values, and their negotiation style.
  • Personal development practices such as journaling and self-debriefing can help with self-discovery, and personal development should be taught in schools.
  • Shifting from competitive to collaborative negotiation involves establishing a common objective and understanding the other party’s needs.
  • The ABC method involves focusing on Authority, Bio, and Capacity to remain calm in negotiation, and being trustworthy is crucial in building a baseline level of trust and rapport to negotiate effectively.

Executive Summary:

Welcome to another exciting episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. Today, we have the pleasure of hosting Lousin Mehrabi, a professional negotiator, trainer, and inspirational speaker. For over 23 years, she has been involved in resolving complex multi-billion dollar negotiations.

As a sought-after inspirational speaker, she is booked across the world for impactful keynote speeches on negotiations and leadership. Her dynamic, disruptive, and authentic speaking style keeps audiences captivated and engaged, leaving them with the tools, mindset, and confidence to succeed.

With that said, let’s take a deep dive into the stuff she shares in this episode.

Negotiating for a Better World: The Career Path and Passion of Professional Negotiator, Lousin Mehrabi

Aram initiates the discussion by asking Lousin how she became a professional negotiator and if it was always her intended career path or if something led them to it. Mrs. Mehrabi highlights that she strongly believes that negotiating more effectively can make the world a better place. That’s because it involves building better relationships, resolving conflict faster, reducing stress, and enabling people to speak up for what they believe in.

She notes that negotiating is a skill everyone can improve and that disagreements and conflicts are a normal part of life that can be managed more effectively with negotiation skills. She also shares her background, including growing up in a household where negotiation was necessary to achieve personal happiness and being intrigued by negotiation from a young age.

Although she initially pursued a career in finance, she eventually became a professional negotiator and now helps companies with high-stakes negotiations and teaches negotiation skills.

The Role of Family and Culture in Shaping Negotiating Skills

Subsequently, Nolan asks Lousin about the impact of family of origin and ethnic background on negotiating skills. In reply, Lousin highlights the importance of early childhood experiences in shaping how individuals approach negotiation. That’s because all the information that enters the mind up till the age of seven can have a lasting impact on how people see themselves, others, and the world.

She notes that cultural and ancestral backgrounds can also impact negotiating skills, citing examples of certain cultures that negotiate more easily than others. Lousin suggests that this understanding can help individuals better comprehend why some naturally negotiate more effectively than others.

Dispelling the Myths and Fears Around Negotiation

Moving on, Lousin shares her insights on why many people have a negative connotation of negotiation and how those perspectives can be changed. She suggests that Hollywood movies often misrepresent negotiation as a one-man show, whereas negotiations involve teamwork.

The negotiation expert also notes that many people fear negotiation because they take rejection personally, which can lead to a lack of detachment and make negotiation feel like a personal attack. This fear of conflict can lead to individuals not speaking up for themselves or becoming aggressive, which are not ideal outcomes.

Lastly, she emphasizes the importance of remaining calm and connecting with one’s own values to respect others while getting what one wants in a negotiation.

Authenticity and Self-Awareness in Negotiation

Next, Lousin talks about common mistakes people make during negotiations, particularly in business. One common trap is for people to connect with the culture of their company or employer, which can be problematic as they may lose their authenticity.

She mentions that it’s important for negotiators to be self-aware and stay true to themselves, their values, and their negotiation style. According to her, different negotiation styles can coexist when people are authentic.

Self-Discovery and Personal Development: Lousin Mehrabi’s Advice on Becoming Self-Aware

In response to a question asked by Aram about how to become self-aware, Lousin advises starting with a choice to get to know oneself beyond titles and roles. She suggests that life experiences, including adversity and hardship, can provide opportunities to discover oneself. Personal development practices such as journaling and self-debriefing can also help with self-discovery.

On that note, she mentions that personal development should be taught in schools as it could help individuals develop their identities and be less easily influenced by others.

According to her, the ideal time to address personal development is during the teenage years, when the brain is growing rapidly, and teenagers tend to ask themselves questions about who they are and what they value.

However, personal development can be practiced at any age, as we can always reinvent ourselves and become a better version of ourselves. Lousin strongly believes that it is a never-ending journey, and there is no end line.

Shifting from Competitive to Collaborative Negotiation: Establishing a Shared Common Objective

Moving on, Nolan highlights that some people view negotiation as a competition but he believes that being collaborative can be more effective. He then asks Lousin how to shift a competitive negotiation to a collaborative one and if it’s as easy as understanding the counterparty’s underlying needs rather than just their demands.

Lousin responds by highlighting that the approach to transforming a competitive negotiation into a collaborative one is establishing a shared common objective at the beginning of the negotiation. This helps both parties to be aware of the benefits they could derive if they reach an agreement. It also results in a change in the energy and mindset of the parties involved, resulting in a better outcome.

The ABC Method: Understanding Perceptions and Building Credibility in Negotiation

Lousin discusses a special approach she uses while negotiating: the ABC method. It focuses on three key elements: Authority, Bio, and Capacity to remain calm. She suggests that it’s highly important to understand how others perceive you and build credibility as a negotiation partner. The negotiation expert also stresses the need to be aware of one’s triggers and to develop self-control in high-stress situations.

Overall, her approach emphasizes the importance of becoming a better negotiator in day-to-day life rather than simply learning skills and tactics for specific negotiation scenarios.

The Role Of Trustworthiness In Negotiations

Finally, Lousin shares her insights on trust in negotiations. According to her, trust is not always necessary to come to an agreement, but it’s important to come off as “trustworthy” to navigate negotiations effectively.

It’s equally important to build a bond with the counterparty and make them want to talk to you without hesitation, which can be done by being reliable in your actions.

Lousin, Aram, and Nolan delve into a wide range of topics. We invite you to share your thoughts on this highly informative podcast by emailing us at team@negotiatex.com.

We appreciate you tuning in!

Transcript

Nolan Martin : Hello and welcome to the NEGOTIATEx podcast. I am your co-host and co-founder Nolan Martin. With me today is my great friend, co-host, co-founder, Aram Donigian. Aram, how are you doing today, sir?

Aram Donigian : I'm great, Nolan. I, you know, you do those intros every time. I wonder if you're always going to make it through or I'm going to have to step in and help you out, [laugh].

NM : Well, I'll appreciate it whenever you do. Make me do all the work

AD : Oh, no, I always make you do the work.

NM : [laugh].

AD : Hey, listen, let me go ahead and get our guest introduced and get kicked off with today's program. Selected as one of the most influential negotiation professionals globally. Lousin Mehrabi is a professional negotiator, trainer, and inspirational speaker. She's also Armenian, which is just one more bonus for having her on the program. As folks know I am of Armenian descent. For over 23 years, she has been involved in resolving complex multi-billion dollar negotiations.

As a global head of negotiation training and board advisor, Lousin helps leaders to win their negotiations while maintaining strong relationships. As a sought after inspirational speaker she is booked across the world for impactful keynote speeches on negotiations and leadership. Her dynamic, disruptive, and authentic speaking style keep audiences captivated and engaged, leaving them with the tools, mindset, and confidence to succeed.

Lousin believes the world becomes a better place when we resolve conflict through negotiation. She provides people with insights to grow through adversity and develop better relationships with others and with themselves.

She regularly shares her expertise in her podcast, Life Negotiations, and as a guest on other podcasts, in international media and at universities. Prior to becoming a professional negotiator, Lousin worked in senior leadership roles in finance. For 15 years, she was responsible for sales and strategy on trading floors of financial institutions such as Citigroup and New York Stock Exchange, Euro Next. As a True World citizen Lousin is a graduate of three international business schools, holds four nationalities and speaks five languages.

She currently lives in Dubai with her husband and two children. In her free time, which I can't imagine you have much of that, Lousin loves to be in nature, travel and read about health, mindset and happiness. Thank you Lousin, for joining us today.

Lousin Mehrabi : Wow, what an introduction. Thank you. Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here, gentlemen.

NM : Great to have you Lousin. So in your bio, you mentioned this belief that we can make the world a better place when we negotiate more effectively. Could you maybe share with us, with our listeners why you believe that?

The Prevalence Of Negotiation In Our Everyday Lives [3:29]

LM : Well, what most people don't realize is that we all are negotiators. We all negotiate every single day, several times a day. So when we become better at it, that allows us to build better relationships, resolve conflict faster, have less stress, and be able to speak up for things that we believe in. Now, when that happens, obviously our own lives improve, but also the relationships we have with others and the way we face life with others. Because unless you are a monk living solo on a mountain, you are going to deal with people.

And when you're dealing with people, there are going to be disagreements. This is a part of life and this is a fact. There's nothing we can do about that. But how do you deal with conflict? How do you deal with disagreements? Most people are very uncomfortable with it. They get stressed with it and they react emotionally, and then they feel guilty or bad about reacting that way. And then it's this downward going slope. Where people think, well, since I don't know how to deal with it, I'm just going to keep my mouth shut or the other end of the equation, I become aggressive and I yell and do things a certain way. So, if we have the negotiation skills to be able to deal with the day-to-day disagreements that we face, I truly believe we make the world a better place because we become better people.

AD : I love how you frame that by the way that we, you know, life is something we face it with others. [laugh] and disagreements are just part of the conditions

LM : Yeah.

AD : That we're gonna have.

LM : Which is a good thing.

AD : Which is a good thing. Yeah. How did you get into this? I mean, was this a direction you think you hit, your career was always headed? Or did something happen that kind of led you into this field of negotiation and conflict resolution?

LM : No. So, I wasn't, you know, it wasn't the secret service or anything that I grew in where I decided to become a negotiator [laugh]. But I did always have this appetite for it because of my background, I think. So I am one of four children and I grew up in a household with a very strict father who didn't let us do much, like go out and party and all those things. It was like always a negotiation. And my two sisters used to push me forward and say, “Lous, go negotiate with daddy “[laugh]. So we can go out, so we can do this and we can do that.

So, that was a part of me being obliged for my own happiness as a teenager to negotiate with a very tough negotiator. And I was actually intrigued by it. And I think by, when I was 15 or 16, we went to the library with my sister and I actually took a book, ‘How to Become a Better Lobbyist’. And my sister asked, why don't you just take books of your own age? And I was just so fascinated by the whole part of how do you influence people? How do you get them to do things that you want?

How do you come to agreements in difficult situations? So I did always have the interest. And then, no, I didn't become a negotiator. I went to work in finance. I was working on trading floors of investment banks and then the stock exchange.

So, it was mainly financial negotiations that I was doing; commercial negotiations, big deals, but the stakes weren't human, were millions of dollars. And in that capacity, the stock exchange where I was working, brought in two professional negotiators to train us. It was a year-long masterclass. We learned everything from negotiation to influence, to lie detection, to profiling. And I was so fascinated. And one day I remember paying a lot of attention to everything and taking a lot of notes, and then just looking at the trainer and thinking, “I want to do what you do, this is so cool. Just teach negotiation. This is just amazing.” And then fast forward a few years, they asked me to join them, ADN group, a French boutique company specialized in negotiations, in high stake negotiations, and now I work with them. And then I have my own methods. And yeah, that's basically how it went. I became a professional negotiator helping companies with their negotiations, high stake negotiations, and teaching it as well.

The Impact Of Nature And Nurture In Our Ability To Negotiate (07:17)

AD : What a fascinating story. If I go back to the beginning of it, can we just ask you one follow on, which is, how much does our family of origin, or even our, I don’t know, ethnic background or just those, how critical do you think like those early experiences with conflict and resolution and things that we wouldn't have known were a negotiation maybe at the time when we're experiencing but are. How much does that factor into the way we think about or approach negotiations?

LM : Well, like everything in life, everything that we have been programmed to believe between birth and seven years of age has such an impact on how we see ourselves, how we see the world, and how we deal with life and with people. Because between the ages of zero and seven, that is when all the information gets in, that is when the software has been programmed, and everything that goes in, in that period really determines how we show up in life. There is this saying, I don't remember who said it, but, ‘show me the child before the age of seven and I will tell you how the adult is’ something in those lines.

So, it has a massive influence. Like tell a kid who is four that they're amazing, they're amazing, they can do anything, and they're actually going to believe it and tell a kid that he's completely useless and stupid, and he is also going to believe it. So, I think those ages are very critical and it explains a lot about of also the work of, you know, the book, what is It's Rich Dad, Poor Dad….

NM : It's Robert Kiosaki

LM : Exactly. And I think it goes a lot in those lines. Like whatever you have been shown, whatever you have been told in early ages determines how you show up as an adult. And I would like to take it even further. Now, this might sound completely weird to some, but I believe even before, like our ancestors and what they went through has an impact on how we show up in life and how we negotiate. You can see that there are certain cultures who negotiate more easily, and I believe it goes even beyond like its DNA level.

AD : And I find that last piece, what you said so interesting, that it's actually, you know, potentially rooted in our DNA.

LM : It's very broad. I mean, we can go into this, but there's a lot of, there are cultures who negotiate easier than other cultures, and it has an impact on obviously everything they do. But it's also, if you look at religions, if you look at certain jobs done by certain races, certain people, certain backgrounds. I mean, it's just a fact. I mean, look at finance for example, where you see a certain religion or certain race a lot more than others. I mean, the way people deal with money, and I've seen this in finance, I mean, go on trading floor on Friday afternoon, there's not gonna be many people. It's just a fact. So if we just calculate this in and there's nothing wrong, there's nothing good, it's just is. It does help you understand better why some people naturally negotiate easier than others.

NM : So, many people have a negative connotation of negotiation or simply don't like to negotiate. Why do you think that's so, and how can we change those perspectives?

Misconceptions And Misinterpretation Of The Concept Of Negotiations (10:33)

LM : It's definitely true, unfortunately, and me and many other negotiators are working hard to change that. I think there are different aspect. The first aspect is the way we have been shown negotiation and negotiators. So, that's Hollywood movies. And a lot of that is just not true because the way Hollywood portrays professional negotiators is often one man show, 40 plus, probably white, bald and very sexy, okay?

And they go in alone and they save everybody, and then they go out with the hot chick [laugh]. Okay? And we all know that's not the way negotiations work in real life. Like we are a team. We go in, there are at least two people in the team, one negotiating, one keeping an eye on it. There is a psychologist involved. There is this, there is that, it's always teamwork. And that is something that most people don't realize.

And then it's also, many people fear negotiations because, whether we want it or not, and subconsciously they take it personally. So if somebody says no, it's a no to them, it's them personally that get rejected, etc. So there is this lack of detachment that makes it painful. When we negotiate for something that we don't get, like it literally hurts. Like it's personal attack, it's ego involved, it's this fear of being rejected, the fear of being abandoned, the fear of not being liked.

All those things play a role which make most people hate conflict. And therefore, now hating conflict. There's nothing wrong with that. I hate conflict too. But then not speaking up for what you believe in, I think is a problem. Becoming aggressive because you don't have the tools to stay calm in conflict situations, that is a problem. And that is what we are teaching as negotiators. How do you remain calm?

How do you connect to your own values and actually respect them? And how do you end the process, get what you want while respecting others as well.

AD : Yeah, that's wonderfully said, right? In terms of the cost to trying to ignore the conflict around us. Again, I'll go back to what you opened with, was as we face life with others, there's going to be conflict and both those choices that you portrayed as alternatives to dealing with it, either not speaking up for ourselves or getting aggressive, those aren't great outcomes.

LM : No, that's not what we want. And yet it happens for all of us every day.

NM : Yeah, That's right

AD : You know, you've done a lot of work on financial and commercial negotiations. Are there any common mistakes that negotiators make? Especially maybe with those types of deals but maybe even just in general, common mistakes that you see and how do you coach people to kind of overcome these common trap?.

The Importance of Staying True to Yourself in Negotiations and Business Culture [13:21]

LM : Yeah. Well, one of the common traps in the business world that I see, for example, is that people tend to connect with the culture of a company or even an entire sector. Like in finance, this is the way we do it. In the big five strategy, this is the way we do it. And that is dangerous because you are not your entire sector.

Like, I remember once when I got promoted to I don't remember managing director in finance, there was one of my colleagues who came and he was a fascinating man, and I admire his work a lot. And he told me, “Lousin, you do know that now you have to become a shark.” I said, “what are you talking about?” And he said, “Well, now you're going to swim in the pool of sharks and if you don't become a shark, you'll be eaten.” I was like, but I don't want to become a shark [laugh]. Like, I'm fine the way I am. And he's like, no, you can't. Like, you're too nice or you're too this or you're too that.

And I remember I really got influenced by what he said and it stressed me because I was like, oh, now I have to change and the way I talk or the way I have lunch with people has to change just because I got this title. And I think many people get influenced by that and then act a certain way that is not authentic to who they really are. So I think that's one thing that we have to be mindful of. And as a good negotiator, it's really important to be extremely self-aware, to know us as well as possible and really spend a lot of time alone and analyzing us like we would analyze a project or anything else to truly understand; Who am I? What are my values? How do I want to negotiate? What kind of negotiator do I want to be? Or if you want to make broader, what kind of person do I want to be and stay truth to that.

And I have seen different types of negotiation, and they can all coexist and they can all exist as long as it's authentic. So if you're naturally collaborative, you don't have to go in and become all competitive because that's what a certain sector expects from you or that's how you think it should happen. And the other way around, as long as it's real, because people have these antennas for fake stuff. So yeah, stay true to yourself. Also, to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, you know, I'm happy with what I did.

AD : How do you advise people to become self-aware? Like how does that, is it meditation? Is it journaling? Is it just deep reflection on what worked and what didn't work? How do you build that? Because that seems so hard and so, yes we need to.

LM : Yeah.

AD : And how do I do that?

The Need for Teaching Personal Development in Schools [15:43]

LM : Yeah, that's an excellent question. Well, it all starts with everything else, with a choice of deciding, you know what? I want to get to know myself. Who am I? And but really the who am I question, taking it way further than I am a mother, this is my name, this is my age, this is my job. You know, those are all titles, but who are you beyond the titles? Who are you beyond the roles? Like if you take all of that away, what's left? And then you come to your values, you come to your non-negotiables, like what do you stand for? What do you believe in? What is something that you would be willing to fight for, to die for? Because that's how important it is to you.

And I think life gives you opportunities to discover, life gives you adversity to discover, life gives you hardship, life gives you diseases, life gives you divorces and all those opportunities for you to learn, who am I, what do I value, what's really important to me? And then you can take it further of course, and do personal development. Learn about yourself and what you said are more perfect examples. Journaling, debrief what I call, you know, in the evening I debrief with myself like, what did I do well, what could I have done better? And just ask yourself, you know, who am I? What can I do better? How am I gonna show up in life? What is the kind of person I want to be, like we should be teaching this in school, right?

It's like, how come we are sent in the business world or any other working field without even knowing who we are? Because that's when you become influenciable in the right way and in the wrong way.

AD : Yeah.

LM : You need to have your own identity so that you can't be bullshitted by others.

NM : Absolutely.

AD : [laugh]. And what age should we be addressing? Like where should this be happening? Is this back to that kind of seven year or seven eight year old? I mean, is that too early or is it.

LM : Well, the beauty is that..

AD : more high school age?

The Importance of Personal Development and the Ability to Reinvent Yourself at Any Age [17:40]

LM : Yeah. Well, until seven years old, you can put anything you want in children's heads. So if you're a parent and your kids are below seven, congratulations, you have a lot of influence. Use it, like try it out, tell your kids something that they don't believe yet, and they will just believe it. That's how easy it is. And then I think it's very important during teenage years, because that's when the brain grows so massively in such a short period of time that there is a lot of doubt in the brains of teenagers, a lot of doubt, a lot of anxiety, depression, that's when they asked themselves these kind of questions.

So, I think if we can guide our teenagers better in that period, we can really put the foundation of creating strong adults. And then it's never too late and it's never done. Like the person you were five years ago is different than the person you are today. So it's always evolving. And the beauty is we definitely have ways to influence that and to change it for the better to become the person we want to be and we are proud of.

NM : Absolutely.

LM : So, even if you're looking at this, watching this podcast and you're 75, it's still not too late. You can still reinvent and you can still become who you think would be a better version of yourself. That's the beauty of personal development. You're never done. There is no end line. It's just enjoying the journey and knowing that you can mess up as much as you want. You can still wake up and start again.

AD : There's a quote that I love, that you just made me think of as you said that, by an author, pen name was George Elliot. wrote a wonderful book called Silas Marner. Wonderful book about redemption. But what George Elliot wrote was, “it's never too late to be what you might have become.”

LM : Oh, that's beautiful.

NM : Yeah, that's great.

LM : I love it.

NM : So, many people see negotiation as a competition. We know it can be a competitive at times, and often to be more effective, we need to move to something that's more collaborative. How do you approach changing a competitive negotiation to a collaborative one? And is it as simple as digging beneath your counterparts demands to address underlying needs?

Creating A Sense Of Collaboration Within Competitive Negotiations [19:41]

LM : Well, digging is obviously very important. You don't want to even start a negotiation until you've actually understood what's at stake for the other party. But to answer the question, ‘how do you take a competitive negotiation into a collaborative one’, there is one very simple way that most people don't use. Now, we know that unfortunately, nearly 90% of negotiations are competitive. Competitive people going in with this is what I want, and I win you lose and they pretend it's a win-win, which always ends up in a win-lose or in too early compromise or whatever.

Now, if we want to transform that, there is something that we can shift right at the start of the negotiation to change the energy and the mindset people are in and the way we do it is by pronouncing a shared common objective. So this is something that we say that we would both benefit from, no matter what we are disagreeing on. Something that we would both, when I say both, I mean all parties on the table would benefit from if we were to come to an agreement.

Let me give you an example. Here, for example, in Dubai, the rent is due annually. So there's only one negotiation per year. You agree on something and that's the way it goes and you have to pay upfront as well. Now, there are different things that you can negotiate, but people go in with, “okay, this is what I want.” “This is the amount of rent”, “this is the number of checks”, or whatever they have in mind. And they go in and they start negotiating. But what I did is, so I negotiated my rent all good. It was time to negotiate a new one, and I called my landlord. And the number one thing is, never assume that they want to negotiate with you, never assume that they want whatever you think they want, verify first. And the very first thing is to verify, does he want to rent a house to me again? Like people just assume, but don't assume anything. So I asked him, “you know, it's almost ending. Would you like to rent your house to us again this year?” And he said, “yes.” Okay, check.

And then you already have a yes by the way, which is important for the unconscious. He said, yes. Then I said, a shared common objective. So this is just an example. I said, okay, now, if you and I were to come to an agreement for next year's rent right now, we would both save time, energy, and money, right? And he said, right. So there we already had a second yes. And we were on board of saying, we will both save time. I don't have to look for a house, you don't have to look for a tenant. We would save money because it costs me money to move. It costs you money to renovate the house and bring somebody else in, and energy. And we both agreed on that. So then you put him in a mindset of saying, it's better for you if you find an agreement with me, and it's better for me if I find an agreement with you.

So that already you're taking off the competitive edge of, obviously I'm coming in because I want to pay less rent [laugh], and you want me to stay, but you don't want me to pay too little. So this is just an example, and there are many examples like that, but by pronouncing a shared common objective. So that is not what you want and that is not what you think they want. It is something that you would both benefit from if you were to come to an agreement.

And this even applies to suicide negotiations, hostage negotiations, any type of negotiations where you're like, we have nothing in common and there is nothing we would both benefit from. No, search further because the fact that you're negotiating means there is at least one thing that you both want. And that can be saving time, it can be saving money, it can be saving reputation, it can be a lot of things. And that's where you have to be creative. Put yourself in the other shoes, use your empathy and curiosity and try to understand what is it that they would also benefit from if we were to come to an agreement.

And when you pronounce that, and that's what I mean with, shared common objective, and you get their buy-in, so you actually pronounce it, you actually say it, you don't only think it and you make them validate it. That's how you can shift already a lot of competitive negotiations into a collaborative one.

AD : Does that match up with your method of negotiation that you call, the ABC? I mean, what is that method and is the example you just gave, is there kind of alignment with what you were practicing there?

The ABC Method: Authority, Bio, and Capacity to Remain Calm in Negotiation Situations [24:14]

LM : Well, the shared common objective is one of the tools that I use. So I put that in skills, negotiation skills. And there are a lot of skills. Many people think negotiation skills are purely soft skills. I hate that word. Let's say life skills, emotional intelligence, knowing how to communicate, knowing how to be kind. But obviously that doesn't work when somebody puts a gun at your head and says, give me all your money or else, okay. You being kind or being how to negotiate or even being how to listen that's not going to be enough. There are certain hard skills that you simply have to know.

Like imagine I call you up and say, your wife has been taken hostage, we need you to pay $5,000, like an amount that is kind of affordable for you and within two hours, otherwise we're going to shoot her.

Your instinct would say, what's the bank account like? Where do I transfer the money? Right? Whereas the number one thing should be, ask for proof of life. How do you know she's still alive? How do you know they actually have her? So those are the type of hard skills that you need to know to be a good negotiator. It's not only communication and listening and that kind of stuff that we hear a lot. There are also hard skills that you simply have to know. Somebody has had to tell you when this happens, you have to do that first so that you have that reflex. And once you know the basics, and once you learn these things, then you can come to agreements faster because it becomes automatic. Like, it's the first thing you're gonna do in that situation. Now, my ABC method, it's interesting that you asked that because I've never shared this on a podcast before. This is only what I share when, when I'm actually being paid [laugh]

AD : Lucky us. [laugh]

LM : [laugh]. Yeah. I will quickly share it. So, I made this method because I believe negotiation goes way further than just knowing the skills and the tricks and the tactics. It's not about learning how to negotiate better. It's about day-to-day, becoming a better negotiator. And where most negotiation trainings, be it from business schools or from the FBI or whichever method you use, we're only focused on the skills. Like, do this, do that.

AD : Yeah.

LM : Now, what I believe makes you a great negotiator is this element, which I put in ABC, which A stands for authority: like what makes somebody even want to invite you on a negotiation table? How can you become the person that is welcomed to give their opinion and to start actually having a meaningful relationship and a negotiation with? So then there are four elements that I go into detail on. How can you make sure that you have the authority? How do others perceive you as the right negotiation partner? And that is something that can be built.

Then the B stands for Bio. So that is all the things in your past that can influence the way your credibility is perceived. And skills is part of that one. Like what are the skills that you have? Okay, that's very important. But whether you want it or not, everything else is also gonna be important in how somebody perceives your value and how somebody perceives your credibility and your credential. So that is everything from your gender, your age, you're obviously not gonna negotiate with somebody who is 90 or somebody who is 9 the same way.

So, your age plays a role, and we try to push these things away. Like it should be the same. Are you a woman? Are you a man? It has an influence, and you have to know that. So can, you can use it in your favor. Now, I'm not saying this as a manipulative, I'm just saying very objectively, like for example, I am a certified professional negotiator, level three, it's as high as you can go. I have 22 years of negotiation experience or even more. But if you send me to go and negotiate with the Taliban, they're not gonna take me seriously. That has nothing to do with my skills and everything with my gender.

So, it's simply something you have to know and be aware of. There's no such thing as, oh my God, we don't live in a fair world and this shouldn't be the case. It is the case, it's the way it is. So how can be your best self with everything that you bring to a negotiation table?

And then C of the ABC method stands for another thing that we don't talk about enough or at all, which is your capacity to remain calm. And what are all the aspects that influence the way you lose it or not during a highly stressful situation. And that can be business, it can be hostage suicide, whatever it is. How do you remain calm? Because that is, for me, the number one most important skill to have as a negotiator, the capacity to remain calm, self-control.

So, then there are again, four things that I mentioned about how you can be triggered and how you can make sure that you heal your triggers and to really become solid like a rock on a negotiation table. So that no matter what happens, no matter what they say to you, no matter how they insult you, no matter, you know, I had somebody spit in my face once. All those situations, you still remain calm and focused and reconnect with your neocortex, your thinking brain, and be actually to do and say useful things.

AD : Very helpful. Thanks for sharing that with our listeners.

LM : Sure.

NM : I was watching a video of you presenting to a group of startup entrepreneurs and investors. When you think about the unique challenges it takes to get a business started or to invest in a new business, do you have different negotiation advice that you offer to these people?

Collaborative Negotiations Foundation: Establishing a Shared Common Objective between all Involved Parties [29:55]

LM : Yeah. Again, we often think that negotiation have to be competitive. Now, if you are a startup, negotiating funding, or if you are an investor negotiating to fund a startup, these negotiations cannot be competitive. Like there's no room for competitive negotiations in that setting. Why? Because you're gonna have to collaborate. It's not a one-time thing. You're signing a contract, you're starting a partnership. The way you negotiate, there is gonna determine the success of the relationship on the long term. You cannot go in competitive, you just can't. And that is where a shared common objective, again, is gonna be important. So in this situation, for example, startup investor relations and negotiations, a shared common objective is not going to be we're gonna earn a lot of money. Yeah. Like, that's a side effect of doing this properly. But why does an investor invest money to earn money? Why does a startup want money to make money? Okay, fantastic. We both want the same thing, but there's more to it. So a shared common objective could be, okay, thank you for coming. We are here today to come to an agreement about which amount would be fair for which amount of the shares. Because what we both want is to make this business successful so that we both earn money, right?

NM : Absolutely. Yeah.

LM : Now you're gonna propose it. Why propose? Because again, you're not gonna assume that that's what they want. Because here, what I assumed was that we all want to earn money, but maybe this investor is investing money because they really believe in the cause or they really, they want to leave a legacy or whatever else it is.

And by sharing a shared common objective, you've giving them an opportunity to share what's important to them. Because they might say, yes, wonderful, but they might also, well, actually what matters to me is this. And boom, now you have very important intel. So always propose a shared common object. Go into a negotiation with having at least two in your mind, which you could use, propose, and see how they react.

AD : I like the advice of having at least two. right?

NM : So what you just kind of spoke about, your example kind of highlights both the tangible and intangible value gained from a developing a relationship with others. When you think about things like trust, rapport, and respect, how do you develop these in a negotiation? And do you invest the same in every relationship, or do you have to choose which ones that you put more effort into than others?

Relevance of Trust and Bonding in a Negotiation [32:26]

LM : Well, I want to start off by saying, again, I like to be disruptive. As you might have heard, [laugh]. I'd like to start by saying that I believe you don't necessarily need trust to come to an agreement. Like we often negotiate with people that we don't necessarily trust because we don't know them well enough, or we don't agree with everything that they stand for. And yet we can still come to agreements like you can sell your car to somebody that you absolutely hate.

So, trust is not necessity. And there where we mix things up is that we go so far with the whole trust aspect that people think that we have to like completely love people before we can come to an agreement.

No, you can hate somebody and still come to an agreement. When we talk about trust, it's about being trustworthy with what it is that you say in the negotiation, and that you're actually going to apply it. That's what matters. So just be trustworthy in the process of the negotiation. Don't lie about something that you will do and that you're not gonna do in that negotiation. That's, that's as far as trust goes. And I think even if you really don't trust people at all, you can still make the effort to make it that way. It's just trustworthy for the negotiation.

And then what is building a bond? Again, we're making it such a big deal out of you have to build bond and you have connection etc. It's just to make somebody want to talk to you. That's it. Don't assume that they're willing to talk to you because they might not be.

So it's just how do you make somebody want to talk to you? And it's by being trustworthy in the negotiation process. It's you earn trust by being trustworthy. Do the first step. Make a small concession. Do something that shows people that you have integrity, that they can rely on you. That if you say, I'm gonna do A, B, C, you're actually gonna do A, B, C, and that's it.

So, of course it's crucial, It's super important. Without those basics, you will not make somebody want to talk to you. And if they don't talk to you, you don't gain the intel that you need. You can't negotiate. So, if you want a strong relationship in that negotiation process, just to get what you want out of it by making them talk to you, giving you the intel that you need, you need to do the baseline rights, which is building a bond, building a level of trust and making sure that they are not afraid to talk to you.

NM : Hey everyone, Nolan here. I have to jump in today's podcast for part A of this show. Be sure to rate, review, and subscribe to the NEGOTIATEx podcast if you haven't already. And also join us next week for part B of the awesome interview.

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