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What You'll Learn In Today's Episode

  • Your mindset is the collection of attitudes, beliefs, values, and assumptions that goes with you everywhere. If you’re waiting in a conference room, it’s too late to prepare it.
  • We don’t always perceive every facet of our mindset. Regardless, it’s best to ready the ones you can perceive as early as possible. The bulk of this begins long before negotiations start.
  • Get rid of debilitating assumptions: For example, don’t jump to a conclusion that both sides’ interests can’t be reconciled entirely. That’s closing a door in your head--before you’ve even seen the frame in reality.
  • Listen, even to those you disagree with. It’s as important to note how you may be coming across as it is to listen respectfully. You can’t win, otherwise.

Watch This Episode On NEGOTIATEx TV

Executive Summary:

Welcome to the NEGOTIATEx Podcast! Today we’re focusing on a negotiating tool that’s sometimes undervalued: The negotiating mindset.

Aram describes the mindset as the “collection of attitudes, beliefs, values, assumptions” that goes everywhere we do. It’s important when you’re face-to-face with stakeholders. However, it’s just as important beforehand, as you prepare.

Why is the Negotiating Mindset so Important?

How you define success radically affects your ability to achieve it.

No, that’s not some cheesy motivational speaker’s hype: You need to solidify what your processes will be. Beforehand.

It’s like visualizing a basketball going through the hoop—and physically miming throws, empty-handed before taking the court. It’s the attitudinal equivalent of muscle memory.

Nobody wants to be stuck in a rigid, inflexible plan. This is why you need a clear vision of what you need to do, what to expect, and what your ideal outcome looks like.

There are even aspects of our mindsets that we’re not necessarily aware of. The better we prepare the ones that we can perceive, the better our outcomes will be. Effective streamlining begins long before anyone says, “hello.”

Can Negotiators Sometimes Sabotage Themselves?

First of all, we should get rid of what Aram describes as “debilitating assumptions.” One example might be a premature conclusion that both sides’ interests can’t be 100% reconciled.

Likewise, if a participant misbehaves, some negotiators may (wrongly) respond by dumbing down their own conduct.

Granted: Sometimes suspicions are warranted… but not always. In fact, both examples are usually dead weight.

It’s often far wiser to wait. See what the other side does. The only sure-fire way to sink things is to rush to negative conclusions and act on them. This often alienates people who’d otherwise have been willing to work with you.

Nobody wants to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If you’re not careful about your mindset (both going in and while we’re problem-solving) however, you might.

This is why we take a mental inventory before the pressure’s on. There’s more to it than this of course, but a little internal analysis can give you a more effective, positive stance from which to start.

Why Listening Is Always Important

At the same time, you want to make sure that you’re going in with open ears. If you’re not listening—even to those with whom you disagree—you’re not winning. That’s why it’s as important to note how you may be coming across as it is to listen respectfully.

You never know: Unprecedented breakthroughs have happened simply because a negotiator reached out that metaphorical hand. Not everyone will reciprocate. Nevertheless, some hard-to-please folk may have initially soured because they felt ignored… until someone expressed interest in their perspective.

This summary is just a taste of what awaits you in this edition of the NEGOTIATEx Podcast. If you like what you hear, please feel free to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen from. You’re always welcome to drop by negotiatex.com and leave feedback. Be sure to take advantage of our downloadable prep tool, too.

Your time is important to us. Thanks for listening.


Nolan : This is a NEGOTIATEx Podcast, Show Number 2. Snippet

Nolan : So why is mindset potentially problematic during negotiation preparation and really throughout the entire negotiation?

Aram : Mindset is the collection of attitudes, beliefs, values, assumptions that we carry with us. Some that we are aware of but many that we’re not. And these things affect how we think about a negotiation. What success is gonna look like? What the process is gonna be? What we should do, what they should do. The dance they should follow or the methodology we are gonna follow. The so-called rules of the game. And so mindset impacts quite a bit in a negotiation. (Intro) You are listening to NEGOTIATEx Radio, helping you elevate your influence through purposeful negotiations. If you are here looking to learn about how to become a better negotiator, in both business and life, then you are in the right place. Stay tuned and be sure to join the others who have benefited from NEGOTIATEx.com--your home for Negotiations Training and Consulting online.

Nolan : I am your co-host, Nolan Martin, and with me today is the man, the myth, the legend, my good friend, Aram Donigian. Aram, how are you doing today?

Aram : I’m doing great Nolan and welcome back, everyone. It's great to be with you again!

Nolan : I’m excited again for today’s conversation because our goal today is to basically cover the roles of assumption in negotiation. In our last session Aram, we talked about some of the work that we do with our clients in coaching them around their most difficult negotiations. We shared the negotiatex prep tool. If you didn’t get that, go to negotiatex.com/prep or negotiatex.com/1 to download your negotiation preparation tool. And we talked about how important that tool is in preparing and actually conducting a negotiation

[2:35 Why is Mindset So Important in the Negotiation Process?]

So, again, talking about role of assumptions; in your experience, what gets in the way of a thorough preparation?

Aram : That’s a great question, Nolan, my simple answer is our “Mindset.” It affects not only preparation but the entire negotiation process – preparation, conduct, assessment, and review.

Nolan : So why is Mindset potentially problematic during negotiation preparation and really, throughout the entire negotiation?

Aram : Mindset is the collection of attitudes, beliefs, values, assumptions that we carry with us. Some that we are aware of but many that we’re not. And these things affect how we think about a negotiation. What success is gonna look like? What the process is gonna be? What we should do, what they should do. The dance we should follow or the methodology we are gonna follow. The so called rules of the game. And so mindset impacts quite a bit in a negotiation.

Nolan : Okay so then what can we do to basically prevent this? What is the solution to these Debilitating Assumptions?

Aram : Well, our mindset drives the actions we take, or might consider taking, and the actions that we take in a negotiation are what causes us to get the results and the outcomes that we achieve. And so if your mindset is based on what I call “Debilitating Assumptions”, we’re gonna be limited. Maybe rightfully so, but often times not rightfully so. So debilitating assumptions are things such as assuming that “Our interests are opposed; and there is no possible way for us both to achieve what we want to achieve”, it's the idea that “I should wait to see what they are going to do, what the other party is gonna do first and then react.” It's the idea that “poor communication is their problem”; and it's the idea, you know another debilitating assumption would be “I should behave just as badly as I believe they are behaving”; and so on. And all these debilitating assumptions drive a mindset that limits our actions and would definitely lead to suboptimal results.

Nolan : Yeah sounds like, I guess could be considered a mindset trap. Is that kind of a fair way to classify that?

Aram : Yeah, a trap is a great way! I love talking about traps and shifts and what we need to do to become more effective.

Nolan : Great well is there a story to help paint this picture so our listeners can kinda understand more of what this mindset trap looks like?

Aram : Sure, yeah there is a story I’d like to share. I was observing a meeting, I was not running the meeting during the time I was in Afghanistan. It was during my last deployment, it was probably spring of 2012. I had been asked to come in, observe, make comments, and kinda give some feedback so that was what I was doing. Between an Afghan border official and a US officer, the meeting was supposed to be around the idea that we were trying to work together to take collective action at this border checkpoint around security, helming corruption, any number of different things. This was one in a series of meetings between the two partners and they hadn’t gone real well. The Afghan official hadn’t been highly engaged in the meeting process. But during this meeting, the Afghan official came in and was quite open about sharing some of the challenges that he was facing at the border. All the receipts and the papers that he had to process, the added work of NATO vehicles and equipment and vehicles coming through that required exemptions, the limited reading ability of some of his guards and so on and this was really a real challenge for him. And so at one point he just said “one thing I think we could do is eliminate the exemptions” and as soon as he said that the US officer responded with “No we would never do it” and this essentially ended the conversation. So that really was driven- as I talked to the officer later about the mindset that led to the action of saying “No, we would never do this”, it was really a debilitating assumption around what the other person was trying to get from him and what the range of actions might be. Seeing negotiation as a competition rather than as an opportunity for joint problem solving can kill any sense of progress that two sides might be trying to make and that is certainly the case in this situation.

[7:39 How Does One Overcome a Mindset Trap?]

Nolan : It is pretty frustrating to hear that you know—we both deployed and whenever you deploy you are only or you are extremely wishful that you can have a counterpart that is so proactive to actually provide you with that level of feedback so I really think he kinda crushed an opportunity there. So how could we have advised this US Officer you spoke about a little bit, but how could you have advised him to help get at a different outcome?

Aram : So Nolan, I get asked this all the time, from students to clients, “Aram what do I need to do to get a better outcome next time, what is the trick, how do I do something differently next time” – and I always kinda chuckle because it's never that easy. It’s always taking a step back and be like, “well tell me what your mindset was as you were preparing or as you walked into this negotiation”. And honestly without changing that mindset, we can’t open up the aperture on the full range of things that we might do with any customer, with any supplier, with anyone. And so in this case with the US officer, had he simply seen this as an opportunity to discuss things in a different way, to actually problem-solve, to listen and learn about the challenges, maybe being open to brainstorm, being open to a shift in the process- that could’ve led to a much different discussion. I can imagine him saying “I don’t know if we can do that and i'd like to hear more about why that solution would be so damn efficient to you?” Or just say “that’s one thing we might do, what are some other ways we might resolve this?” Anything more than just a NO and shutting it down. And kinda the resistance to the fear of “boy am I gonna commit to something that I don’t really want to commit to?” You can protect yourself with that, but here is an opportunity to engage the other person in a negotiation, do something that hadn’t happened before without giving or asking for any sort of commitments. Everybody could acknowledge that it was probably premature at this point. But really engage in some critical collaborative problem solving together and that would’ve required a shift in mindset from this officer.

[9:57 How Does Mindset Apply to Business Negotiations?]

Nolan : So, I think that's an awesome military negotiation experience that you had there. What about business? What about how is this applicable today? Have you seen something that you’ve consulted with, anything like that?

Aram : Yeah so recently, working with a client, who was sharing with me a renegotiation with a long term supplier. Out of respect to the client [I’ll] keep the names hidden. This is a partner relationship of over 20 years. This supplier has been very effective. And in this case though, he’s the sole source provider. Knows that they hold some leverage because my client doesn’t have someone that they can go walk away to. And so there’s a tendency, despite the relationship, to come in, either really desperate and make a plea or begging. Or to come in really harsh in the approach. And so the discussion with the client was, why don’t we still shift this to… what are each of your interests about quality and quantity, always looking to work with you around volume. How can we continue to work together to improve our process. Where is their value to be found and tradeoffs to be made that increases returns for both of us? Allows both of us to do better around margins and not simply to get into a haggle around the price. And so that conversation I would say, that we had and the practice that we did, it started to open up for my client just what they could do differently at the table to lead this long term supplier towards a different solution, and towards some things they just hadn’t considered as possibilities before.

Nolan : Yeah, it sounds like an opportunity there for him or her to really “Elevate Their Influence Through Purposeful Negotiation.” I’d like to take this time, a quick second here, to tell our listeners a little bit about what we do here at Negotiatex if that’s alright with you Aram?

Aram : Yeah, please do

Nolan : Yeah so if you have a real world negotiation coming up and you need any experts on your team, we offer negotiation consulting services, just reach out to us. If you go to the website Negotiatex.com, you’ll be able to find that service. Even if you are one on one and just want some preparation help or do a negotiation rehearsal with us, you’d find all that on negotiatex.com. Alright enough about that.

[12:11 Aram’s Takeaway for the Assumptions that Determine the Success of Negotiations]

This podcast is about value and delivering value to your organization, your business and to your life. So Aram with that, what are some of the key takeaways that our listeners can work on to become more effective negotiators?

Aram : Well I’m gonna keep it to just one today Nolan. But I think it’s one that has a few components to it. And that’s really the idea that let’s become masters of tracking the assumptions that we find ourselves and others making. And being able to buck them as either Debilitating or Empowering assumptions/ to think about it in that way. Debilitating assumptions- not always false, sometimes they exist. But they really limit us and we don’t need to be limited unnecessarily. And then, Empowered assumptions, not always true but actually true a lot more often than we think they are. So let's test for them and see if we can shift our own thinking towards making some empowering assumptions and see the impact that these two buckets have on the negotiation outcome and what we’re achieving and then consider how shifting our mindset might open the aperture on the range of actions we might take. Maybe presenting some new possibilities to what we thought was previously impassable or impossible problems. And I’ll leave everyone with this thought: Negotiation isn’t about some magic trick to get what you want – what it is about is: it is about the intentionality and discipline required to make shifts in our thinking to be more effective, to achieve better outcomes, to elevate our influence.

Nolan : Thanks, Aram. To our listeners, head over to Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to our podcast and give us a 5-star rating and leave a review. It’s gonna be pretty important for us to be able to get this through to other people who are trying to become better negotiators. And secondly, if you want to go and download the negotiatex prep tool, this is gonna help you with any preparation, it was instrumental in my preparation success for negotiations. You can find that at negotiatex.com/prep or negotiatex.com/2 for the show notes of anything we discussed today. In closing, that's it for us on today’s podcast. I appreciate you taking the time to listen to us. If you have any questions or want us to cover a specific topic, shoot us an email at team@negotiatex.com and we will try to cover it in future episodes. Until then, we will see you in the next episode!

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