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What You'll Learn In Today's Episode

  • Aram has taught negotiations at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Tufts University, and the US Air Force Academy. Before retiring as a US Army officer, he served multiple deployments in Afghanistan. This experience expanded his negotiation skills for the corporate world.
  • Nolan has negotiating experience from multiple deployments as a US Army officer, as well. Additionally, he’s a former student of Aram’s and the CEO of Gray Line Media.
  • Cookie-cutter approaches won’t fit every situation. That’s why we’ll share actionable advice to guide you through developing an adaptable mental toolset. You’ll be better prepared for the variety of circumstances you may encounter.
  • Our primary goal is to “elevate your influence through purposeful negotiation:” We don’t always consider them, but we have to negotiate outside of the professional environment daily. Learn our framework to become radically more effective in your life as a whole.

Watch This Episode On NEGOTIATEx TV

Executive Summary:

Welcome to the very first NEGOTIATEx Podcast! Episode!

Nolan’s guest today is Aram Donigian. Aram is a Senior Affiliated Trainer with Vantage Partners: He works with Fortune 500 companies on real-world negotiations. He’s also the co-founder of NEGOTIATEx.

Future episodes won’t be about us. We’re just starting with the fundamentals. That’s why we’re discussing our backgrounds and what we’re about: We want you to know why we do this podcast and how it can benefit you.

Introducing Aram

Aram’s experience isn’t just from big-name boardrooms. He’s taught negotiations at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Tufts University, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. In addition to teaching at the U.S. Military Academy, he founded the West Point Negotiation Project there.

Before retiring as a U.S. Army officer, he also served multiple deployments in Afghanistan. Consequently, he has years of field negotiating experience. This expanded his skills in the corporate world.

Maybe that’s why he advocates a holistic approach: He’s quick to point out that there are multiple important aspects to a successful negotiation. These include preparation, conduct, and review.

Below these umbrellas, things divide further. Considerations like the mindset we carry going in, which strategies to use (along with which ones to avoid), and so on factor in. It may sound like a cliché, but preparation is probably the most vital.

Find Ways To Keep Flexible

Murphy’s Law happens. Stakeholders suddenly zig when you expect them to zag. So you have to be ready to think on your feet. You need to create as many potential solutions beforehand as you can muster.

Sometimes an agreement is out of reach. Can your relationship with a stakeholder(s) be changed in the future? What’s a realistic expectation at that point?

Not every situation needs a cookie-cutter approach. As a result, we’ll share actionable advice. We know you need the freedom to apply your best method to a given situation. At the same time, we’ll guide you through developing an adaptable mental toolset for handling complications smoothly.

Nolan and Aram’s discussions will delve much deeper: Their goal is to get you incrementally more effective with every negotiation. Therefore, they’ll have specific approaches for honing your influence under various circumstances.

You’re out to deliver value to your organization, your business, and your life, right? We’re out to help you make that happen. Each episode will offer concrete steps for improving your preparation, focus, perspective, approaches and habits during negotiations.

Sometimes it might involve recording yourself. On the other hand, it will also mean reflective post-game analysis; considering what worked and why it did. You’ll review what flopped, too—and how to avoid that mistake in the future.

Join Us At The Table

Our primary goal is to “elevate your influence through purposeful negotiation.” However, if you learn our framework, you’ll become more effective in your life overall; not just in business environments. Whether you’re facilitating a corporate merger or convincing an energized toddler to nap, the same principles apply.

The path to elevating your influence can vary from person to person and situation to situation. Aram’s approach lies in focusing on “being aware of—and then challenging—the assumptions that I carry into a negotiation.”

Figure out which assumptions are empowering and which ones are debilitating. This, he explains, is vital.

For even more valuable insights, please enjoy this pioneer NEGOTIATEx podcast. Don’t forget to drop by negotiatex.com and leave feedback, too.

Your time’s important to us. Thanks for listening! 


Nolan : This is a NEGOTIATEx Podcast, Show Number 1.

Nolan : Could you elaborate on that, like what are the stages as you see them in a negotiation?

Aram : Yeah it’s not all that different from other operations and certainly you and I will bring some of our military experience and military operational background to these conversations but I think it’s really helpful to think about negotiations in stages of Preparation, Conduct, Measuring success as some sort of objective assessment of how we did and then Review and in my experience most people focus on the conduct and rightfully so, we focus there. (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 : My name is Nolan Martin. I am the co-founder and co-host of NEGOTIATEx. Today I’m excited to introduce my co-host and co-founder. He is a retired Army officer with multiple deployments to Afghanistan and years of negotiation field experience. He has taught negotiations at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Tufts University, the United States Air Force Academy, and the United States Military Academy, where he founded the West Point Negotiation Project. Additionally, he is a Senior Affiliated Trainer with Vantage Partners working with Fortune 500 companies on real-world negotiations. With that, allow me to introduce my colleague and good friend, Aram Donigian. Aram how are you doing today?

Aram : I’m great Nolan, thanks for having me with you, excited to get started on this podcast series with you.

Nolan : Yeah hopefully we can figure out this technology because this is definitely like our 20th time trying to record this episode. [laughs] So if you ever listen to this essentially you know how much work went into getting this prepared. So I’m excited to talk about today’s episode, well other than it being our first episode, but essentially, we are gonna have the opportunity here to tell our listeners why they should listen to the NegotiateX podcast, learn a little more about ourselves and then hopefully give them a tool or resource at the end that they can use as they actually prepare for negotiations. So, first and foremost what you will get out of this podcast is actionable advice. Aram and I are not just sitting up here talking back and forth just to discuss negotiations although it’s a lot of fun but it’s basically to give you advice which you can actually use in a real world negotiation so hopefully it’s of some benefit to you today. So with that Aram let's first start off by telling us a little bit more about your background, what you’re doing today and then we’ll talk about how you got to negotiations if that works for you?

Aram : Yeah that sounds great Nolan, thanks for the intro. I had the opportunity to spend 21 years in the army. It was something I really enjoyed. Started off my career as an infantry officer. Had an opportunity to get into the field with negotiations thanks to my MBA program at Tuck School of Business here in Dartmouth. From there I returned to West Point to teach where as you mentioned, I started the West Point Negotiations Project back in 2009. Since that there has just been a tremendous number of opportunities between deployments to Afghanistan, deployments to Africa, and some other opportunities to both practice but also study, teach and do a lot of research and reading on the field of negotiation. Today, now that I’m retired I get to do a lot of practice and work with helping others in the field through teaching or training that I do through Vantage and so it’s just a great field. I love exploring it and excited about being able to do this with YOU, whom I know very well. You were my student 10 years ago, so I’d love to turn it over to you, and hear a little bit about what your background is. (Aram) Turn over to Nolan

Nolan : I was introduced to negotiations as you said at West Point. Had a great time taking your course. Don’t let that get to your head though Aram. For the last 10 years- I graduated in 2011- was an infantry officer, like you was able to deploy several times to both Iraq and Afghanistan. What has been the biggest experience that I’ve had so far was definitely the time that I spent in the Special Operations community. It’s kinda where I learned how to look at problems in a real different mindset and then when you combine that with the principles that we learned in negotiations, it’s really kinda powerful. This leads me to talk about NegotiateX and why we decided to start this company. And so again, graduate 10 years ago, so it's been quite a while since I’ve taken a Negotiations course yet you Aram have been teaching it this entire time. We started NegotiateX because I couldn’t find anything out there on the web. I looked around, I wanted to get a refresher because I know how important and impactful it has been taking the program and so really didn’t find much out there unless I wanted to go get an MBA. I reached out to you and said hey let’s start a program, a website, a community where we can help teach other people how to become better negotiators. In life, in conflict, in business, kind of everything around that. Why did you decide to do this with me?

Aram : Well I love the field of negotiation. I was really blessed to have a fantastic teacher and mentor, both in graduate school but really over the last 12 years; Jeff Weiss. Formerly with Vantage Partners, Jeff was my teacher, my colleague at WP, just the opportunity to learn from him and then put it into practice, which is so important. To be associated with people at Vantage who have come out of the Harvard Negotiations Project, and who’ve just really focused on developing some really simple but brilliant tools to make people that much better and more effective at Negotiations. And so when you came to me and asked me to join you in this endeavor, it’s hard to say no to a former student for one, and two it really excited me, This is the sort of stuff that I get jazzed up about. when I think of former students who have gone on to start their own companies, working with Angel investors using the skills we taught, who are now part of companies running meetings using some of the facilitation or negotiation influence tools we taught, or even the student recently who said prior to taking the course, couldn’t remember the last time that he had effectively persuaded someone to change their mind on a matter and just being able to put these tools into practice made all the difference. That’s what excites me, yeah we’re gonna talk about negotiation but it’s really the opportunity to help people put some things into practice, takeaways and get incrementally better each time we get together.

Nolan : Yeah it’s awesome. So I think kind of something that’s pretty important is when we were developing NegotiateX and going back and forth, we decided that we needed to come up with a tagline. And that was “Elevate Your Influence Through Purposeful Negotiation”. I’ll take the lead on this one, so I think that basically means that purposeful negotiation, people are in negotiations everyday and I don’t think they necessarily realize it. I don’t have any kids unlike you with an entire squad of six children running around. But I’m sure when you’re trying to get your daughter to go to bed you are actually in a negotiation to try and convince her that it’s in her best interest to go to bed. Not sure exactly how that goes but that is one example of negotiation. So as we teach the framework, you start to understand how to negotiate or the steps of preparation that goes into it, you become more influential and I think that’s kind of our main goal here. So do you want to elaborate on that?

Aram : Absolutely. You mentioned the kids, I’m in a hostage negotiation almost every day and it involves multiple parties. Lots of practice just getting to be at home. When we talk about elevating our influence through purposeful negotiation, to me that really means being aware of and challenging the assumptions that carry [over] into a negotiation. And are those assumptions empowering what we do or are they debilitating what we do? And we make assumptions all the time, whether we’re in a negotiation or not. Around what is negotiation and what’s the other person gonna do and what does success look like. Those are all assumptions that we make, and those things translate into how we measure success, how well we prepare, what we do during a negotiation, how we respond to things that the other person may do. There are certainly people out there who practice dirty tricks and tactics and how are we gonna respond to that sort of thing. So all of it, how do we manage internal vs. external stakeholder and the tensions that we feel there? How do we practice both negotiation when it’s appropriate but sometimes mediation type skills too and knowing the appropriate levers to pull at different points in a negotiation? So as we approach these topics just as you said, the intent is to discuss what we can practically do to become better.

Nolan : One thing you mentioned there were the different stages to a negotiation. Could you elaborate on that? What are the stages as you see them in a negotiation?

Aram : Yeah it’s not all that different from other operations and certainly you and I will bring some of our military experience and military operational background to these conversations but I think it’s really helpful to think about negotiations in stages of Preparation, Conduct, Measuring success as some sort of objective assessment of how we did and then Review. And in my experience most people focus on the conduct and rightfully so, we focus there. And, there’s a lot of value to be gained by looking at these other dimensions. If you think about sports, we have Superbowl coming up very shortly, it’s all dimensions of the game right? As a great coach would tell you, its offence, its defense, its special teams, it’s coaching. And so you have to be aware of all aspects of a negotiation as well.

Nolan : So if someone were to have found our podcast and they are frantically trying to prepare for a negotiation right now, what is the one thing that they could really focus on that would essentially give them the most success for the best outcome?

Aram : In my opinion that would be Preparation. Preparation is highly overlooked and yet if you are well prepared, you are going to be that much more effective at the table, in the conduct. You will be that much more flexible, and able to handle things, to be adaptable when things aren’t going the exact way you thought they would or hoped they would. You can adjust and lead the negotiation in a different direction. It’s amazing to me how often with senior leaders, be they corporate leaders or military leaders, I ask them “how much time do you spend preparing?” And the answer I often get is “how long does it take to get from my office to my counterparts office?” [laughs] Which you know if you have a 13 hour flight from New York to Tokyo or something, maybe that’s a decent level of preparation. However if you’re just going around the block meeting your counterpart, that’s a pretty lousy way to measure it. Preparation is one of the few things you control in a negotiation. I can’t control the other party, I can control how well I get prepared. You and I both know the stories, we both spent some time in airborne units. We know the stories of the little groups of paratroopers on D-Day who we referred to as LGOPS. Because the plan was so well rehearsed, that when they got scattered over the fields of France on D-Day, they all moved to the sound of the gun. They knew how, they knew where to get to, they knew what the mission was, they could adapt and overcome and that was a result of a lot of good preparation and rehearsals. So there is tremendous power in preparation when it’s done well.

Nolan : Yeah I agree with you and one of the things that we kind of refined both from Vantage Partners and the Harvard Business Review for Negotiations was this Preparation Tool that we have at the negotiatex.com website. So if you go to negotiatex.com/prep, we’ll have the preparation tool you can download right there or if you go to the shownotes, and this is gonna be negotiatex.com/1, you’ll also see the link to download that tool. So as I mentioned earlier something that we both want the podcast to be, and that is to provide actionable takeaways for our audience right. So basically, having the ability for them to deliver value to their organization, their business and their life. So what are some key takeaways our listeners can work on to become better negotiators?

Aram : Well I’ll give you Three. Now the first one: Prepare, prepare, prepare – that wasn’t all three. That was just the first one. We focused and talked a little bit on the power of preparation, and if I could do one thing, it would be- let me be really clear in my own mind about the things that I’m concerned about and let me think about what my counterpart may be concerned with. What are their fears, needs, concerns, motivations that they are trying to satisfy in this negotiation. And then what are all the possible ways we can solve theirs and our concerns and get both met. And then I’m gonna look at what are the objective criteria, what are the industry benchmarks, what sort of standards are out there to know not just what we could do- right, that’s the idea of possibilities, but what we should do and what’s defendable. How do we make sure that the agreement is defendable to both of our constituents, to our toughest critics. Then we are gonna think of what our relationship is like right now with this counterpart. Is it a long term client, is it a new client, is this strictly a transactional arrangement, how important is my reputation here, what’s the relationship like, what I want it to be, if there’s a gap how do I cross that? I’m gonna spend some time in preparation thinking about the agenda, how I’m gonna exchange and share information, what questions I wanna ask, what assumptions I might wanna test for. I’m gonna make sure I’m really clear on what’s my walk away, what I’m gonna do if I can’t reach an agreement here that satisfies my interest well. I’m probably gonna spend some time thinking about what their walkaway is as well. Then finally I’m gonna spend some time thinking about implementation, what does this look like? And how do I make sure that in any agreement that I might reach, make sure that I get to be the point of implementation. And all those things I’m gonna do during preparation Now for the other two things that I would encourage folks to do, one would be to Practice. Not just putting in the practice in terms of practicing negotiation although that’s helpful, but actually to do some rehearsals and maybe tape yourself to see what you’re saying and doing. That becomes really helpful. I’m doing that with a client this week. None of us like being taped, none of us like going back and watching tapes of ourselves and yet that’s a great way for us to see what we are doing in a negotiation that is either effective or not effective. And the last thing I would say is Review. So review with others, listen to others, listen to yourself and become just a studier of good negotiation practice. Look at what you’re doing and develop good prescriptive advice for yourself going forward in future negotiations. So those would be my three things, Prepare Practice and Review.

Nolan : Awesome. Well my first one is gonna be for you the listener to do us a favor. Go over to Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to this podcast. Give us a 5-star rating and leave a comment, let us know did you enjoy it? If you don’t leave us a 5 star rating then don’t bother leaving a review- no I’m just kidding. For number 2 though, I want you to check out the Preparation Tool download, [that is] negotiatex prep tool. This is instrumental in framing my negotiations. To be able to sit down, kinda walk through start to finish, what made different assumptions, how did we see the problem and where were some of the different courses of action we could take. So this extremely important, again that is tools at negotiatex.com/1 or negotiatex.com/prep That is all for us on today’s podcast. We hope you enjoyed it. 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. We will see you in the next episode!

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