28/10/2011

By Ian Newall, Business Manager, Open Courses, Huthwaite

The negotiation seems to be progressing well until, unexpectedly, the other side launches an emotional attack. Things become personal.

“…and you’ve tried to sneak that into the contract without us noticing it. That’s typical of you salesmen. Given half a chance you’d sell your own grandmother!”

“I take the strongest possible exception to your statement. If you had taken the time to prepare for the meeting you would have read my note about the maintenance clause.”

“If you hadn’t sprung the meeting on us in the first place, I would have had a little time to prepare.”

“Don’t blame me! We agreed the date at the last meeting.”

We naturally try to defend ourselves when attacked by others. Defend/attack is described as ‘a progressively more intense series of defend or attack behaviours between two or more individuals’. I throw a pebble, so you throw a stone, so I throw a boulder. Pretty soon we are using thermo-nuclear warheads!

Yet Huthwaite research revealed that skilled negotiators avoid engaging in what is termed defend/attack behaviour. They have learned that defend/attack behaviour is counter productive in most circumstances.

So how do they do it?

Firstly, resist the temptation to get drawn into a personal slanging match. Steer clear of countering with more personal attacks and allegations. Try to defuse the situation by understanding the problem and its causes.

Secondly, if you have made a mistake, apologise.

Let’s hit the rewind button:

“…and you’ve tried to sneak that into the contract without us noticing it. That’s typical of you salesmen. Given half a chance you’d sell your own grandmother!”

“I’m sorry that you have the impression that I’ve tried to sneak something past you. Could you explain what the problem is?”

“Point 2 in the maintenance clause. I’ve just noticed that you are trying to make us responsible for cleaning the filters on the 6901. Our people don’t have the skills or the time to do that!”

“Didn’t you read my note on the maintenance clause? I emailed you two days ago.”

“I’ve been travelling. My flight was delayed in Munich for five hours.”

“That happened to me last year in Madrid. It’s so frustrating when you need to get on with things. Shall we have a timeout so that you can read my note? Then I’d be happy to talk about how we deal with the filters.”

If you would like to attend a Huthwaite Negotiation Skills course visit www.huthwaite.com

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