The Negotiator Magazine

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Negotiation Persuasion

Dr. David Venter

Mastering the art of persuasion is key to managers effectively responding to the many taxing problems inherent to the rapidly transforming business environment. Effective persuasion, whereby managers arrive at shared and mutually beneficial solutions, requires of managers to acquire negotiation skills that will equip them to lead their employees towards joint problem solving and joint opportunity finding. Through careful preparation, innovative framing of problems and arguments, communicating evidence in the most vivid way and establishing the most correct emotional match with other parties, managers will create greater openness and a willingness to move to positions not previously held.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Conger points out the following frequent errors made by managers when attempting to persuade employees or clients:

They try to make their case by relying on an up-front, hard sell approach involving persistence, rational thinking and a lively presentation. Despite their belief that this will drive the negotiation to a rapid conclusion, it more often than not merely provides the other party/parties a clear target to shoot at.

They resist compromise, seeing it as a form of surrender. Thereby they disregard research findings to the effect that it is not possible for managers to persuade employees/clients to sustainably change their attitudes, ideas and behaviours without themselves also changing their attitudes, ideas and behaviours.

They show no appreciation for the fact that persons are only willing to open themselves to persuasion when they are convinced that those wishing to persuade them accept and understand their needs and concerns. By simplistically regarding persuasion as a one-way street they neglect to listen to employees/ clients and fail to incorporate their perspectives in the negotiation.

They over-emphasise the importance of presenting great arguments. In the process they forget the importance of other variables such as their credibility, their ability to create a mutually beneficial frame for their position, connecting with the audience at the best emotional level and communicating in vivid language that brings ideas to life.

They assume that persuasion is an event thereby forgetting that it is a process. This leads to a lack of sensitivity for the fact that shared solutions very often require 'listening to people, testing positions, developing new positions that incorporate group inputs, more testing, incorporating compromises and then trying again.

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December 2004