The Negotiator Magazine

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2)  Avoid excessive, casual table talk.   

Courtesy, politeness, and even a bit of small talk, when there is a personal history with your adversary, is appropriate and may put parties at ease by establishing a calm tone and expectations of good faith. However, table talk can get you off point, burn valuable time and easily lead to slips of strategy, levers and vulnerabilities. Chatting during negotiations introduces what amounts to verbal static into your conversation acting to insulate the recipient from clear meaning. It can further interfere with the emotional weight of your delivery. Unless this is your intent, it’s better to curb the impulse to ‘visit’, beyond a congenial introduction and buffering the next advance into a new topic of discussion.

In complicated corporate negotiations, probably every topic of mutual conversation is connected in one way or another to a valuable cause or effect which may be best left unsaid. You don’t want your adversary finding their way to your core defense through connected conversational threads. Everything you say in negotiations should have a carefully weighed purpose and point. In order to help you resist the urge toward “friendly” conversation, remember to keep your sentences short and direct, each ideally addressing one or two key points at a time.

 

3)  Enable the free exchange of inquiry.

Allow and encourage your opponent to ask questions, and actively pursue them yourself. Asking questions and listening to the response is at the heart of isolating controversial issues and seeking resolution.

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June 2006