The Negotiator Magazine

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Use of Language

4) Choice of words.

Your choice of words will carry great weight and bring conscious intent to negotiation discussions. Too little attention is paid to how use of language communicates important ideas. Few people, during the course of inconsequential conversation, bother to consider the appropriate vocabulary when communicating a point. In most dialogues, it is widely assumed that the recipient of discourse is familiar enough with the context of discussion and its source to dispense with specific vocabulary in an effort to formally convey meaning. This is usually acceptable among friends, family, and close associates; however, in a negotiations environment, you must assume, on one hand, that your adversary is diligently familiar with your situation, but, on the other hand, you cannot take for granted that this is fact. Assuming your opponent is familiar with your situation can lead you to relax your delivery to the point of causing confusion. Underestimating what your opponent knows about your situation can undermine your defense and strategy. Under these conditions, it’s easy to see how, even in a formal situation, the habit of casual communication can infiltrate and undermine your true intentions and those of your adversary, leading to miscommunication and resulting in confusion, frustration and false objections.

In a well-prepared negotiation, you have an opportunity to anticipate potential topics of discussion and their associated verbalized questions, objections, concerns and concessions. Yet, as we participate in the abstract complexities of conversation, our thoughts can run ahead of or behind our verbal expressions. This can lead us to say “Yes.” when we really mean, “Maybe, under these conditions…” Such a slip can produce unintended consequences and cause everyone to backtrack over resolved territory in an effort to clarify the issue. This backtracking action, itself, causes greater complications and can generate a whole new wave of frustration and objection – not to mention waste everyone’s time.

When communicating a key point, make sure your choice of words reflects precisely what it is you mean to say.

 

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June 2006