The Negotiator Magazine

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9) Strive for clarity and specificity. 

During complex negotiations and related conversation, it is important to remain alert to the possibility of confusing verbal content. Important points communicated within the context of general discussion can carry with them unintended inference which may be falsely drawn by either you or your opponent.  Should you sense that the conversation has become unclear or convoluted, restate your point when necessary and suggest your opponent do the same for you. In doing so, you may uncover additional information or valuable context which can aid in framing issues. 

People who feel confused or threatened, as a rule, become defensive, stop listening, and  say, “no”.  Resist the impulse to infer meaning from a vague innuendo. In discussing an issue, ferret out all underlying factors and write them down, refining the point. If your opponent hedges your efforts at specificity – there’s a reason. This may be a strategy they are using to extract more information from you.

10)  Lead your opponent through correlated conversational references.
Introduce versatility into your negotiations approach by keeping your conversational skills flexible. During the course of negotiation, topics may expand or contract. When straying into distant territory, be ready to identify key references which can bring you back on point -- using the same technique as when talking with the media. Also, look for key references or phrases which can lead you and your opponent outward toward related topics, or can help you illustrate an important issue. Find connections to take you where you need to go, and use them to lead your opponent where you wish them to tread. This capability can be very useful in ‘painting your picture’ and inspiring your opponent to ‘visualize’ your scenario.

11) Be consistent in your demands and in your manner.
In conducting an erratic conversation, you run the risk of suggesting to your opponent that you are confused; undecided in your needs and requests; poorly prepared for meaningful discussion; incapable of making decisions regarding potential solutions; and, likely to renege on any eventual resolution. These assumptions, whether true or not, can inspire your opponent to mislead you and take advantage of your muddled manner by parleying similarly in an effort to befuddle or frustrate you into a concession. In order to affect a sense of confidence in your opponent and reduce the appearance of your own vulnerability, know in advance what you seek and how you aim to secure it. Any backtracking should appear purposeful and orchestrated in order to achieve an advance in the negotiation process.


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June 2006