The Paradoxical Point of View
In this article I want to put forward some ideas about one particular aspect of negotiation that we encounter usually in the first face-to-face phase of negotiation. Some call it debate, others call it introduction. It's after hello and sometimes after small talk about events that have occurred in our lives since we've met last time. Just to warm up the meeting. Maybe in other situations we have to follow a protocol or a procedure at the beginning. Or we need to follow some cultural behaviors. It is not important for our subject how we start the meeting.
Then we start talking about the reason we meet. One of the first things that we mention is how we see the problem or the situation. We express our point of view. The others express theirs. As normal as it seems, however, this exchange poses a huge potential danger for the negotiation that will come. And if we do not manage it carefully we will end not in a negotiation but in a confrontation. Why?
When both parties in a negotiation express their points of view usually those points of view are different. For example, when negotiating a merger between two companies both representatives consider in the beginning that they have to profit more from the new entity than they finally will when signing the papers. Generally speaking, when splitting a pie everybody wants more in the beginning. It's their point of view, different from the other side of the table.
To manage the differences, the parties often choose one of the following ways of continuing:
- The most efficient one is that each party understands and accepts the other's point of view and both parties, side by side, work together to find a solution to compensate for the difference between their points of view.
- A second path is when one of them (or both) tries to influence the other by changing perspectives using mostly coaching methods. In the end the targeted person will end up with another point of view. From the new point of view it will be easier to come to an agreement. This might be not so efficient because every time when you try to influence (or even manipulate) a person, you have to take into account the risk that the person may react when they become aware of your action. So you need to be very skillful to be safe.
- Another course is when one of the parties tries to convince through arguments the other one that its own point of view is the correct one. This is not very productive because any argument calls for a counterargument. Sometimes this can be a never ending story. Other times it can degenerate into more ugly results or behaviors.
- Lastly, some people will not support a different opinion other than their own and they try to impose their view on the others. In this situation we are probably out of negotiation process.
The above is not an exhaustive list. You might recognize all of these and maybe you know additional paths.
And now reset! Back to square one.
The Paradoxical Point of View By Radu Ionescu
Copyright © 2013 Radu Ionescu
Copyright © 2013 The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine June-July 2013