I am an emotional, impulsive person by nature. That doesn’t mean I have to be at the effect of counterproductive behavior. Very gradually over the course of my life, I have learned to step back from tense or crucial situations, hold my tongue when appropriate, and refrain from making rash decisions. Slowly I’ve developed a greater awareness for desirable outcomes, and focus my attention on that rather than being engulfed in my emotions.
This week I was negotiating with travel tour company “XYZ”, offering them an entire edition of this publication in exchange for a dramatically reduced rate for the tour I wanted. Initially their reduced price was not much of a reduction, and the “old me” would have blown them off in the huff (or at least a minute and a huff). “What an insulting offer!” I would have thought. “Screw them!” Or maybe I would have haggled with them over the price, and met with resistance that triggered my frustration.
Instead, I took a timeout from the circumstance, regrouped and went back to their website and noticed they had another tour that was appealing to me, a tour that I was considering with a different tour operator. But if “XYZ” gave me a better deal in booking both tours with them, I can offer them exclusivity in the publication and they would be the only tour company to get publicity in this special travel edition.
“XYZ” was far more excited about booking two tours from me and gaining exclusivity in the publicity. Therefore, the price negotiated was far better, probably just a smidgeon above their cost, yet they were happy with the deal.
Effectiveness in negotiations can require Herculean patience and discipline. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt either…
“In the Presence of Humor,” a book by Cy Eberhart, has a story about a contentious management-labor contract meeting: “…One of the management negotiators (felt the tensions rising) when they broke for lunch. Upon leaving the conference room he was handed an urgent message to call home. He called his wife and tensed up when he heard her distraught voice, but then relaxed in amusement when she described her concern. The school principal wanted to meet with her about an incident regarding their son, and she was upset over what might happen. Their son had allegedly heaved a water balloon towards a group of girls standing outside the school. He told his wife over the phone that nothing terrible would happen, and offered her some suggestions on how to handle the meeting with the principal.
Returning from the lunch break, he was still amused by the incident. He appeared even more detached from the intensity of the negotiations. The others, alert to his behavior, wanted an explanation. He said it was just a personal matter that had nothing to do with the negotiations, but they insisted on knowing what was going on, so he told them. They all laughed and got back to business.
The seemingly impossible then occurred—with an ease and quickness that startled him, they found areas of agreement and made remarkable progress. Before lunch, he was an enemy ‘on the other side’. In telling his story, the others understood because they were husbands and fathers too. When negotiations resumed, they came from a solid place of commonality rather than differences.”