The ability to negotiate through conflict is obviously critical within any organisation, regardless of which side of the fence they happen to sit, and in reality most of us sit on both sides of the fence in the different situations we find ourselves in. Sometimes we are buying, other times we are selling. Often we are managing others and maybe we are being managed.
Point is we have to be able to handle all of the above.
The good negotiator must also have an eye on the value and relationship that the other side perceives. One of the epiphanies I had when I first became involved in negotiation was that deals that worked really well for me, but badly for them were unlikely to be easy to live with for either side. The car dealer who has been screwed down on price, is hardly likely to offer great deals on servicing, the home seller who has had you drop a last minute price reduction on them, may not clean the house or leave a light bulb in place when they leave. That is even worse when the relationship is less transactional, and the two parties need to work together in the short to medium term at least.
Less obvious I guess is the way that we feel as negotiators ourselves after the deal is done. Do we feel we have done a good job? Are we content that whilst we have struggled to land the deal, is it a good deal all round, that both parties have worked hard to find a solution that works.
This intangible feeling is mostly about self-worth, have I tried hard enough to create the value for both sides. A job well done, that has improved the relationship rather than soured it. Have I been able to hold my ground when needed and flexed when I can. Am I satisfied with the result?
A family of balloons, were having problems.
The mummy and Daddy balloon had been trying to persuade Baby Balloon to stop coming into bed with them at night, without success.
Daddy balloon says to the Baby Balloon, “enough is enough. You are not to climb into bed with us tonight”
Baby balloon slinks off. But in the middle of the night he wakes, and decides to climb into his parents bed. But mummy and daddy balloon are snuggled up and there is no room.
Undeterred, Baby Balloon unties the knot in his dad and lets a little air out. Still he can’t fit. He unties his mother's knot and lets out a little air. Still no room. One last attempt and he unties his own knot and lets out a little air. This time he is able to fit without waking his parents.
Morning comes. Daddy Balloon is furious, and yells,
“Baby balloon you have let me down, you have let your mother down, but worst of all you have let yourself down”
Ill-judged or poorly thought through negotiations can let our business down, our clients or suppliers down or ourselves down.
In many ways that is the most unpleasant let down of all.