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Negotiation: It works better without "buts".

2022-11-28T23:03:25.238Z

Hardly any word is used as often in negotiations as "but". A mistake, because it seems defensive and undermines your negotiating success.



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Photo: Enis Aksoy/Getty Images

The diversity of perspectives is seen as a driver of innovation.

However, it often makes collaboration difficult.

Especially when deadlines are approaching, we feel the pressure to convince our colleagues of our point of view as quickly as possible.

We react irritably to resistance.

Steven Tomlinson

is Associate Professor of Leadership at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.

He advises management teams on conflicts.

His clients include the executives and boards of Fortune 500 companies.

While this is often understandable, it blocks a promising possibility from us.

Because if discussions are only about ending them quickly and asserting ourselves, we close ourselves off to the competencies of others - and miss the opportunity to learn from counterarguments.

Sound tedious?

The approach that creates a remedy here is initially simple.

It often helps if we do without a single word in negotiations and discussions: "but".

Hardly any other word triggers so many reactions and sows so much distrust.

At the next discussion, count how often you hear "but" in negotiations or arguments - and say it yourself.

And notice how it changes the atmosphere in the room.

With the following three measures you can avoid "but" and its consequences in the future.

They are based on my experience as a coach with executives from Fortune 500 companies and high-tech start-ups, preparing them for difficult conversations.

But beware: Without courage, patience and practice, the project will not work.

However, if you get involved, you will achieve impressive results.

1. What happened before the "but"?

In any discussion or negotiation, the other side will probably make concessions and at times signal agreement.

Both are often said spontaneously - followed by a debilitating "but".

Here's an example: "I like parts of your plan, but it won't work."

Normally we reflexively focus on what is said after the "but".

What if, instead, we dealt with what our negotiating partner

said

beforehand ?

I saw this live when I worked with a team that sold powerful but expensive logistics software.

A sales rep closed significantly more deals than her peers.

I listened to her sales calls to understand how she handled objections about the high price.

It quickly became clear that the saleswoman used every opportunity that presented itself to talk about the special features of the product.

When a conversation partner said: "We like your solution, but it is quite simply too expensive", she asked: "What appeals to you in particular, what advantages do you see?"

By focusing on the positive concession, she shifted the focus from the price to the value of the software.

It found that potential customers who cited benefits were more likely to buy the product.

In another situation, after a service, I overheard the following conversation between a young pastor and an elderly man:

Man: "I would donate money to your church, but I don't like your political views."

Pastor: "What is it that makes you think about donating money to us?"

The pastor's attentive inquiry sparked a profound discussion and ultimately resulted in the visitor donating a few dollars.

more on the subject

  • Conducting negotiations: How to negotiate with your works councilBy Yurda Burghardt

  • Leadership:CEOs don't listen - and they know it

  • Communication: The Language of OthersBy Maxim Sytch and Yong H. Kim

  • Negotiations: You've Never Negotiated Like ThisBy Barry Nalebuff and Adam Brandenburger

2. Curiosity instead of "but"

A typical discussion goes like this: your opponent presents his point of view and you answer "but" and offer your counter-arguments.

An exchange of blows follows.

What would happen if you showed curiosity instead of trying to refute the other person?

What if you replaced the "but" with a question or request for clarification?

"Tell me more about it. I want to understand your perspective as best as I can."

Or "Why do you think we always get so emotional about this topic?"

Or "Obviously we're both very concerned about the issue. What is it that you find particularly important about it?"

Wanting to understand the rationale behind the arguments and the beliefs behind them shows open-mindedness and empathy.

In addition, it gives your counterpart more speaking time - the currency of any debate - and thus often prevents conflicts.

I watched a tense meeting in which the head of customer care argued passionately that his team needed to serve customers of the newly launched product.

The rest of the participants saw it differently.

Finally, the executive chairing the meeting responded, "Tom, you obviously care deeply about this topic. It would help me understand why."

Tom then admitted that it was mostly fear and worry that bothered him.

The company had begun making higher quality products that required less support from the sales force.

He therefore feared that the company would downsize its department and lay off many employees.

As it turned out, Tom's real problems were loyalty and personal responsibility for his employees.

He came out with the truth because someone had recognized his emotions as a signal for something unspoken and specifically asked about it.

This led to a search later in the conversation for new tasks for the customer service staff.

3. Stop before the "but".

In a financial consultation, the visionary CEO and his Chief Marketing Officer endorsed an ambitious digital transformation initiative.

They wanted to keep the company competitive.

However, the other board members do not support this plan.

They justified their opposing position by saying that the costs would be far too high.

Finally, the CEO said, "So you think the board needs to calculate the return on this investment."

He paused.

And then just said, "You're right."

He didn't add a "but" to his statement.

Instead, he stopped talking beforehand.

Such behavior is extremely powerful and happens all too rarely in discussions.

And it's easy: recognize similarities and initially only talk about them.

If you show that you have listened carefully and understood, contradictions have no power for a small moment.

We are often afraid that the other party will use this concession to their advantage.

In doing so, we overlook the fact that consent is a smart way to build trust and change the way everyone interacts.

In the case of financial advice, this gave the rest of the board members a chance to see that the CEO valued their opinion.

That inspired her.

Finally, board members developed a new guide for evaluating large investments.

This helped the CEO to also win over the members of the Board of Directors to the initiative.

An admission like "It sounds like we both care a lot" will put you on the same page for a while.

The situation can relax enough that new opportunities arise from it.

Even if the debate flares up shortly afterwards: the initial trust created will almost certainly pay off later.

Common basis through common values

It's natural to want to defend yourself in an argument because we feel we "must" win.

The anti-but measures described here constructively use the creative possibilities that can open up through different perspectives and points of view.

They create the respect and trust that enables fruitful collaboration with colleagues.

Changing your attitude about "but" can cost you the adrenaline rush that comes with heated arguments.

However, a new perspective and better working relationships should be worth it to you.

Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2022-11-28

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