Discover how to collaborate, negotiate, and bargain with even the most combative opponents with, Dealing with Difficult People, a FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.
What are Difficult Conversations in Negotiation?
From the boardroom to the factory floor, your ability
to manage difficult conversations is key to your effectiveness.
Whether dealing with a challenging customer, a difficult supplier, an unhappy employee, an unreasonable official, or a demanding boss, we all have difficult conversations we anticipate with dread.
Learning how to have those difficult conversations can help you respond to emotions (your and others’), foster successful relationships, bridge the gulf of real differences in what people believe and feel, and keep your team and your organization on target.
One example can be in the case of salary negotiations. Intimidating as it may be, it’s one of the most important difficult conversations to have at the beginning of your career.
It’s also one area where negotiators tend to assume that any gains made come at the expense of the other party, and vice versa. Yet when we start looking at “salary negotiations” as “job negotiations,” we realize this doesn’t have to be the case. When negotiating salary, what tradeoffs could you make to get a higher offer? Maybe you could offer to take on added responsibilities, make tradeoffs on benefits, or look for other ways to add value to the employer.
In more challenging situations, such as engaging in difficult conversations and working with difficult people, it’s important to find ways to avoid being caught up in their competitive trap.
How can you avoid an escalatory spiral and take the high road when having difficult conversations and managing difficult people? In his classic negotiation text Getting Past No: Negotiating In Difficult Situations, William Ury advises us to break the cycle of reaction and counter-reaction in negotiation by “going to the balcony”—that is, by imagining we are stepping back from the stage to the balcony.
In doing so, we can step back, gather our wits, and look at the situation objectively. This sense of psychological distance can give us the clarity we need to identify the motives behind unfair tactics and avoid responding in kind.
Discover how to collaborate, negotiate, and bargain with even the most combative opponents with, Dealing with Difficult People, a FREE report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.
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