A Systems Approach to Negotiations

Everybody goes into a negotiation with emotional baggage. We can expect emotions from those being asked to make sacrifices – there usually is at least one party in a negotiation who will be making sacrifices. As negotiators, we don’t often think about the emotional baggage we are bringing to the table as negotiators.

In a recent episode of Negotiations Ninja, I chatted with war-time and hostage negotiation expert, Cal Chrustie, about his three S’s of negotiation: strategy, structure, and self. We often talk about strategy and structure, but we rarely talk about ourselves and the impact our self-awareness and personal emotions can have on the outcome of the negotiation.

Going into a negotiation with any emotional baggage could affect the outcome, no matter what the negotiation is for or what the baggage is. It’s important to understand your emotions, the things that might be weighing you down or holding you up, and know how they are affecting your every-day decisions. 

We often neglect self-reflection, especially when approaching a negotiation, and we rarely think of it as part of a strategy. But if you have the ability to know yourself, to know what your true motivations are and what you’re trying to accomplish, it makes your negotiations a lot easier because there’s no second-guessing. Where there is no second-guessing, there is motivation; you’re not reacting to a script or rules given to you, you’re using your internal incentive.

Getting to know yourself sounds like an easy endeavour, but it is something that takes time and development through experience and, as Cal mentioned, failure. He believes it was his failures over time that taught him more about himself than his successes taught him. Failure has an interesting way of hitting us in the gut and forcing behavioural change and internal refocusing. 

Consider self-reflection as part of your negotiation strategy. Know your emotions going in, tap into who and what you are, know your strengths and your weaknesses, and adhere to the principles you believe in. Knowing yourself will help you focus on your real motivation and desired outcomes.

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