The Development of Patience

Jack Cambria is the embodiment patience and understanding. In a conversation I had with Jack (episode 50 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast), he said:


“We have to have staying power and develop a rapport. And if we can develop that, it will lead to trust, in time. And there is a process. And that process is allowing people the time to work through their emotions and that takes time.”

Jack’s background as a crisis negotiator has forced him to develop incredible patience. You can hear it when he talks. Crisis negotiators don’t have the luxury of getting frustrated and angry with someone who wants to take their own lives or harm someone else. They develop what Chris Voss would call, tactical empathy. That tactical empathy requires a unique situational awareness and A LOT of patience.

If you’re not patient, you risk rushing the negotiation and overlooking areas where you can develop and extract value. Have you ever looked back on a deal and thought, “Shoot, I should have seen that coming.” I know I have. That’s often a function of rushing deal completion. Impatience leads to frustration and frustration leads to impasses. It’s a deal killer.

When you think about it though, impatience is a function of managing your own expectations. You’re impatient because ‘someone else isn’t getting it’ or ‘someone else is taking too long’, or ‘someone else is ruining the deal with their ridiculous demands.’ It’s  always someone else’s fault.

Reality check time. Maybe it’s you. Maybe your expectations of the the other person and how they “should” behave are out of whack. Kurt Dahl, and entertainment lawyer, in episode 49 dropped some wisdom that still sticks with me. He said, “You can change the nature of the negotiation, but you can’t change the nature of the person you’re negotiating with.” Their nature is what it is. You just have to deal with it within the confines of the deal that you’re presented. And that means that you MUST have patience.

Patience slows the process to the point where, as Jack says, everyone has time to work through their emotions and their process. This includes you. Your patience allows you time to manage your own emotions and expectations.

Good negotiators use patience like a weapon and they’re able to wait out the other side’s frustration, timelines, anger, and forceful negotiation techniques. This patience allows the other party to vent and when there’s nothing left to be angry or frustrated about, they magically become ready to talk about how to make a deal work.

Patience is difficult. I get it. Especially when you have a deal that is constrained by a time  limit imposed by a leader or a contract expiry. Truthfully, patience is the single biggest thing in negotiation I have difficulty with. I am not naturally a patient person and it takes considerable effort and focus for me to force myself to be patient.

It’s taken me years of practice to develop situational awareness enough for me to recognize when I’m being impatient and when I need to force myself to slow it down. I still get flustered and frustrated when I feel as though something or someone isn’t moving fast enough. But there is a tool that can help you significantly improve your patience in negotiations.