ABRAHAM Lincoln said: “When I’m getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say, and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.”

How many negotiators put that much effort into thinking about the other side?

The key to reaching an agreement or resolving a conflict lies in understanding the way the other person sees things.

While it is certainly important to think about what you really want and how to get it, you need to think even more about your counterpart, what he wants, and why he might agree to your request.

You are not simply making a request. You are asking the other person to make a decision — to accept your proposal or reject it.

Ask yourself these questions:

•   What do I want him to do?

•   From his perspective, why would he agree to do it?

•   How will he view the consequences of doing or not doing what I ask?

This exercise should give you some new insights.

You may conclude: “There’s no way he will ever agree to that!”

If that is your first reaction, it will probably be your counterpart’s as well.

So don’t ask. Instead, try to reformulate your request so that it makes sense for your counterpart to agree.


Lesson from a child

When my daughter Cherisse first started to walk, she would explore everything within reach.

If I went into the storage room, she would follow me and pick up hammers, screwdrivers, light bulbs and other items not meant for toddlers.

I would tell her to put those things down, they were not toys, they were dangerous, she could hurt herself and so on. None of these reasons worked.

I should have known they were doomed to fail because from her perspective, she had no reason to agree to my demand.

She was enjoying herself, and I was asking her to stop. She had nothing to gain and everything to lose.

I had to reformulate my request to make it acceptable to her.

I asked her: “Cherisse, would you like to close the door?”

I can only imagine her thought process: “Close the door? I’ve never done that before, but I think I can do it. It sounds like fun. My dad will be so proud of me.”

She immediately dropped everything, slammed the door shut and ran off with a triumphant grin on her face.

She gave up playing with the tools, but in exchange, she gained the opportunity to try something new and win my approval.

She viewed this as a net gain and so agreed to my request. There was nothing to negotiate or clarify, she could simply say yes.


A ‘yesable’ proposition

We are not always clear about what we want the other person to do.

If our thinking is not clear, our request will not be clear either. If our request is not clear, the other party will not have a clear choice.

A confused mind always says no.

For example, the conflict with North Korea drags on.

What do we want North Korea to do? Give up nuclear weapons? Negotiate? Stop antagonising its neighbours? Behave itself?

Various parties have made threats and demands, imposed sanctions and expressed outrage, but has its leader been presented with a clear choice that he can say yes to?

Until he is offered a “yesable” proposition, the conflict is likely to continue.

Give your counterpart a yesable proposition, a request phrased so he can respond immediately with either a yes or a no.

If you truly understand his thinking and phrase it right, you will get a yes.

Article by David Goldwich, “the Persuasion Doctor”. He speaks internationally and conducts workshops in persuasive business presentations, negotiation and storytelling for leaders and sales professionals. Website: www.davidgoldwich.com

He will be conducting a public workshop “Powerful Negotiation Skills and Techniques” on June 6 and 7. For details, call Sam on 6536-0801 or e-mail sam@lciseminars.com