HAVE you ever encountered moments in negotiation when you felt your position of authority suddenly take a dive? Consider the following scenarios.
1. Your contract renewal with a valued client has come up and your client advises you that your rates are not justified for the quality of work you have been delivering and he may have to search for another provider.
2. As a female manager, you responsibly remind a male peer to close a project as it is past due. He tells you that you are over-reacting and to calm down.
3. You are in a meeting with your boss to negotiate your annual salary raise and bonuses based on your part played in the increased annual turnover. Your boss tells you that in this economic downturn you are lucky to have a job. He asks you not to raise salary concerns at this time and adds that you can be counted on to do him this favour.
These are all scenarios where the other party has put you in a weaker position with what may appear like little room for negotiation.
So how do you turn the tables and benefit from the negotiation? It's all about performing the right moves and turns in the art of "shadow negotiation" - the juggling for position that goes on while two parties debate the issue at hand.
This positioning determines how you can manage others' perceptions of you, how you assert power and how you maintain credibility.
Let's look at the weapons you have at hand, categorised as moves and turns.
You use a move to strategically position yourself in the negotiation to enhance your standing and put yourself at the best advantage. Your move will challenge the other party's position and put him on the defensive. Common moves are:
* Challenging expertise
As in Scenario 1, you can tell someone their fees are out of line with their competence.
* Demeaning ideas
Attacking someone's ideas can be a surprise tactic and difficult to argue with when faced with comments like: "You can't be serious!"
* Criticising style
Telling someone not to get emotional or upset, as in Scenario 2, implies they are unprofessional and irrational. This can be challenging to the other party if they consider themselves calm, professional and easy to work with.
This forces the other party to make a choice ("It's all or nothing") but it makes it risky to propose another solution. You have to stick to your guns here and be willing to risk the failure of the deal.
* Appealing for sympathy
It is difficult to reject someone who says: "I know you won't let me down on this." Just like in Scenario 3, this move is made to silence the other party and get his co-operation.
How do you counter such moves in the field of battle? You do it with turns.
There are two types of turns - restorative - which puts you back on an even keel with the other party or in a position of advantage; or participative - which opens up the way for negotiation.
Here are some turns you can make:
Interrupting disrupts the move the other party is making so they are not quite in the same position.
Tell the other party you recognise what they are doing. This is your way to reject the positioning. In Scenario 1, you can counter the threat to find another service provider by saying: "We both know that will create more work for you, and a new provider won't understand your business like I do for a while."
Questioning a move tells the other party you are rejecting it because you don't understand the reason behind it.
Correcting the turn goes further than rejecting the move. It repositions you at the advantage. Tone of voice is important here. The use of sarcasm, irony or humour can help you correct a move.
In Scenario 1, you can correct the move by showing the client fee schedules of other firms to show him that he is getting a fair deal.
In Scenario 2, the female manager can correct her peer by saying: "This is serious. We are both responsible for this."
Shifting the focus away from the move to the problem, effectively ignores the move.
In Scenario 3, you can make a participative turn to open up the negotiation by diverting the conversation: "I know things are tight but I want to explore some new ideas with you."
You can see that through the appropriate use of moves and turns, negotiations that once fell flat can now be used to your advantage. Training will give you confidence in your own ability to make moves and to turn them. This is a skill that can be learned to enhance your effectiveness in negotiation.