Negotiating with Coworkers & Colleagues

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Business Skills

Negotiating with Coworkers & Colleagues

Here are some negotiation tips to keep in mind next time you navigate a difficult issue with some of your coworkers and colleagues.

1. Get out of your head.

Most of us are self-absorbed and focused on what we want. We stay within that mindset and fail to consider the impact a conversation might have on our colleagues.

The first step to negotiating effectively is getting out of your head and understanding that it’s not about you.

If you are engaging in a tough conversation, the words “I need” or “I want” are floating around in your head, and in your counterpart’s head. This produces negative emotions because you’re changing the

status quo and introducing uncertainty. As I teach in my negotiation workshop, uncertainty is the mother of fear. It activates that “fight or flight” mechanism in the brain, causing you or your peers to stop thinking clearly.

Instead of focusing on yourself, turn the conversation around and focus on the person or people you’re talking to. Let them kick off the conversation with their vision and you can draw them out by saying something like: “It seems like you have a vision of how you want this conversation to go.” Use paraphrasing and the “echo technique to move the discussion in the right direction.

When you’re respectful to what your counterpart says, they will return the favor when it’s your turn to speak.

2. Ask permission to share.

After you’ve let your colleague lead the conversation, summarize their stance. Then, say something like this: “You probably think this is a big waste of time, and you’re wondering why we’re going over this topic again because we have covered it over and over again. You might even be wondering if I’m prepared for this conversation.” 

After that, use no-oriented questions, which I teach in my workshop, to ask permission to share what’s on your mind: “Would you be opposed to letting me walk you through my thought process?”

Remember, no-oriented questions are designed to generate a verbal “no,” but the behaviors that align with that verbal “no” are equal to a yes. 

3. Over-exaggerate the situation

Once you have their permission to share, over-exaggerate the situation to prepare your counterpart to receive the news you’re about to share: “Now, this is probably going to sound stupid. This is probably going to catch you off guard. Once you hear what I have to say, you’re going to want to stab me in the eye with a pen.” 

The reason you want to be colorful here is that you want them to think about the worst possible discussion in the world: “What could he possibly say that will make me want to stab him in the eye with a pen?”

Now, they are bracing for something terrible, and the actual “ask” will pale in comparison to whatever they have conjured up in their mind. That way, when you finally share the news, they will feel relieved.

4. End with silence.

After you’ve stated your case, stay silent and let that silence remain for a moment. This gives your counterpart space to reflect upon what you just said.

Count to 10 in your head. Your coworker will almost certainly fill the void before you have gotten there. If they don’t, it’s because there is something else on their mind. To get past the impasse, you can prompt a response by using an open-ended question like: “What have I missed?” Or a statement like: “It seems like I’m missing something.”

Either way, it’s a subtle way to ask them what they think about what you just said. 

For more tips on Negotiations, feel free to share any question with me or ask me about my Negotiations Workshop.