Negotiating When No One Wants to Listen

Attempting to Negotiate

Your review is coming up. Finally. You’d thought about this for the last few weeks, and are excited to see how you’ve done. You made a decision though — you really want more vacation time.

You don’t want to have the conversation, but you’ll never get what you don’t ask for. You know that there is a pretty strong policy about vacation hours, but you also accepted less vacation to begin with when you first started. And now that you’ve been there just over a year, you’ve proven you can do the job.

The only problem is whether or not your boss will listen. You don’t have high hopes. The two of you are very different. Your relationship isn’t bad, but it’s definitely not great. You exchange pleasantries in the morning, but that’s about it. You’re afraid there’s basically nowhere to even begin having this conversation.

So, how can we negotiate with people and entice them to see the other side of an issue, if not agree with us?

Find Common Ground

We often live under the impression that we don’t have a lot in common with the majority of people. Each of us assumes we are special and unique. We, for some reason, are not like the other 7 billion people in this world. This, however, is totally untrue. When you strip away superficial things; how people like to live, who they choose to associate with, and what they enjoy in life, we are surprisingly similar.

The personal common ground that we all have is this: We all want to be loved and we all want to find contentment. I guarantee you have that in common with every single person you meet. Now, how you go about getting those two things is hugely different, but the main point is that you actually do have something in common.

In our work, we also have common ground and similar results that we are both trying to achieve. It’s just that the way we go about it is different. Because of that, we fail to see that we having anything in common at all. But if you think about it, we are all probably working towards an exact annual sales figure, or a specific number of new customers. How we think it’s best to go about getting that is where the problem and negotiation comes in.

So to think that there is never any common ground is simply not true. When you feel like there is no way you can talk to another person because you have nothing in common, remember this. On a human level, we both want to be loved, and we both want to find contentment. On a business level, remind yourself that there are similarities between the two of you. From that mindset you can begin having a conversation.

In terms of your vacation time, your boss is probably concerned, just like you are, that you reach your goals for the quarter and the year. That’s your common ground to start from.

Understand Their Motivation

Don’t just go in with your demands, or a belief that your ideas are the only ideas worth listening to. Get to know them as a person, not someone who will simply agree to whatever you want. As Getting to Yes explains, you’re attempting to get to a mutually acceptable agreement.

Understand their motivations by asking:

  • “What are you ultimately trying to achieve with this plan?”

Once you know the answer to this, tell them your answer. You may have two completely different end points that you’re trying to get to, but at least you’ll know.

Your boss probably wants to get the review over and get started on something else. You want to get your extra vacation days. But if you can explain why you have earned those days quickly and succinctly, then you’ll both get what you want. He can move on and you’ll get more vacation. You’re not asking for more money, just a few extra days off, and you’ve already shown that you are a committed and talented worker. Just look at your review!

Stick to the Plan

Many people strongly dislike negotiating. So, don’t prolong it or waste time fighting back and forth on points that don’t relate to both of your ultimate end goals. Figuring out how to get to the solution requires an actual conversation; and should look something like this:

  • You suggest an idea that they shoot down. You ask, “What, specifically, is wrong with this solution?”
  • They give you their reasons and you ask for an idea from them.
  • You shoot their idea down and give specific reasons.

You both have to whittle your way through to a solution. The whole magic of effectively negotiating is to come to a conclusion together. By the time you are done, they will have bought into the solution and be happy with it simply because they helped create it.

You ask for an extra week of vacation. He laughs and says no. Well how much would you say then? He might say one. This means he’s already committed to the idea of giving yousomething. You ask,How about two?” My guess is he’ll agree to this. It’s not a lot, but it’s two extra days than you had before, plus you’ll feel great that you were able to get something out of the transaction.

Acknowledge Their Participation

After you’ve come to an agreeable solution, be sure to thank them for working on this with you. Thank them for trying to find a solution. It doesn’t matter how it all originally started. It doesn’t matter if you had to call the meeting or confront them first. The fact is that you talked with them in a way that compelled them to stay and participate, when before they would have simply walked away and avoided the issue altogether.

Working toward the same cause

No matter how different someone seems to be, there is always common ground to start opening up that conversation. The only way to find a solution is to be willing to listen to the other person, even if it at first seems like they’re never going to listen to you.

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