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Deadlock Negotiations – Using the Right Key to Unlock the Solution

lock-179583_1920Imagine yourself in a negotiation with someone – it could be over a car price; where to go on vacation with your family; or even something more significant like a salary increase for years of hard work. Whatever you’re negotiating you’ve come to the point in the conversation where neither you nor the other person is willing to budge from their position. Whether you call it a deadlock, a stalemate, or an impasse, it all means the same thing. Your conversation isn’t going anywhere, and you are not finding any solutions.

Why do impasses occur?

One reason an impasse occurs is that the parties are working from their positions or their rigid stance of what they want as the outcome rather than from their interests or actual needs. You know the saying, “I want what I want.” Nothing wrong with that concept except when the other person wants something different that doesn’t align with your outcome. The more people hold onto their positions, the more difficult it is to negotiate a mutual solution.

A second reason an impasse may occur is that we stop being creative in looking for solutions to our issue. We see a direct line to the resolution, however, if the other party disagrees with the path, we believe it is our job to convince them that our way is the right way. Instead of figuring out their needs and working with them to come up with creative solutions that could satisfy all party’s needs, we block the path.

A common negotiation I experienced when I use to waitress was requesting time off with the other servers. Asking for time off could become tough especially if multiple servers wanted off which limited the number of people to cover and required some to work doubles. Therefore, you would reach an impasse because both the other server and I want off and need someone to cover our shift.

How can you move past an impasse?

* Take a Break.  If you and the other party have been negotiating for some time, and it doesn’t appear you are going anywhere, take a break, get some fresh air and reconvene. Taking some time away might assist with new ideas and solutions when you come back to the table.

* Ask questions. If you and the other parties are focusing on your positions, you are discounting the interests, values, and concerns the other party might have that is driving their position. Ask questions to get to the bottom of what they need or want out of the negotiation. So to go back to my example I could ask other servers what they were doing that they needed the day off? Perhaps upon asking questions, we learn that I need the day off to go to a doctor’s appointment, and another server is taking off to go to the pool with the girlfriends.

*Brainstorm Creative Options. People will often limit their outcomes when they are negotiating because they are looking to meet their desires only and fear to get creative. Creativity in conflict often leads to the best outcomes for all parties. So when you are negotiating with another party listen to their interests, values, and concerns and determine commonalities and differences. Then work to generate any and all possible solutions that fit those everyday needs and what each person is willing to do to meet the different interests. They don’t have to make exact sense; they can be completely outlandish, and it is important not to discount any ideas.

So to go back to my requesting time off example, we could negotiate that I would reschedule my doctor’s appointment for a different day and the other server would get off. Or, she would reschedule her pool day with girlfriends, and I would get off. But, if we got creative; perhaps we learned that my appointment was in the earlier part of the shift and her pool day with girlfriends wasn’t schedule until later part. We negotiate that she would work until my doctor’s appointment was over and I would then come in to work so she could leave and meet her friends. The unique solutions we could come up with could satisfy both our needs and move us past an impasse.

Listen to our podcast, Negotiation 101: Building Blocks For Getting What You Need for more insights into everyday negotiations

 

Happy Negotiating,

Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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Life’s Negotiations – Insights I Learned

realty-1151243_1280One of the first eye-opening things I learned at the University of Baltimore in the Negotiation and Conflict Management program was that we negotiate every single day of our lives. Stuart Diamond writes in Getting More: How You Can Negotiate to Succeed in Work and Life, ” Negotiation is at the heart of human interaction. Every time people interact, there is negotiation going on: verbally or nonverbally, consciously or unconsciously“.

I never considered myself much of a negotiator until I started at UB. I never took into account that every time I spoke with someone about what we would have for dinner; what would we be doing on Friday night; or what color would we paint the living room, etc. would actually be a negotiation. I found this realization to be eye-opening because when I thought of people negotiating, I often thought of serious businesspeople in suits or a car lot salesmen or real estate agent. So when I had my first negotiation class, I naively thought the skills I would be learning would only be useful in a business setting or if I was buying a car – but I was wrong.

I want to share this week some tips I learned in my negotiation class that helps me in my everyday life.

The first thing I learned was from Roger Fisher and William Ury’s international bestseller book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In which is “separate the people from the problem”. It was a fantastic insight because I would often equate the person as THE PROBLEM. I would forget that people bring their emotions, values, and perspectives about the problem to every discussion as do I. Acknowledge the individual’s perspective and name the problem or issue between the two of you. For example, the issue is the purchase of your first home. Just because your spouse wants a colonial and you want a ranch-style home does not make one person the sole problem in selecting your perfect home. By not acknowledging that the person you are negotiating with is an individual who has their emotions, values and perspectives you are hindering the success of the negotiation.

The second thing I learned is that every individual, a negotiator, has a particular set of interests they are trying to satisfy, and it is important to focus on those and not on positions. Roger Fisher and William Ury in Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In explains, “Desires and concerns are interests. Interests motivate people; Your position is something you have decided upon“. Let’s go back to the house hunting. You decide you must have the ranch-style home. In your mind, this is it. It is your position or your strongly held decision. Your spouse says it must be a 2-story colonial. He grew up in one and there is no other way to live. Done deal. Negotiating on a position one might have can often lead to a deadlock where no solutions are generated and no house bought. However, negotiating on someone’s interests allows you to learn more about their concerns and provides you more room for discussion and resolution.

The third thing I learned, communication is everything in a negotiation. Whether you are negotiating with a business partner over the next big investment or with your significant other over where to go for dinner, what house to buy, or where to enjoy vacation – communication is essential in coming to a decision. It is important to be explicit in our interests and communicate them to the other person. It is also crucial to listen to the other party to hear their interests and concerns. Both sides then must be aware that one party may put a special meaning or emphasis on a particular interest which may bear no weight or special meaning to the other person. Therefore, clarifying and asking questions is imperative for better understanding.

The final thing I wanted to share may have been the most powerful thing I learned, and that is to view the person I am negotiating with as a partner and not an adversary. The example they gave in class is rather than thinking of yourselves sitting on opposite sides of a table think of yourselves sitting side-by-side both looking for an outcome that is mutually beneficial. By reframing the way you look at the person you are negotiating with, you provide yourself with an opportunity to be more open-minded and willing to engage in constructive conversation that could benefit both parties in achieving their desired outcomes.

Check out our negotiation series this month http://www.texasconflictcoach.com/category/upcoming-shows/

 

Happy Negotiating,

Abigail R.C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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Just Sleep On It – Insight on Challenging the Age-Old Wisdom, “Never go to bed angry!”

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The age-old wisdom that married couples imparted to my husband, Bernard and me before we got married was, “Never go to bed angry.”

I do not enjoy being in conflict with my husband; for that reason, every time a conflict has occurred between us throughout the nine years we’ve been together I usually try to get it resolved as quickly as possible. Another reason I tried to resolve it quickly is that I feared the consequences of going to sleep still fighting with my husband.

If we did go to bed mad what would happen? Would it automatically mean we were doomed to failure? I believe this fear is why I had always pushed for a resolution, sometimes before we were ready because illogically I thought if I fell asleep and Bernard and I were still fighting we wouldn’t make it.

Recently, Bernard and I got into a heated conflict. Without going into detail, I will say the fight escalated after I lost sight of my emotional triggers. After the battle had met its climax, Bernard did not want to talk. Bernard not wanting to speak moments after an argument is pretty standard; as mentioned, I usually push for a resolution and break his silence. However, this time was different. It was late in the evening and time for bed. I remember thinking to myself, ” Do we go to bed angry? What will come of our relationship? Will we be okay?”

I recognized that a time-out was necessary, recalling all the conflict resolution literature I have read over the years that says sometimes time-outs are fine; good even! I acknowledged that pushing for a resolution on this particular matter could make things worse. So for the first time in our relationship, we went to bed angry. The next morning, we didn’t speak either. I spent the next day researching how going to bed angry could affect your relationship, and I became even more panicked as I read more negative results. I then decided to pull myself together and gain insight from this experience rather than promote a prophecy that has no merit.

So for this post, I wanted to share my insight on what I learned from going to bed angry.

I was at fault in this argument, and I realized that every time in the past when I had pushed for a resolution, and I was to blame, I was minimizing my behavior. My husband was clearly upset with me and my actions, if I pushed him to forgive me, I recognized that I was reducing his hurt feelings to make my uncomfortableness with being in a fight go away. I did not like this realization about myself and immediately felt guilty for all the times in the past I had done this; therefore, this time, I didn’t push for a resolution. I apologized but then I backed off and let my husband make the call on when we could speak and resolve the issue.

Going to bed angry gives you time to calm down and gain perspective. I am aware this isn’t a ground-breaking revelation to most people but to me it was. I have a sharp tongue, I have been told this since I was little, and it has gotten me into trouble before. Therefore, calming down and shutting up helped me not to say anything I would later regret. It also allowed me to gain the perspective I needed so that when Bernard and I did talk I was able to articulate my points and feelings without a high level of emotion.

Lastly, going to bed angry does not automatically mean that your relationship will meet its demise. It is important that you take a break if needed when arguing with your spouse or significant other to gain clarity and de-escalate a conflict. If that means sleeping on it, then that is something you should do. It might make you feel better to know that no one has ever cited “we went to bed angry” on their divorce papers – I checked!

Have a Great Week,
Abigail R.C. McManus
Apprentice

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Sharing the Blame Game- Take Ownership Now

blamegameIn my first semester at University of Baltimore we were assigned a book to read called Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. The book provides a step-by-step approach to working through difficult conversations. The entire book was fantastic, but one particular section was eye opening for me. The chapter discusses how people need to stop blaming others and instead assess how they have contributed to the conflict. Stone, Patton, and Heen urge readers to ask themselves, “how did I contribute to this problem?” At this time in my life I was involved in a conflict with a friend and I was not taking any responsibility for my actions. It was a huge breakthrough for me because I realized how often we blame others for the conflicts we face; we abandon ownership of our problems, but why? Perhaps because it is easier to throw up our hands and say, “I didn’t do anything wrong”, but this does not resolve conflicts, if anything it prolongs them.

In any conflict you face, whether with a significant other, boss, or friend begin by taking a step back and asking yourself “How did I contribute to this problem?” Dr. Patty Ann Tublin a contributor to Entrepreneurial Woman explains, “Conflict in our relationships cannot be created in a vacuum. At least two people are responsible for it when it enters our lives. Regardless of whether you started the conflict or you are allowing it to perpetuate, you have some personal responsibility for its presence in your relationship.” Maybe your husband forgot to stop and pick up the items you requested for dinner at the store, he gets home and this starts a fight because now you have nothing to make for dinner. Ask yourself what you could have done differently? Maybe you could have sent a reminder to him so he wouldn’t forget. Even small squabbles such as this can build resentment, if both parties do not take ownership.

Why do people avoid taking responsibility?

In an excerpt from Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith’s book, The Art of Waking People Up: Cultivating Awareness and Authenticity at Work found on Mediate.com they explain that, “everyone in conflict tells a story in which they are right and the other person is wrong.” Cloke and Goldsmith suggests that, “These accusatory, self-serving stories are designed to disguise and divert attention from the role they play in keeping the conflict going, and reinforce their defenses, justifications, countermeasures, and irreconcilable positions.” Stone, Patton and Sheen point out “The urge to blame is based, quite literally, on a misunderstanding of what has given rise to the issues between you and the other person, and on the fear of being blamed.” People are not fond of admitting to their shortcomings. But the fact of the matter is, we are all human and we all make mistakes. It is easier to point the finger at someone else when things go wrong. And it takes courage and strength to own up to your part in any given issue and in doing so, it assists you and the person your in conflict with move forward.

Why is taking ownership important?

Jeff Durham a contributor to Life Coach Expert points out, “ taking responsibility for our actions equals success. It also makes us feel good about ourselves and rids us of negative personality traits such as anger, fear, resentment, hostility and doubt.” It is essential to recognize your contribution to the conflict in order to move towards resolution. The other person in the conflict becomes more open to listening allowing both parties to see and understand why the conflict occurred, what improvements you need to make and how to prevent the problem from happening again. So, the next time you find yourself attacking or blaming others, stop, think and ask yourself “What did I do or say, however small, that contributed to the problem?” Refrain from justifications such as “I wouldn’t have done X, if they had not done Y.” And then, own it.

 

Abigail Clark

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

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The Battle Between Customer and Customer Service- How to Increase Your Chances for Resolution!

customerservice

Have you ever been in a situation where you bought a product, and when you went to use it, it did not work? Or it was missing a part? Then when you tried to complain you found yourself on hold, or talking to a customer service representative who does not have the authority to resolve the issue? Or worse you never received a response at all? Customers are left feeling angry and helpless in these situations. So what can a customer do to get their complaint acknowledged and resolved?

Before you call or email the company, you must first remember to remain calm. You, as the client, are less likely to resolve your complaint if you begin yelling at the customer service representative or using all caps in an email. Regina Lewis from USA Today suggests, “Be business-like and think of yourself in the third person, almost like you are handling a matter on behalf of someone else.” By remaining business-like, you take the emotion out of the problem and address the issue at hand.

Another step suggested by Tom Barlow a contributor for Forbes is to “think through what outcome will make you happy: a refund? A replacement? An apology? An upgrade? And get your facts straight: Know your rights by reviewing warranties and the policies of the company in question”. Before filing a complaint, it is important to recognize what you can realistically achieve so that you can resolve it successfully. If you have unrealistic expectations then you are most likely not going to reach the results you want.

Once you call, what should you do if the customer service representative does not have the authority to provide a resolution? Tom Barlow advises, “ If you aren’t getting anywhere with the phone rep, escalate: Ask to talk to a supervisor, and keep on reaching up the chain until you’re put in touch with someone with the power to grant your request.” It is essential to speak with someone who has the decision- making authority to resolve the issue. Businesses do not want to risk losing you as a customer. One dissatisfied customer could share their negative experience with others, which could be harmful to the company. For this reason, resolution is best for all parties involved.

If you have escalated your issue to someone with authority and still are not receiving results, there are other options available to you. The Internet has become a great place to voice dissatisfaction, and if done properly, you can see results. Kimberly Palmer, a senior editor for U.S. News Money, explains “the general public can be a receptive audience, especially when you are complaining about a common cause.” To complain properly using online forums you must post something that will elicit a response from the company, this does not mean slandering the company. If you are posting negative comments, you are less likely to see your goals met. It could also backfire and make YOU appear immature or irrational.

There are additional outlets available for you and other customers filing complaints other than the Internet. One organization that was previously featured on The Texas Conflict Coach is the Council of Better Business Bureau. The BBB is a company that focuses on building an improved connection between companies and purchasers. Kimberly Palmer suggests the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which “makes complaints public in a database, so customers can easily search to see if other people have faced similar problems and how those problems were resolved”. These organizations act as supporters for the client who is not being heard and can assist in getting an issue fixed.

Finally, remember to say “thank you”, to anyone who assists you in getting your problem solved. As pointed out by Regina Lewis, a simple “thank you” is often overlooked, but could have an impact on getting your complaint resolved quickly.

Abigail Clark

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore –

Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

 

 

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