How many times have you been in meetings where you felt that no matter what you said the other person didn’t care about you and your problems? How many times did you try to change someone else’s preconceived mindset or behavior so you could in some way take advantage?
The FBI (yes! that one) has a published paper where they outline negotiating techniques that are employed when facing hostage situations. It may sound quite straightforward but like most frameworks, it is all about consistency and focus in the execution of each step.
The goal of this framework is to start at a point where subject A and subject B are two complete strangers with different opinions and goals. Obviously that in the hostage scenario the goal is for the kidnapper to surrender and for the negotiator to “win”, however, in a corporate environment the goal is to reach an outcome of peace, where all parties feel like they have “won”.
As you travel the stairway model you focus on creating a relationship that will result in an adjustment of the current behavior towards a common goal. Let’s outline each of the stages to work on.
This is one of the most underrated aspects of any dialog, conversation or discussion. Listen to whats being said around the table. Listen and process the words that are being said to you.
As you process, ensure that you physically let the other person know that you’re actually paying attention and listening with the same degree of attention as the person that’s sharing their issues.
If you really listen, you’ll understand not only the problem at hand but also the feelings that are being shared with you. As people like it or not, as they share stories, their associated feelings are shared as well.
Try to understand what the other end is feeling, and especially how you would feel and act in that situation. For me, the only way to really feel empathy is to place yourselves in the other person’s shoes.
As the other person realizes that you feel what they are going through, you’ll see them change their posture almost immediately and becoming more relaxed as they feel closer to you. This is the turning point in any tough meeting or discussion.
Once you understand the problem at hand, and the other person acknowledges that you’re really listening, that you’re really trying to understand their position the same way that they are trying to understand your position, you can start making suggestions that could change the ongoing course of action.
You should proceed quite carefully in this step so you don’t overdo it. Ensure the suggestions you give make sense and don’t just fit your problem but all problems at the table.
If all previous steps were completed, the other person is moved to act according to the suggestions presented to them.
So… Is it all about manipulating other people and having them bend at your will? No! Not at all. This is all about listening and laying on the table both problems, both situations, and by doing so ensuring that everyone is aware of all scenarios.
To me, and especially when I go into some tough meetings, the bottom line is to think that we’re all trying to achieve the same goal, perhaps our priorities are somewhat misaligned, but I always focus on listening and showing empathy. I believe that if you focus on those two steps the rest of the framework kind of works itself out!
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