You’re Right! I’m Wrong!

Words we never hear these days, yet the most successful negotiators are those open to the possibility that in fact: you are correct, and I am mistaken.

 In a recent New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof describes an experiment with 1,000 people.  When asked to look at simple data and draw conclusions about a skin cream’s effectiveness, Democrats and Republicans were equally good at calculating what worked and what didn’t.  But when the very same data was offered by this time told it referred to the effectiveness of a gun control measure, “Democrats and Republicans alike went to pieces,” in Kristof’s words. 

Our preconceptions get in the way of understanding the facts.  That is a huge problem for negotiators.  Because we need to be able to predict what the other side will do – and whether a deal will work out the way we expect it to.  Preconceptions are the biggest barrier to making successful forecasts.  Kristof describes the work of Philip Tetlock at U Penn, who has been running experiments measuring the ability of thousands of people to make accurate predictions. In Kristof’s words, “The best forecasters, Tetlock finds, are not experts or even intelligence officials with classified information, not liberals and not conservatives, but rather those instinctively empirical, nonideological and willing to change their minds quite nimbly.  The poorest marks go to those who are strongly loyal to a worldview.”
In other words, “keep an open mind.”  That is excellent advice for a negotiator.  When the negotiating starts, you may be sure that you know what will work and what won’t at getting the other side to accept a good deal – but you are more likely to be successful if you keep an open mind.  It may turn out that the other side looks at things in an entirely different way than you expected – they care about things you thought did not matter to them, their needs are not what you thought, whatever.  You may also discover warning signs that the deal if done could fall apart acrimoniously, or by contrast, that there are wonderful opportunities you did not anticipate.
We at Mobus Creative Negotiating teach you ways to shape your negotiating strategy so that you find out what really matters to the other side and then be nimble at responding to the unexpected.