Most negotiating articles, books, training programs and other resources focus on techniques, tactics and counter-tactics. These, however, are often ineffective, manipulative and inauthentic and, even when good, are not the key to true negotiating success. Authentic negotiating is the secret to true negotiating success and there are three keys to authentic negotiating:
Clarity: Authentic negotiators know what will and won’t work for them on every significant term, and what their true bottom line is – from a place of clarity, not ego.
Detachment: Authentic negotiators can walk away from a negotiation with no hesitation – not from a place of anger or upset, but from a place of detachment with no judgment or hard feelings.
Equilibrium: Authentic negotiators don’t let emotions dictate their actions. Instead, they maintain equilibrium during the heat of tough negotiation to stay present and preserve their clarity and detachment.
Although each of the components of this CDE core framework are important, in this post, I am going to focus power of equilibrium – the third key to true negotiating success.
Several years ago, I received a telephone call from an attorney, Henry, who was representing clients on the other side of an unhappy split of a business partnership between three guys. I represented one of the three partners, and he represented the other two. Henry called me up, yelling and screaming and threatening my client with all sorts of dire consequences. My client happened to be a lawyer, although the business he was in with the other two was not related to the law. This bullying attorney was saying, “He’s going to lose his law license” and “He’s unethical,” neither of which was true. Henry was emotionally involved. He had lost his equilibrium.
The natural reaction if somebody’s coming at you like that is either to feel intimidated and back down, or be reactive and go back at them – especially when they’re wrong, and I remember that desire to shout back at Henry welling up in me. I wanted to tell him why he was wrong and how nothing he was saying was true – especially because my client was also a friend of mine. But I kept my equilibrium and just let him go, and kept listening to him. I didn’t say a word; I let him go, let him go, let him go. And eventually he ran out of steam.
Then, instead of reacting to anything he had said, I said to him in a very calm, non-accusatory manner, “Hey, Henry, let me ask you a question. You’re representing a client. I’m representing a client. Before we get into any of the substance, why are you so worked up about this? Why are you so upset?”
He went into another long tirade about how bad and wrong my client was and why he and his client were right. I waited for him to finish and I again very calmly said, “Okay, I still don’t understand why you are so worked up. The way I approach things is that you and I are colleagues. We both have a job to do. There is no reason that we need to be disrespectful to each other.” I didn’t lecture Henry, I simply said it in a way that was true to me and as though I really didn’t understand (which was the case) why he was so emotionally invested in this. My response was clearly not what he’d expected, and it threw him off completely – because, obviously, he was used to coming at people and having them either be intimidated or battle back. In a nice but firm way, I had called him on his approach, and on his integrity. What happened? He said, “I apologize. I know I can get that way sometimes. I’m just passionate about my clients. I am very sorry.” That is the power of equilibrium!
Interestingly, after that discussion, he never contacted me again. I tried to follow up with him, but he never responded. It was almost as if he tried what he knew to get a result, I didn’t react in the way he expected and he didn’t know what to do next. To this day, I don’t know what happened. We later followed up and Henry’s clients had hired another attorney.
Maintaining your equilibrium in a negotiation allows you to see clearly and listen closely. The quiet confidence it displays often throws people off – as it did Henry. Even when you have master negotiators across the table, it breeds respect. If you want to be an authentic negotiator and have true negotiating success, do what you need to do to prepare yourself to always maintain your equilibrium.
How do you do that? Allow yourself the time and space you need to do the internal preparation that is necessary for success in any important negotiation. Don’t think you can wing it or figure it out as you go. Also, I would ask you – what you do to calm and center yourself when you are stressed or times are tough? Do you meditate, go for a run or to the gym, talk things out with a trusted friend or colleague, do deep breathing, listen to music…? Whatever it is that works for you, to the extent possible, do that in advance of the negotiating session. The better you’re able to maintain your equilibrium, the faster you’ll become an authentic negotiator and have true negotiating success.
– Corey Kupfer has negotiated successful deals for over 30 years as an entrepreneur and lawyer, and is committed to inspiring authenticity in business. Kupfer runs his own firm, Kupfer & Associates, PLLC, and founded a speaking, training and consulting company called Authentic Enterprises, LLC. He’s the author of Authentic Negotiating: Clarity, Detachment & Equilibrium – The Three Keys to True Negotiating Success & How to Achieve Them (CLICK HERE to get your copy)
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