Karen Walch is an author, coach and Faculty Emeritus at Thunderbird School of Management (Arizona State University). In her research and work, she focuses on quantum negotiation and how negotiation relates to disruption and cultural change. Walch is also an expert on negotiation preparation. She joined Negotiate Anything to discuss how self-awareness and socio-emotional skills development can lead to better outcomes in difficult negotiations.
What’s Missing in Negotiation?
Traditionally, when preparing for an important negotiation, most people will focus on a few things: research, strategy, tactics, BATNA (best alternative to the negotiated agreement) and their dealbreakers. While all of these are critical to a successful negotiation, Walch maintains that we should also be making time to evaluate ourselves.
“I found out that we spend very little time on who we are,” she shared. “I’m finding that focusing more on who we are and who our counterpart is, is so critical in helping us to actually know more of what we want and how we are going to behave when we get into a negotiation.”
When she says “who we are”, Walch is referring to a deeper awareness of the five dimensions of humanity and understanding our cultural perspective. She believes this helps us to develop empathy, an often-undervalued skill in negotiation.
In overlooking another person’s perspective, we can ultimately end up alienating them. This can create a barrier to a collaborative problem-solving process, which is ultimately what successful negotiations should be.
Recognizing that many negotiators may disagree with the notion that considering the other person’s perspective is important, Walch continues to advise against an egocentric perspective.
“You move from being egocentric to socio-centric,” she continued. “Your self-interest is inextricably linked with your counterpart’s, so there [should be] a shift in our mindset in terms of self-interest.”
Essentially, as a negotiator at the table, it’s in your self-interest to secure a deal or walk away with a specific outcome. In order to do this effectively, you will need a collaborative counterpart. Investing in their perspective is a smart way to ensure this.
“This isn’t to say that you are altruistic, but that you become more realistic about the fact that you are in the context of a social group,” Walsh said.
The 5 Dimensions of Humanity
As she progressed through her research on negotiation, Walch began to notice that over time, the literature evolved to include new theories on where we should focus our energy to prepare for a successful conversation.
Rather than focusing exclusively on one or the other, Walch recommends doing a quick self-scan of all five human dimensions: cognitive, emotional, social, physical and spiritual. Doing this could include asking questions like:
- What is my thinking? Am I using a scarcity or abundance mentality?
- Do I know what my emotions are?
- How can I best manage my emotions so that I can understand them and help others understand their emotions as well?
- How do I plan to behave? (cooperative or coercive)
- What gives me meaning and purpose in this world?
- How do I want to show up in this negotiation?
“Just doing that puts us in alignment and anchors us to who we are and what we really believe,” Walch shared.
How to Deal with a Difficult Counterpart?
In an ideal world, everybody would adopt this mindset. However, we know that’s not likely the case.
Walch believes that more-often than not, we can sense the type of energy we may receive from a counterpart before conversations begin.
“Our nervous systems are connected,” she explained. “Even before a negotiation begins, you can sense the kind of nervous system that might be your counterpart.”
To maintain a sense of calm within your own body, Walch recommends coming to the conversation well-prepared: complete a scan of the five human dimensions, identify what you want to achieve in the conversation and have a strong plan B identified.
From there, she encourages negotiators to help the other party see that collaboration is in their own self-interest.
“Most of the population doesn’t have clinical narcissism, once they see it’s in their self-interest to collaborate, it will change the game,” Walch said.
In taking the lead on managing the process, you are also helping to manage your own emotions in a tense situation. Best-case scenario, you secure the deal you want. Worst case scenario, you are less emotionally triggered and set the example for what a successful conversation should look like.
The best negotiation tactics are often the least-exciting. It all comes down to adequate preparation, successful management of self, and practice. Recognizing the patience and effort this takes, Walch has words of encouragement for everybody doing the challenging work.
“I salute all of your listeners out there who are doing their own personal and leadership development,” she shared. “It’s so misunderstood that coaching, debriefing, mentoring, debriefing, practice….is a lifelong experience in terms of your own personal development and human potential.”
World News || Latest News || U.S. News