Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Tell It Better: Using stories to get more out of your negotiations

I've trained a lot of executives in using a conversational or "TED style" in their presentations, which incorporates lots of storytelling skills. But the skeptics among them think that storytelling equals showing off. When it comes to "real" business--like negotiation with a client, customer, or supplier, say--storytelling doesn't belong, they believe. Howard Baker once said, "The most difficult thing in any negotiation, almost, is making sure that you strip it of the emotion and deal with the facts." And that thinking has carried the day for a long time.

But what if I told you that storytelling can unlock what's on the mind of your negotiation partner?

In Harvard Business Review's The secret to negotiation is reading people's faces, it's acknowledged that many negotiations turn on emotional responses. But, as the author notes, "experienced negotiators know how to mask their true feelings...Or they’re able to convincingly fake an emotion if they think it will help them advance their own interests." She tested micro-expressions--those lasting just 1/25th of a second--and people's ability to read them.

The trick is to get your negotiation partner to give up some facial expressions, to give you a clue as to her thinking. And one of the tools the article recommends is storytelling. This is one case when your being talkative is going to help:
Negotiators have an easier time controlling their expressions when they’re talking. So don’t ask too many open questions. Instead describe what you want or share an anecdote about another negotiating partner who shared concerns similar to theirs and watch how they respond as they listen. Their guard will lower a little and you’ll be able to see their honest reactions to what you’re saying — knowledge to guide the rest of the conversation.
You're looking for those little involuntary facial movements when you watch their reactions. Use your storytelling to fish for insights the next time you negotiate.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by perzon seo)

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