Negotiation Quick Tips: Asking Questions

In a recent post on the Harvard Program on Negotiation (PON) Daily Blog, the PON staff writes about asking questions in a way that promotes trust and understanding. We have written about this in an earlier post.

The lesson from the PON staff is to craft questions that lead to learning and don’t reflect advocacy or promote defensiveness.

Two types of questions to avoid:

Leading Questions–these are questions such as “Don’t you think…?” or “Can’t you see…?” These types of questions result in defensive answers or no answers at all.

Loaded Questions–these are questions where the questioner uses evaluative words such as “inexperienced,” “self-serving,” “uninformed,” etc. We can all remember hearing questions like this.

The PON staff say that, “Both types of questions can trigger defensiveness and emotional reactions.”

On the other hand, crafting open-ended, non-leading, non-loaded questions can be difficult. The key is to try gathering information and exploring priorities. The PON staff suggests something like, “I’m interested in hearing your opinion….” Or, “Tell me why you think this option would work better?” Or, “Can you tell me more?”

The lesson from the PON blog post: “When we approach our counterparts with genuine interest and respect, they are likely to respond in kind.”

Posted in Communication, Negotiation Tips | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Does Collaboration Make a Difference?

A study published in 2015 examined three hydropower licensing cases that were characterized as having high, medium, and low collaboration. The author, Nicola Ulibarri, found that high collaboration resulted in “jointly developed and highly implementable operating regimes designed to improve numerous resources, while low collaboration resulted in operating requirements that ignored environmental concerns raised by stakeholders and lacked implementation provisions” (abstract).

Although Ms Ulibarri’s findings are based on a sample size of three cases, her findings are helpful. She concludes that a “full suite of collaborative dynamics appears necessary” for success (p. 17). This suite includes: trust, principled negotiation, and leadership. Moreover, success depends on “the extent and quality of collaboration.”

Source: Nicola Ulibarri (2015) “Tracing Process to Performance of Collaborative Governance: a comparative Case Study of Federal Hydropower Licensing.” Policy Studies Journal vol 00, No. 0 (Open access article). Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Posted in Conflict Management, Negotiation Keys, Negotiation Tips, Resolving Conflicts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Do Negotiators Adapt their Message to Communicate with Competing Parties?

In a recent article appearing in Policy Science  Political Scientists Mark McBeth, Donna Lybecker and James Stoutenborough examined the reasons why negotiators might switch between “personal message choice” and “public communication choice.” They describe public communication choice as a message that takes into account how the audience might best receive it.

These scientists found that 53% of negotiators did not switch their communication choice. In other words, more than half of those studied chose to stick with their preferred narrative.

One important factor suggested by the researchers to explain why negotiators did decide to switch away from their preferred narrative is the recognition that “there was a difference between themselves and the wider public.”  Age was another factor. Young people were also found to be more likely to switch. Switching narrative also sometimes appeared to be a strategy choice.

The scientists identified a tension that exists when parties decide whether or not to tailor their message to fit the culture of their audience. When making this decision negotiators must weigh the importance and ethics of discussing options in a language that is culturally sensitive to other groups. Changing the message away from personal preference might promote discussion but tailoring the message to an audience might be an attempt to “sell” a preferred option.

Source: McBeth, Mark K., Donna L. Lybecker, James W. Stoutenborough.  2016.  “Do stakeholders analyze their audience? The communication switch and stakeholder personal versus public communication choices,” Policy Sciences.  doi: 10.1007/s11077-016-9252-2

Posted in Analyzing Opponents, Communication, Negotiation Pointers, Negotiation Stakeholders | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Should Mediators “Evaluate?”

Here is a quote from a blurb that recently appeared in the International Chamber of Commerce webpage:

“..the benefit of mediation was seen as lying in the mediator’s ability to look beyond the polarised positions of the parties and find middle ground by analysing the parties’ positions and making each reflect on its own and the other’s position.”

Should a mediator analyze the parties’ positions and present the results of that evaluation? If so, when should the mediator do this? Continue reading

Posted in Conflict Management, Resolving Conflicts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Role of a Mediator

A blog post by Katherine Graham about the role of a mediator recently came across my desk. Ms. Graham makes a good point that mediators should avoid the very natural tendency to pull the parties toward a solution.

She writes “…only when parties are willing to talk about themselves–to make themselves visible–is the [discussion] transformed into meaningful words.” (Page 2) With that observation in mind she tells us that the best mediators are humble and create a space in which the parties are invited to be kind, open, and empathetic.

You can find this article and others at www.mediate.com/articles

Posted in Conflict Management, Mediation Training, Resolving Conflicts | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Core Competencies” is a Popular Article on ResearchGate

“Core Competencies for Natural Resource Negotiators” by Shana Gillette and Berton Lee Lamb reached the milestone of more than 50 downloads from researchgate.net. Click here to view and download the article.

Posted in Conflict Management, Negotiation Coaching, Negotiation Keys, Negotiation Pointers | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Effective Communication: Using Context

This is advice we often hear: “When you are actively listening, give the speaker feedback so they know you hear them.” There are many variations on this advice. Sometimes experts tells us to say, “What I hear you saying is…” or ask “Is this the point you are making…?”

In his book Why Didn’t You Say that in the First Place? Richard Heyman tells us why doing this is important. He also provides two suggestions about giving feedback while helping to clarify the conversation. Giving feedback is important, Heyman says, because understanding is all about shared context. Often times we assume we know what a speaker is saying. But that can be dangerous because we may be hearing in a context different from what the speaker is saying. We need to clarify the context. Here is a humorous example from his book that underscores the point:

“Physician: ‘Have you ever had a history of cardiac arrest in your family?’

Patient: We never had no trouble with the police.

Physician: How about vericose veins?

Patient: Well, I have veins, but I don’t know if they’re close or not.'” (Page 26)

Here are two concrete ways to give feedback (and a few thoughts about them): First, Heyman suggests paraphrasing. In this example, a listener might say “If I hear you right,…” then cast the thought in language that makes sense to the listener. If this paraphrase misses the point (as it very likely will!) The listener can try again, beginning with “Oh, I see. Is this what you meant?”

This is certainly a tried and true approach to active listening. Although it is frequently recommended, often used, and can be effective, paraphrasing requires skill and practice. One important thing about paraphrasing is that the listener must be sincere. Otherwise, the speaker may very quickly decide that something manipulative is going on.

Second, Heyman suggests telling a story. Everyone can remember a time when they have tried to explain something only to have the listener say “Oh, that reminds me of a time when something just like that happened.” But often the listener proceeds to tell a story that is almost unrelated to the point. When we are telling a story in response to a speaker we want to listen so carefully that we are able to pick out the two or three main points the speaker is making before choosing an anecdote that addresses those points.

Storytelling can clarify the context of the conversation and build a bond between the speaker and listener. But stories should be carefully chosen because we are all too familiar with stories that are merely self-serving and do little to clarify the context. In some instances irrelevant stories might actually offend.

Posted in Communication, Negotiation Tips | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment