Negotiate Better by ‘Being in the Moment’

Much of our lives are scattered through with interruption and diversion: e-mails and phone calls continuously vie for our attention; conversations are interrupted by others being diverted by messages; new tasks and interventions from colleagues break up our flow of activity.

The net effect, discussed in ‘productivity’ forums and software endlessly, is a reduction in our ability to achieve anything worthwhile. Although many plates are spinning, much of the activity is worthless, or achieves little.

If we look at this in the world of purchasing and procurement, there are continuous stories of firefighting, responding to the immediate demand, being deluged in e-mails and calls. This has a long-term impact on the effectiveness of purchasing teams worldwide, and has a particular effect in the arena of negotiation.

Negotiation requires a particular level of focus. Offers and positions are nuanced; our ability to understand where the other side is coming from is affected by our ability to analyze and project on the spot. If we are in the midst of a lot of distraction, we really need to find ways to pull ourselves back to the moment.

Think back to an event, an activity, where time has magically evaporated. You concentrated so much on the task in hand that you had little awareness of what else was happening. It might be a sports activity, a concert, or a period of creativity. It happened for me learning how to paint a portrait, and a day vanished without trace.

That’s living in the moment—dedicated to a single event or activity to the exclusion of all else. Exploring this as a concept, it seems that much of the best that we can achieve as individuals happens when we manage to reach this single-minded level of focus on a particular activity.

So, if we imagine being there in a negotiation, we can see that we could achieve a better understanding of the other side’s position; we can have a deeper understanding of the linkages between different parts of the offers being made. We will pick up on areas of disagreement and opportunity expressed by the other side. We will, through our concentration and effort, get to a better result than we would have done otherwise.

If this is the case, then we owe it to ourselves to access that place. There are a series of suggestions for how to do this, and I’ve pulled my personal top five together:

Do one thing at a time
If you’re in a negotiation, make sure that is the only thing you are concentrating on. Phones off; wireless off; distractions to a minimum; nothing else flooding your mind. If it helps, before the negotiation write a short list of all the screamingly urgent things that might distract you; that will release a little more space to concentrate on this thing.

Do that thing slowly and deliberately
Try not to rush the negotiation. Right now, you’re at the leading edge of the commercial and requirements delivery discussion; the next few years of activity are dependent on it. Don’t make it go faster than it needs to. Make space to get into the depths available.

Do less
(I can hear the anguished laughter from here…) Doing less is one of the things that let us do better. It may be a hard discussion, but getting to a more competent and comprehensive output is likely to cost the business less in rework, mistakes and misunderstanding than doing more things badly, and pay you back better as well.

Put space between things
Time to reflect after a negotiation, to consider and understand with a good degree of quality is the core of learning. If you let the stress and tension of the negotiation subside and allow room for insight to develop, you will get far more out of the whole experience

Be present
Be in the room; listen to conversations and reflect on them. Allow yourself to understand signals and body language. Listen to your colleagues and your opponents intently. Focus really hard. You will get a lot more from it.

There is a lot here; online there are thousands of words of wisdom in this area. You can get better results by being in the moment. Try it!

Written by Mark Hubbard for Positive Purchasing Ltd
© Positive Purchasing Ltd 2014, all right reserved