When you are having a negotiation in a discussion or a meeting at workplace, it is common to have disagreements in a conversation. But, let’s say if you have a diverging thought from what the other speaker has, your goal should not be to prove your point, or convince the other party hard that you are right, even if there is a rationale behind. Wait patiently till you completely give both yourself and the other party a chance to explain. This is one of the best practices to follow as a part of meeting etiquette.
This does not mean you are giving in or compromising your point of view. There is a certain way to how you can use the art of negotiation to get a favourable outcome.
Here’s how you can have a healthy negotiation in a discussion or a meeting:
Before having the discussion:
Apart from just exchanging pleasantries, it always helps to set a good rapport with your discussion partner. If it is a complete stranger, ask about how they are doing, where they are from and what their work is about. If you are talking to an acquaintance or a close friend, include references from previous meetings, and enquire about updates.
The idea is to ensure that the other person is comfortable discussing something potentially controversial or something that may lead into an argument. Read this if you are not comfortable initiating a conversation.
Set the tone for the discussion- mention what you are going to discuss and enquire if there is any other agenda that needs to be included.
During the discussion, if it is at a Workplace:
- When it’s your turn, keep it short and crisp: Best communicators are those that use less words, but speak with impact. Therefore, when it’s your turn to speak, convey what you want to say with minimal, less repetitive usage of words. Justifying your point repeatedly, or speaking continuously can cause the listener to phase off from the discussion.
- Let the listener speak: Just as you have a point of view, the listener too has their own views. Allow the listener to speak until he/she has conveyed what they want to say. This indicates that you possess good meeting etiquette.
- If the discussion digresses: Use phrases such as “Sorry to interrupt”, “Sorry, but I think the discussion is heading somewhere else”, etc. These phrases make you sound less rude and help the listener understand that you’re not just force-fitting your thoughts. Workplace communication should not sound as just another argument that you have with your family or friends.
- If you are not convinced with the argument: There is no pressure on you/the other party to arrive at a concrete conclusion, if it is a casual discussion. Respectfully disagree and acknowledge the fact that you may have differences. Such a need to arrive at conclusions arrives only in business communication.
- You do have to arrive at an actionable conclusion: In this case, talk about what your stakes are when you give in. Understand what the other party’s stakes are, and initially suggest a solution that’s nearly slightly more favourable to you. Allow some room for negotiation so that the overall outcome is in both the parties’ favour. This is called the art of negotiation or BATNA- Best alternative to a negotiated argument. If you’re on the negotiating side, make sure you don’t push the conclusion completely towards your favour. Always acknowledge the fact that the other party has the right to have a favourable outcome too.
- Wind Up the discussion with a summary: Make sure you summarise deliverables or key points of conclusion. Stick to what was discussed and agreed upon, and ask for concurrence whether any other point needs to be added.
In case of an unavoidable conflict:
At times, it is hard to predict if a discussion will end up in a heated argument. The above steps come handy to avoid one, but when the discussion has reached a point of no return, just negotiating would not help.
In case there are personal attacks: There is no need to directly retaliate. Take care of the decorum of the meeting. Be the bigger person- calm the other people/person down and remind them why we have met in the first place.
In case you feel the need to retaliate: Retaliation does not have to always involve rude behaviour/comments. You can respectfully convey that the other person’s comments are hurtful and in order for the meeting to continue, they should keep their cool.
Keeping your voice at an optimum volume helps. This indicates that you are ready to sort things out. With meetings that involve the top management, or complete strangers, it is particularly necessary to be well behaved. However, this does not mean that you should not be assertive.
After the discussion:
Ensure that some follow-on communication reaches the other party- whether the meeting was official or personal. Especially in the case of conflicted discussions, such a communication serves as a reminder to the other party(ies) about what the deliverables are, and that the conflict did not bother you much.
Some parting thoughts:
The purpose of this blog post was to tell you to be the more giving person in a negotiation in a discussion or a meeting at workplace. This may seem different from how people usually behave with you, but the key takeaway here is empathy. Empathy goes a long way! The success of a piece of communication is defined by how well the stakeholders understood what their deliverables are. Therefore, for the interest of the communication to be strong, you will need to take the lead in being empathetic. This characteristic will help you in the long run to become a strong leader.