Conversation as Emotional Tool to Negotiate Meaning

Many of the most productive conversations lead to an understanding of sorts. In some cases they allow you to connect with one another in a way that leads to solving a problem, advancing a project, and creating opportunity for a next step or action.

I liken this kind of conversation to a negotiation where both or multiple parties participate to varying degrees. Where people are involved, outcomes tend to be fairly unpredictable, and that is a good thing.

If we could boil down the dynamics of relationships to a specific and neat formula, we would cut ourselves out of the myriad possibilities that exist for new creation. In fact, while ideas may sound similar at the moment of conception, the sweet spot is in the combinations and permutations we find for practical executions.

Learning how to approach conversation as a negotiation can benefit individuals and organizations. The more content we create for public consumption, the more our digital imprint and what others experience of us are available for review.

When we talk about conversation, we use terms like listening, engaging, and sharing — all principles of good communication. Conversations are charged with emotion and the action does not stop when they are over. The emotion generated before, during and after an exchange creates the momentum for what's next.

We buy, we join, and we connect on the basis of emotion

As a way of justifying to ourselves and others our actions, we rationalize how we got there. This is the correct order in which events occur. See if this statement resonates with you:

Perhaps the most powerful way to soothe someone's emotions is to appreciate their concerns. There are three elements in appreciating someone. You want to understand the other's point of view; find merit in what they are thinking, feeling, or doing; and communicate the merit you see.” 

It's one of the many teachings Roger Fisher shared in his second book on negotiation, Beyond Reason: Using Emotion as You Negotiate, co-authored with Daniel Shapiro:

“Perhaps the most powerful way to soothe someone's emotions is to appreciate their concerns. There are three elements in appreciating someone. You want to understand the other's point of view; find merit in what they are thinking, feeling, or doing; and communicate the merit you see.”

Fisher is the co-author of the famous Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving in.

The model Fisher and Shapiro employ as a framework in Beyond Reason can be very useful to us as we learn to negotiate the speed and frequency of conversations in the social media. We can also learn to be more effective in addressing context for business conversations.

There are five main or core concerns to all human beings that you need to be aware of to become more effective in negotiations:

(1) Appreciation

How can you understand the point of view of the other? Find merit in what they feel and do? And communicate your understanding through words and actions? In conversations, the tone and mood come across — are you listening for them? Yes, even in 140 characters, even when it is unintended. Look to find the meta messages, which are the indications of whether a person is being supportive, ambivalent or resistant to the ideas being discussed.

This works in communications even when we are talking about marketing conversations. Appreciation of the context and dynamics is a good start. When you're attuned to the other and are willing to see and appreciate their point of view the time and effort you invest likely provide a richer return.

(2) Affiliation

What can you do to build structural connections as colleagues? Think about many of the peer to peer relations we engage in when participating in social networks. How do we build personal connections as confidantes? What happens when adversarial assumptions dominate our thinking? Also, the best way to meet a person is face-to-face, although I have found in some rare instances that even that may not work out.

(3) Autonomy

Everyone wants freedom to affect and make decisions. Whenever possible consulting everyone on the team about their view and recommendations helps create stronger bonds.

In some circumstances the desire for autonomy comes across as wanting to be a star. They are not one and the same and they should not be confused. Individuals want to be heard, to express themselves, see their vision and thinking in action. Respect the autonomy of your customers as well. Tom Fishburne inspired me with the fishbowl. Everyone can be a voice in the narrative.

(4) Status

Or acknowledging everyone's areas of particular status, including your own. When it comes to expertise in substantive issues, recognize expertise. One of the most disappointing part of negotiation occur because of the inability to take this step. We cannot be all experts at everything.

Interestingly, while free agency was a way to express one's status just a few short years ago, we are now seeing the emergence of combinations — day job and a night passion. Digital tools and technologies are opening new avenues at a much lower financial cost. Slash careers are starting to be recognized within the corporate walls as well.

(5) Role

You can choose a fulfilling role in negotiation and select the activities that go with it. A fulfilling role because has a clear purpose and it is personally meaningful. It incorporates your skills, interests, values, and beliefs and channels them into the task at hand. How can you make meaning of a situation?

The trap we all fall into is that we play a role in response to someone else also playing a role. Instead, we can step into a temporary role — that of the listener, arguer, problem solver, adviser, advocate, collaborator, learner, brainstormer, facilitator, guest, option generator, mentor, colleague, etc. This calls for an expansion of roles to model different behaviors.

Assumptions about roles also undermine our ability to try out temporary jobs and expand our skills into new areas. We should learn to challenge assumptions and look for second answers.

Conversations as tools

Conversations are opportunities to both listen and learn and to be heard. It is quite common that we find ourselves negotiating positions and encountering strong emotions in the process. The first step on the road to connection is the availability to both awareness and understanding of your self and the other.

Where we are in the process, what we bring to the table and occasion, and what we hope to take away depend on us being open to the experience. This is a departure, not a destination or a conclusion.


[image via Pixabay]


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