Points of agreement

Good negotiators look for interest, not position. POLLYANNA LENKIC

Pollyanna Lenkic

By Pollyanna Lenkic

Lobbing a hand grenade always guarantees a new world order, but you can’t predict the results. (“Grenade”: Risky or self destructive behaviour that results in you or the situation becoming derailed.)

I had lunch with a client today who was relishing the thought of going to his next client meeting and telling his client to “take a hike” (not his exact choice of words). He felt very compelled to “lob his grenade” and to see what happens.

His frustration boiled from what is a common situation we all find ourselves in, both in our professional and personal relationships. Some background – he had to deliver some bad news to one of his company’s key clients who were not going to be happy. The message was that they would not be delivering to his client’s expectations and his company’s promise.

Two aspects were apparent as we chatted; the desire to throw the grenade (sabotage the situation and tell the client what he really thought, create some chaos) and how stuck he felt in the circumstance which wasn’t in his control. He also felt incredibly defensive.

How do you handle the situation?

How do you successfully bring your client along with you when everything points to an explosion?

My client was looking for a strategy to successfully negotiate a new position with his client.

We began by exploring his desire to blow up the situation, and as we drilled down into what was really going on for him it got to a place of feeling frustrated by not being able to deliver what was expected (beyond his control) and not knowing how to deliver the message in a way that didn’t unravel months of hard work, relationships and trust built while managing the biggest fear; losing the deal.

Identifying what was going on for him was a relief, now he had a place to focus on. It was important to gain understanding of what perspective he was holding towards the situation/client.

We then looked at the position he stood in and his client’s position. We did this by using a classic training story that is used in negotiation training about interest and position. (Apologies but I can’t remember where I originally heard this.)

  • Position: (The stance you take, it’s where you say I need this).
  • Interest: (What’s the intrinsic value you seek, what you want).
  • New position: (The new stance you take).

There are three sisters, and they each want the whole orange, and there is only one orange available. All three of the sisters are stuck in their position, they can’t see beyond wanting the orange.

The mother comes along and inquires about each sister’s interest in the orange.

  • Sister one wants the juice.
  • Sister two wants the zest.
  • Sister three wants the pips.

This creates a new position for each of the sisters.

Sister one: I must have the juice, squeeze please.
Sister two: I must have the skin, grate please.
Sister three: I must have the pips, strain please.

The message: One orange cannot fulfil three positions; one orange can however fulfil three interests.

Good negotiators look for interest, not position.

By identifying where my client was at in regards to the situation, and by using the story above to help establish and shift the focus from position to interest, we were able to create some strategy around how to approach his meeting, which I would like to share with you.

  • Meet the client/person where they are at, not where you are at. This will help you identify their interest. It will not be possible for the client to hear you until they have first been heard. Understand their concerns and issues; this will require you to get out of your concerns/issues so you can hear them.
  • Point the person: Once they have been met it creates the space to direct them towards what you think – your interest.
  • Dance: Did they hear you? Do you need to hear more from them, their interest? You can now point them again.

Keep rolling with the above process until both interests are acknowledged and understood, this will direct you both towards a new position. Establish and name what this new position is.

My key tips to distil the information above:

  1. Find out what’s really critical/important to your client.
  2. Drill down to the consequences as perceived by your client.
  3. Establish where they are prepared to flex and use this to help you work through to some solutions.
  4. Tell them what you can do.

A motto to help: My interests are no more worthy or less worthy than yours.

If you both want the juice, create agreement that the interests are of equal worth, as Solomon discovered you can divide in half or one party will agree to cancel their interest.

If it still remains a stalemate, you can always lob that grenade!

Meet, point, dance is a model created by Rick Tamlyn from itsallmadeup.com


Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian based coaching and training company. She is an experienced facilitator, certified coach and a certified practitioner of NLP. In 1990 she co-founded a specialist IT recruitment consultancy in London, which grew to employ 18 people and turnover £11 million ($27 million). This blog is about the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned building a business the first time round and how to do it better second time round. For more information go to www.perspectivescoaching.com.au

For more Second Time Around, click here.



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