The Cartography of Negotiation

Negotiation is one of those loaded words that is almost guaranteed to elicit a negative response in the average person. Some enjoy it, some hate it, and it’s essentially unavoidable as a modern human being. It’s also something most of us do every day without realizing it, which is ironic given the fear it strikes in the heart of many with just the mention of the word. And with no wonder – it puts you in an uncomfortable situation that combines confrontation and vulnerability. Negotiating is simply mentally exhausting.  This is where the Cartography Series comes in.

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Richmond-based consulting firm/publisher/general powerhouse The Frontier Project has set out to tackle the subject in their new series that focuses on the everyday practices of good business. The Cartography Series, authored by Frontier Project founder Scott Wayne, was created to offer practical tools that help us navigate and master the ins and outs of the stickier aspects of professional life. We were lucky enough to get our hands on an advance copy and found it rich with nuggets of knowledge and takeaways readily applied to your day to day. One part self-help book and two parts a friendlier, more approachable “The Art of War”, “The Cartography of Negotiation” is a more-than-worthy addition to the bookshelves of negotiation experts and novices alike. Here, we rounded up our top five learnings that should have you shaking on it in no time:

1. Negotiation is not about winning.

You negotiate to win, right? It’s about getting your way, getting want you want, and getting one over on the other guy. Wrong. Wayne argues that negotiation is about creating mutual value for both parties. It’s about engaging two parties with varied interests and experiences and bringing them into alignment. How could we get anything done without a certain level of group agreement? It would be impossible. That’s why successful negotiation is not a zero-sum game – both parties benefit. That said, it is a dance of influence and will and sometimes you need to know what makes the other person tick to get what you want. Which takes us to the next point.

2. Stalk your target

No – we don’t literally mean sifting through someones trash. You have to get into the head of the person you will be dialoguing with and identify “what moves their target.” Wayne talks about creating life maps for the person you’re going to negotiate with to get insight on their motivations. It sounds creepy, but it’s just a matter of doing your research and being fully prepared before verbal sparring. Thanks to social media and the digital breadcrumbs we all leave online you can easily sketch out someone’s career path, likes, dislikes, sense of humor, how they take their coffee, their dog’s name…the list goes on. Getting to know them better beforehand helps you bring something to the table that resonates with them and helps you achieve your desired goal.

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3. Just like in real estate: location, location, location.

The setting of your potential deal making is as important as the dialogue itself. (There’s a reason the president hosts his high stake negotiations at Camp David.) Neutral territory is best. Their office? Not ideal. Their conference room? Better. Coffee shop? Best. Think of all the Silicon Valley deals that have been brokered in Starbucks. Meeting someone in a coffee shop may seem cliched and commonplace but there’s a reason behind it. The din of the cafe offers just enough discretion, caffeine runs freely, and if you have a really good game face passerby’s may simply think you’re enjoying a cup of joe with an acquaintance.

4. Negotiation is innovation.

Think of the act of negotiation as an iteration of brainstorming. To come to an agreed set of terms, you spitball every option and possible outcome until you reach one you both agree on. It expands your thinking and opens up possibilities you may not have even thought of before. The more ideas you have now means the more options you have later to build on agreement. If you enter discussions in this mindset chances are you’ll come to an agreement you love and a few more ideas to build upon. (It’s sort of like The Secret.)

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5. Negotiation takes practice.

Just like most things worth mastering, you only get better by doing it over and over and over again. Wayne emphasizes the power of rehearsal as an underutilized skill in the business world usually avoided as it’s time-consuming and requires a willing friend to role-play with you. Having a colleague or cohort practice with you who loves proving you wrong is ideal – so grab that person who enjoys poking holes in your ideas (you know which one) and start rehearsing. Prepping for nerve-wracking negotiations with a few good practice rounds can bring out valuable insights and help identify pain points long before the real deal goes down. Mom was right – practice does make perfect.  Now get on out there and go after what you want. Deal?

You can purchase The Cartography of Negotiation here. Thanks to Jason Ashlock at The Frontier Project.

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