Knowing how to skillfully interact in business and personal relationships is key to successful agreements – with clients, customers, employees, even your spouse or kids.
School teaches us to read and write. We don’t get formally educated on how to build and strengthen interpersonal relationships. Or on what to say and how to say it so everyone can get what they want.
And with the ever-increasing number of people texting and tweeting, opportunities to learn and acquire such essential skills are disappearing.
So, it’s important now more than ever to get a handle on the basics. Here are 5 powerful ways to reach successful agreements with anyone.
1. Know your goals.
Before any negotiation, know what you want to come away with. The secret is to get the other person to want to cooperate with you. And keep in mind your overall goal is to get the agreement.
2. Step into their shoes.
Think of how you might view the situation if you were the other person. What problem would you experience if you were them? What would you find helpful? Be sincere in your desire to help them find a solution to what they view as the problem.
3. The Right Mindset.
The right state of mind is essential to staying calm in the midst of any heated negotiation.
Our default is to become defensive when faced with angry or critical remarks. But reacting defensively will only ignite the situation. And then before we know it, we’ve become part of the problem.
But if we take our ego out of the equation, then our assumptions, judgments, and expectations disappear.
It helps to keep this in mind – people spouting off generally don’t mean what they’re actually saying. They’re upset. So, to stay focused on ultimately directing the result you want, ignore the words.
According to attorney and mediator in Clovis, California, Doug Noll, “the number 1 best way to not become triggered is to ignore the words. No matter how insulting, disrespectful, or threatening the other person is, ignore what they are saying.”
Mr. Noll recommends a technique he developed called “affect labeling” and “core messaging.” Essentially, it works like this. If you want to calm someone down, listen for the emotions behind the words.
According to Mr. Noll, if we can stay focused on what the person’s emotions are in that moment, your ego goes away. You will remain calm and centered. And you will not feel like you have to defend yourself and “win.”
This “calm” state of mind is practiced in Asian cultures, particularly in the Japanese martial art of Aikido. We also see it when athletes are “in the zone” and with actors when they improvise.
We can all do this. It takes practice. Like riding a bike, it requires practice to become automatic. You might try meditation or another activity designed to improve focus. Then you can call upon this skill in any negotiation and whenever you can’t anticipate what someone will do.
4. Choose your words.
Decide exactly what you want to say. What is the specific point you want to get across? Choose your words deliberately and intentionally.
Then paint a specific picture of what you want the other person to see. Use both your words, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.
It’s human nature to listen to any idea or proposal by asking yourself “what’s in it for me?”
The most effective salespeople can skillfully interact and listen. They use words to show specifically how someone will benefit from what they’re selling. It can also be very effective to put what you want them to do in terms of what they have to gain or lose.
Of course, it’s important to do your preparation before any negotiation. And you can also figure out what your counterpart is likely to agree to simply by stepping into their shoes and listening carefully.
Essentially, the more specific you are about helping people see what you want them to see in a way that shows what’s in it for them, the more agreeable they’ll be.
5. When things get heated.
The key to persuading someone to do what you want is to show respect – something we all want. When we disrespect others, whether by making them feel bad or putting them down in front of others, we create enemies. We lose trust. And we lose the power to influence a result or reach agreements.
If you repeatedly interrupt the other person to correct them or argue your case, they’ll only dig in more that they’re right.
Instead, you can neutralize an angry tirade with something like “I hear you” or “I can certainly understand that.” Follow up with “and” not “but” – anything that comes after the “but” will be all they hear. For example, you might say “I hear you and I want to make sure I hear you correctly.”
If you need to interrupt a particularly long-winded verbal attack, do so with tact. To effectively interrupt, you might try simply raising your hands slightly while saying “hang on” or “just a second.” Follow it up with “I want to make sure I heard you right” or “I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying.”
Then paraphrase what you heard. For example, using Doug Noll’s technique, you can say “Okay, you are feeling [emotion] because of [reason]. Is that right?
It’s not important if you’re right or not. Just make a guess at what they’re feeling. You’ll know it when they feel heard when they knock their head and visibly calm down. At that point, they’re much more likely to listen to you. Use this opportunity to defend yourself and reaffirm that you appreciate their input.
This can be an extremely effective way to build trust and reach agreements much more quickly and successfully.
Knowing who you’re dealing with and communicating in his language is one of the most valuable skills you can have. When you cultivate this skill with practice until it becomes a habit, you’ll begin to reach agreements easily with anyone, at any time, anywhere.
And the best part is that whether in business, at work, or at home, relationships will flourish.
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