“Don’t take it personally… it’s just business.”
No doubt you have heard these words spoken by an opposing party to a business deal. Many people have heard these words, and they usually followed a bone-crushing blow from the other side. As if to make any wound acceptable, they remind you they wouldn’t do it on a personal level, but only in a business context.
As if the two are separable.
The reality is, personal and business are really not separable, and this is why: when you negotiate a deal, you do not negotiate with a retail shop, or a construction crew, or a brand of product – you negotiate with a person. And that makes it personal, every time.
Because negotiations are personal, there usually are emotions involved. Humans are emotional creatures; in fact, we are the only emotional creatures. We are unique from the rest of the created world in that we have wills, intellects and emotions. These three trademarks of the human psyche are integral to any negotiation, and the more value involved, the more these three human traits play a role.
When emotions take the stage in a negotiation, things can get skewed very quickly, and what began as a logical journey to a reasonable conclusion becomes an intense entanglement of anger, pride, and despondency.
When people get angry, they let reason go to the wind. “Okay, fine,” they say, “if he is going to treat me like I’m stupid, I’ll make sure he knows I’m not.” Then an unwise, unproductive decision is made.
When a negotiation becomes a showdown of who can prove they are getting the better deal, there’s a battle of pride, and the two sides just continue to try to top the other and the negotiation goes nowhere.
When someone feels like the breath was just knocked out of them, like when the opposing party downplays or even criticizes what the other party thought was the most valuable element of the deal, a hurt, dejected emotion surfaces and there is an underlying resentment from there on through the rest of the process.
Emotions are poison to negotiations.
A skilled negotiator who understands how to apply effective negotiation tactics will do all she can to leave emotions at the door… and lock the door behind her until an agreement is reached.
In many negotiations, emotions are expected to arise, and some situations almost guarantee them. When two people who have lived in their house for thirty years, reared their children there, made lifelong friendships with the neighbors, and remodeled the home with their own blood and sweat and tears, realize they are at a point where they must sell, they are not going to sell easily. You can bet these folks are going to have some serious emotions when accepting an offer to buy their home. They are selling a part of themselves and may need some serious motivation, which could be an irresistible, bullet proof, over-asking price offer from a buyer.
And this can mean a tough negotiation ahead.
High octane deals can create problems, but there are negotiation tactics to deal with them. Here are a few to consider:
- Understand the other party may be putting on a front
Some of the nicest, most pleasant people become monsters at the negotiating table. Why? Many reasons. For one, certain people believe you are supposed to be rude and hard-nosed in a negotiation. Yes, they are wrong, but telling them about it is useless. The important thing to remember is you must absorb the abrasiveness and harsh language with grace. Let them be as assinne as they want, but don’t let it affect you. Even if you are burning inside because the buyer just told you the mural your friend painted on the building side will be painted over as soon as the recording ink dries, DON’T LET THEM KNOW IT. Emotion is fine; expressing emotion in a business dealing is weakness.
You must be strong whether you feel it or not, because it is not so much how you feel that counts, it is how the other side perceives how you feel.
- View everything from the standpoint of fair market value
The fact that you hand planned those deck boards and involved your kids through the whole project really doesn’t matter. It may make the deck more valuable to you, but it doesn’t to your buyer. A deck is worth what the fair market value for decks is. Nothing more. In a similar way, the fact that it took you a full year of pursuit to secure that particular client doesn’t affect the value to the buyer of your business. The client is worth the fair market value of their revenue generation for the business. Nothing more.
Leaving personal emotions out of the deal will help a negotiator to view the value and transferability of his assets properly, and encourage a healthy and balanced negotiation.
- Have a third party do the negotiating
Usually big corporations involved in mergers and acquisitions and buy-outs employ the services of an attorney or attorneys to handle the negotiations. This is partly because of the technical know-how required in complicated deals, but it is more than that. Corporate execs know that to have an outside, neutral person to handle the dealing removes any personal element (or at least most of it) from the negotiations. The attorney’s job is not on the line, nor is his standing in the company. But the executive’s is, and there is power in removing those personal elements which can make a party weaker.